“There is no distinction between food and medicine.” – Lin Yutang
Traditional herbal medicine is regarded as one of the main ways to help the body relax, realign and assist in the body’s natural capacity to heal itself. Today’s medical students are learning that rather than solely relying on medications which are mostly synthetically created, many properties found in herbs can actually compliment more conventional forms of medical treatment.
Even before recorded human history, herbal teas were being used around the world. It is our oldest form of medicine, not just for physical health. It’s also been used to improve mental health in traditional medical systems. In parts of the world such as China, Japan, India and the Middle East, the body is viewed as a whole comprised of mind, body and spirit. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the balance of these three to prevent illness is essential for health. Illness, pain and stress can all cause the body to become imbalanced.
Doctors in China regularly prescribe not only pharmaceuticals but also herbal teas that can assist in counteracting the negative side-effects of some medications. This, in turn, helps patients to relax and allows them to more actively participate in their own healing and care. So, why do herbal teas work so well and have been so prized by humans?
What Are Herbal Teas?
Technically, herbal tea is not really ‘tea’ at all because it does not contain the plant Camellia sinensis, the tea plant that makes up green or black teas. As we have discussed in the past in this blog, herbal teas are actually considered herbal infusions, also known as tisanes. Herbal “teas” can be made up of the leaves, roots, seeds, berries or barks of various herbs.
Some herbs are used alone, like with chamomile tea, but sometimes they are often used in combination to create synergistic effects, like how Sir Jason Winters Tea uses three ingredients that create a tea greater than the sum of its parts. We’ll discuss this more below.
How Do Herbal Teas Work?
The beneficial compounds in herbs are contained within the cell walls of the herbs. These compounds are generally water soluble and are most easily absorbed into the body when in liquid form. That’s why hot water is able to draw out the beneficial components.
When you drink herbal tea, the herbal properties are almost immediately are absorbed in the intestinal tract and stomach lining. From there, the properties are able to enter the bloodstream immediately. In herbalism, it’s common for a patient to drink tea regularly until the problem has passed. This is because most herbal medicine works on the premise of building a cumulative effect of the herbs in your body.
Herb tea should be very warm or hot but not too hot so that it burns your mouth. It is possible to drink herb tea at room temperature or cold, however, body absorption may take longer. If you are prescribed an herbal tea by a licensed professional, follow their instructions.
What Makes Up an Herbal Tea Formula?
Primary Herbs – Making up the largest portion of the herbal tea formula, the primary pillar is made up of herbs which contain properties that focus mainly on the area of health that is addressed. This pillar may be made up of one or several herbs and makes up 65 -.80% of the herbal tea formula
Supporting Herbs – The second pillar in any herbal formulation is the supporting herbs. These are herbs that offer additional, assisting properties to the primary pillar herbs and making them more effective in addressing overall good health. Supporting herbs generally make up 15% or more of the herbal formula.
Activating Herbs – The third pillar of any herbal formula are those which are considered to be activating or catalyst herbs. These help get the properties found in the first two pillars moving by activating the body’s own natural healing action. Activating or catalyst herbs make up just 10 – 15% or less of an herbal blend and are often warming, diuretic, or laxative in nature.
Generally, a cup of herbal tea contains 1- 2 teaspoons of the formulation of herbs to the amount of hot water in a single serving. This is about the amount of herbs that can be found in standard herbal tea bags. You can drink your favorite tea blends hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened, unless contraindicated by your doctor’s instructions.
How to Make & Enjoy a Cup of Herbal Tea
Very hot or boiling water is the best way to release the healing properties found within the herbs. The hot water softens the cellular wall of the herb making them bio-available or more easily assimilated within the body.
Place the dried or fresh herbs in a cup and pour hot water over them so that the properties can begin to be released.
While it is possible to make your own tea blends, it can take knowledge and experience to do this correctly. It’s best to not create your own blends, rather use a blend from a trusted tea manufacturer. Tea bags are the easiest and the most convenient way to make and consume herbal tea, as the herbs are already measured out for you in each teabag. Just follow the dosing information on the package.
Wellness and Peace with Herbal Tea
When you hold a cup of hot herbal tea between your hands and inhale the fragrant steam, you can feel your body relax and the stress begin to melt away in an enjoyable, almost meditative experience. Historically, herbal teas have been shown to lend a sense of well-being, amiability and compassion toward others due to their stress-reduction properties. Reducing stress in your life can help with overall wellness.
There are few things more empowering than actively participating in your own health and well-being. Drinking a relaxing cup of herbal tea throughout the day, along with a good diet, plenty of rest and exercise can help you do just this. Try drinking a blend for 30 days and see how you feel. If you’re looking to try a new tea blend, we invite you to brows our full line of herbal and green tea blends!
“The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants” by Andrew Chevallier, 1996, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London
“School of Natural Healing” by Dr. John R. Christopher, 20thAnniversary Edition, 1996, Christopher Publications, Springville, Utah
“The Way of Tea” by Master Lam Kam Chuyen, Lam Kai Sin and Lam Tin Yu, 2002, Barron’s Educational Series, NY
“The Tea Box” by Giles Brochard, 2001, Barron’s Educational Series, Happauge, NY
“The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide” by Mary Lou Heiss, 2007, Ten Speed Press
“The New Age Herbalist” by Richard Mabey, 19888 Gaia Books, Ltd. London
“The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicine” by Matthew Wood, 1997, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, California
“20,000 Secrets of Tea” by Victoria Zak, , 1999, Random House, New York, N.Y.