Health Benefits of Herbal Tea

I remember the first time my husband brought home Chamomile Tea for me to try to help with my sleep issues. As someone whose taste buds had been warped by everything processed, I did not appreciate its taste in the least. Now though, as part of my journey to a more health-full lifestyle, herbal tea is a wonderful part of my daily routine. It’s also one of the first resources I turn to if things start to feel off because I know now that much, if not all, of what we need can be found in nature. We just have to know where to look. To help us all take a deeper dive into  the health benefits of herbal tea, I went to Clinical Herbalist Rachel Zingone. In this Q&A, she not only talks about the daily and therapeutic benefits of herbs and herbal tea but also shares some recommended resources for learning more about which herbs you might want to include in your next cup.

Photo ofPhoto by Mareefe

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Peppermint Tea & Me: Generally speaking, does herbal tea have health benefits?

RZ: Herbal tea absolutely has health benefits. These vary by the herbs that are used.

PTM: Is tea the best way to get the therapeutic benefits of herbs?

Rachel Zingone: There are three major ways that you can take herbs. You can take them as a tea – which is the most affordable – you can take them as a tincture, or you can take them as a capsule. For the most part, it doesn’t matter which road you go. There are certain herbs that you definitely want as a tea or you would rather have the tincture, but as far as the therapeutic aspect of them, they all work effectively.

PTM: Which herbs are best as a tea?

Photo of Clinical Herbalist Rachel Zingone.
Rachel Zingone, Clinical Herbalist

RZ: Those would be herbs that are highly nutritive, like a vitamin/mineral tea. Their properties are better extracted with water, so things like nettle and alfalfa – teas that give you high mineral and vitamin content. Mucilaginous herbs are another class of herbs that are moistening to tissue and soothing to inflammation. Those are also much better as a tea because the properties that you’re wanting to get are best drawn out through the water. An example of a Mucilaginous herb would be marshmallow root or slippery elm root.

PTM: How can herbal tea be used for therapeutic purposes?

RZ: A standard therapeutic approach to tea would be one cup three times a day. A therapeutic dose of herbal tea is generally 1 tablespoon of herb per 1 cup of boiled water. Tea bags are less than this.

PTM: So, herbs really can be used to help address different conditions?

RZ: Definitely. Herbs can be used very effectively therapeutically instead of pharmaceuticals.  I may see someone who has insomnia and say, “Okay, take this tincture twice a day and then at night have this cup of tea.” That would still be considered a therapeutic dose, even though it’s just one cup. The three times a day really depends on what condition you’re working with or what your intention is. It’s not a hard and fast rule.

 Herbs can be very helpful for adrenals and stress. I also get a lot of referrals for immunity. I have a formula that people can take if they feel like they’re getting sick, and it can prevent them from getting sick, or if they are sick, they can get better more quickly. So, immunity is a big one, and digestion, that’s a huge one. Also sleep issues, menopause and PMS. Those are all some of the really popular reasons why people come to me.

PTM: When is it best to see a clinical herbalist?

RZ: There are certainly specific herbs that help with these general conditions, but usually a formula is going to work more synergistically. That’s the thing about seeing a clinical herbalist versus going on the internet. When you talk to a clinical herbalist and you get a full history, it’s actually “Your liver might need to be having some support because the liver processes all the hormones. If your liver isn’t processing your hormones properly then maybe there’s some sluggishness to the liver. So, let’s support the liver function.” That’s when you would get a full formula instead of just one herb. A person’s symptoms inform how their formula is prepared.

PTM: How can herbal tea be used for daily maintenance?

RZ: There’s not really a general rule for that sort of thing, but I would say a cup a day. If you love it and you want to drink two cups a day, great. My philosophy is kind of like, “An apple a day,” you know… a cup a day.

For example, Tulsi (Holy Basil) helps the body deal with stress. In doing that, it also improves immunity because the impact of stress is mitigated by the herb. Drinking a cup of Tulsi every day as maintenance would be acceptable because you’re not really having a particular problem, you’re trying to use it as more of a preventative.

 PTM: What are some of the herbs most commonly used in tea, and what are their health benefits?

RZ: I would say the common ones are the ones that people are very familiar with like Peppermint and Chamomile. Those are probably the two most popular and both are really great for digestion. Chamomile is part of the bitter class of herbs. In that way, it helps with digestion, where it stimulates the body’s natural gastric juices. That’s what bitters do, and Chamomile is a gentle bitter.

A lot of herbs have multiple actions, and they work on multiple systems in the body. Chamomile is one of those. It calms the nervous system and calms the stomach. That’s why Chamomile is a great one for nervous stomach because it addresses nerves and digestion. You could have a nice cup of Chamomile tea after a meal to help with digestion or you could have a cup before bed to just calm you and get you ready for sleep.

Peppermint is considered a carminative. Those are herbs with a high volatile oil content and that help to eliminate gas in the body. Peppermint is really great for all sorts of digestive issues, whether you have a stomach ache, whether you have acid reflux, it’s just very, very soothing for digestion and it’s very cooling.

PTM: Can you feel the therapeutic benefits of herbal tea right away or does it take a while?

RZ: It depends on what you’re drinking it for. If it’s for digestion, absolutely, yes. If it’s for sleep, or calming down, yes. You can feel that right away. If someone were taking herbs for hormone balancing, that can take 2-3 months. Same thing with toning and cleansing the liver. That takes time. So, it really depends on what you’re taking it for.

PTM: Is it important to buy organic teas?

RZ: Absolutely. It’s very important because what ends up happening is there’s always going to be some herb that’s hot and trending.  When you don’t get that herb from a good, organic source, that herb can be adulterated. It’s not just a matter of the herb being organic but by being organic, it takes it to a higher notch of quality.

For example, with St. John’s Wort, for people who don’t know what they’re doing, there’s a lot of plants that look like it and they’ll get the wrong thing. Then, all you’ll hear about are the bad things that happened because of it. It’s very important to get herbs from a high-quality source and those sources are organic.

PTM: What are wild-crafted herbs?

RZ: Another way that herbs are sourced is that they’re wild-crafted – meaning they’re collected from nature, they’re collected from the wild. It’s really important to be wildcrafting herbs from ethical sources because a lot of herbs are facing overharvest. They are at risk, and when herbs get really popular, you have industry just taking and taking and taking and not doing it in an ethical way.

PTM: Can you use fresh herbs for tea?

RZ: Yes! A fresh Chamomile tea is so good. It’s just really lovely. I also really like milky oats because they’re wonderful fresh.

You prepare tea with fresh herbs just like you would with dry herbs only use a little bit more. Chop them up and do them just like you would with the dry herbs.

Note: For resources on how to dry your own herbs, be sure to read the Financial Benefits of Growing Herbs.

PTM: Which herbs would you recommend for anyone?

RZ: There are two herbs that I recommend for everyone. They can be used in a formula or as single herbs. One of them is Holy Basil, or Tulsi, and that is just a really wonderful herb for stress relief, to support immunity and to just really support good health. It also tastes great. There’s a brand called Organic India that makes them as tea bags, and they make a bunch of different combinations of it and it’s really delightful. You can get it as a tea bag or just a loose-leaf tea, and it’s also incredibly easy to grow.

The other one is nettle. Nettle is highly nutritive and good for the liver. It’s cleansing for the body and the blood, and it’s just like a green superfood. So those are two herbs that I just think are the best.

Lean on Your Community

If you’re already a tea drinker, be sure and let us know in the comments below which kind is your favorite. To learn more about the financial benefits of growing your own herbs, be sure and check out that post here.

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