The tea industry has been on a recent growth trajectory, with a proliferation of tea brands, flavors, and grades presenting, consumer with a wide variety of choices. In the mix, herbs are often (mistakenly) categorized as “tea;” plus there are blends of tea and herbs (like Belight).
What’s in a name? Tisane v. Tea
The steeping of herbs, spices, rooibos, flowers, etc should formally be referred to as Tisane (pr. tiz-ahn) or Infusion. While tea derived from the Camellia sinensis plant can be called tea.
Tisanes are derived from the water-based infusion of plant parts, such as leaves, flowers, roots or tree barks, or spices, dried fruits, cocoa, etc. They have diverse flavors, as well as myriads of benefits to the human body. Tisanes have become famous because of their diverse, usually health-related or calming benefits. Some of the mentioned benefits include reduction of sinus congestion, helping in breathing problems, or facilitating digestion.
Proper infusion helps to retain the beneficial components of the herbs, therefore, its important to be aware of the optimal infusing time and temperature so as to preserve the components.
Camellia sinensis is, likewise, beneficial to the human body, largely because of its antioxidants. Tea helps boost immune system (with antiviral properties), protect against cancer (with antioxidants) and enhances metabolism (through catechins). Tea is also thought to act as a cleanser of the blood vessels, getting rid of blood clots and platelets that might otherwise clump, thereby reducing chances of heart attack.
Benefits v. Risks
Both tea from the Camellia sinensis and “herbal tea” tisanes have their benefits. As with anything, some consideration may be necessary to weigh the benefits versus possible risks.
For example, for all the benefits of tea, it also contains caffeine, which some people may find addictive or which may pose health complications, such as anxiety, nausea and more.
As for tisanes, with so much diversity in herbal components, any number of unexpected reactions or cross-effects may occur, especially when taking medications. It is therefore advisable to consult an expert before taking an herbal tisane while consuming medication.
Whichever you choose, tea or tisane, Camellia sinensis or herbs, now you have the right terminology to impress your friends and tea people, plus a little more information to guide decision making about the safest, healthiest hot steeped beverage.