Herbal teas — also known as tisanes — have been known to us for thousands of years for their medicinal, healing, and nurturing benefits. Tisanes use plants other than the tea plant in their blends. “Tisane” is the French word for “herbal infusion” and denotes brews that use only fruit, bark, flowers, seeds, roots, or plants other than tea to form the base for the blend. It is super easy to learn how to make a delicious herbal tisane!
“Tea” is a specific plant, the Camellia sinensis plant and include black, green, oolong, and white tea. Their flavors, colors, and antioxidant contents differ depending on how the leaves are oxidized before they are dried. (1, 2)
You can reap the benefits of herbal tisanes no matter how you drink them — piping hot on a cold winter morning, or poured over ice in a refreshing iced tea. To help you get the most out of every drop of herbal goodness, here are some important pointers to follow when brewing your best concoction.
Different Types of Herbal Tisanes
Pure herbal tisanes generally fall into one of these four categories: (with a few examples thrown in)
- “Tender” herbs and leaf-based tisanes: lemon balm, basil, peppermint, echinacea (aerial parts), and sage
- Floral tisanes: such as rosehip, calendula, violet, hibiscus, and chamomile
- Fruit tisanes: such as peach, blackberry, lime, lemon, strawberry, and raspberry
- Root, bark and seed-based tisanes: echinacea root, chicory, dandelion root, ginger, licorice, slippery elm bark, and marshmallow
Some herbal blends may use any number of the ingredients from above, but the main thing to remember is that if the blend doesn’t have tea (Camellia sinensis) in it, it is considered a tisane.
Herbal tisanes can be brewed from the above using any of the following methods —
- Bruising: bruising is for when you use fresh flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds, or roots, where the ingredients are gently pressed with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon before being brewed
- Drying: where the herbal ingredients are dried whole and packaged — this is the most common form of tea, also known as “loose leaf,” because it is not ground
- Grinding: all the ingredients are ground up slightly to produce a more uniform, blended tea — common in tea bags
Getting Started: Utensils
There aren’t many utensils needed to brew herbal tisanes — all you need is:
- A generous amount of fresh, filtered water (please, for the sake of your health, don’t use tap/chlorinated) water!)
- A metal ball or mesh strainer (if you are brewing fresh or loose leaf tea)
- Your favorite cup!
If brewed correctly, many herbs have a delicate flavor. That said, if you like your tisane slightly sweet, I recommend adding just a touch of honey or other natural sweetener such as stevia or licorice for best results. Because of the wide range of ingredients that can be present in a tisane herb blend, you may need to adjust how you brew your tea accordingly. Try adjusting the amount of time you steep your tea for, or the temperature of your water.
Brewing Hot Herbal Infusions
Bring a deep saucepan (or kettle) filled with filtered water to a rolling boil.
Once the water has come to a boil, remove it from the heat. You then have three brewing options to release your herbal tisane’s health benefits …
- Place your loose leaf herbs into your metal ball strainer (or similar), put it in your cup, and pour water over it
- Place the herb bag into your cup and pour water over it
- Place your tea of choice directly in the saucepan — either in tea bag or loose leaf form — and swirl gently*
*You will need to strain your herbs using a metal kitchen strainer before drinking.
After you put your tea in, make sure you cover your cup or pan with a lid or plate while your tea is steeping. Covering your herbs while they steep protects your herbs essential oils by escaping with the steam. BONUS! It keeps it warm while you’re waiting!
Brewing Cold Herbal Infusions
To make cold or iced herbal tisanes, follow any one of the three methods above. Once the tea has cooled, you can add some more cool, filtered water at this point to dilute the flavor if it is very strong. Sweeten if necessary and pour the tea over ice cubes.
Perfect brewing times for different types of herbs
As a general rule, the more delicate the ingredient, the faster it brews. And leaving some faster-brewing herbs in hot water for too long can result in flavors that are too strong or leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. (ask me how I know 😉 )
Most ground herbs and herbal “tea” bags need 2-5 minutes of steeping to best release their health benefits. Loose leaf teas also need around 3-5 minutes of steeping time. Root and seed-based teas need the most time, around 10 minutes (or more) of steeping for best results.
Note: Roots, seeds (like milk thistle), and with the exception of Marshmallow (which is actually best in a cold infusion) can be boiled for a time. This is called a “decoction”.
Infusion: pour boiling water ON TO and let steep
Decoction: made from boiling plant material, usually the bark, rhizomes, roots or other woody parts, in water.
That is all there is to it! If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have an excellent tisane packed to the brim with health benefits!
- Antioxidant Capacity of Tea: Effect of Processing and Storage
Difference between tea and tisane, Accessed October 26, 2020