This is a good guest post–even I learned something (why rooibos tea was offered in all the cafes in Europe)
Actually, the term ‘herbal tea’ is a misnomer, since most of these concoctions are not produced from the tea plant. The correct term should be ‘herbal infusion’ or ‘tisane’, the latter a derivation from the Greek word ‘ptisane’, an herbal infusion of pearl barley. Herbal infusions are made by boiling or steeping in water herbs, fruits, nuts, flowers, stems —or combinations— of plants to make the desired substances decoct into the liquid. Such infusions have been used since ancient times as medicine, tonics, digestive aids, baths and sometimes as intoxicating liquor. Chinese and Indian Ayurveda medicine systems make wide use of herbal infusions for the mentioned purposes.
Today herbal infusions are mainly accepted as medicinal alternatives in lieu of pharmaceuticals and drugs that are beyond the financial capabilities of the ailing individual. However, they are mostly preferred for long-term treatment and health improvement, rather than quick remedial measures conventional drugs and medicines are generally more capable of. Furthermore, the effects of herbal teas are often undramatic or not even remarkable in the short term, so that many people are not convinced of their efficacy.
But are they truly beneficial to health?
If the ancient Sumerians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, or the more modern Indians, Chinese, or other tribal peoples are to be believed, they are. Although much of the knowledge has been lost over the centuries, enough still remains to convince us that herbal infusions can truly benefit health, whatever the desired results may be: curative, anti-acidic, laxative, sedative, aid for digestion, or refreshing. Some infusions are said to even help cure cancer, lower cholesterol levels, improve digestion, fight diabetes, repair liver damage, relieve post-partum bleeding and avert preterm labor.
A listing of plants and remedial effects would include chrysanthemum for removing toxins in the body and reducing liver damage; raspberry leaf to benefit pregnant women in avoiding premature birth or excessive post delivery bleeding; ginger, jasmine and chamomile to aid in digestion, lower cholesterol, relieve anxiety, muscular pain, dizziness as well as help one go to sleep. Parsley is diuretic, and helps in normalizing kidney functions. Lemongrass adds some zing to taste, is claimed to be antibacterial and aids digestion. Ginseng has adherents of being an aphrodisiac as well as a tonic. Milk thistle and dandelion are often termed ‘liver cleaners’ and regenerators, all the while also helping bile production. As such, they aid digestion as well.
Rosehip and rooibos infusions are rich in Vitamin C, which is important in boosting the immune system, the health of the skin and tissues, and the adrenal gland. The rooibos is likewise said to have anti-oxidant properties that retard the body’s aging. Peppermint tea helps the body expel abdominal gas to relieve pain and bloating, and ease muscle spasms.
So do not belittle herbal concoctions when somebody recommends them. After all, the modern pharmaceutical medicines were produced mostly from plants, isolating the active substances and synthesizing them to make the pill and capsule. In taking herbal infusions, you therefore take the same ingredients but in a safer, gentler, more natural way. Remember, the more natural it is, the healthier it is.