Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general reference only and is not a replacement for professional health advice from a physician licensed by the American Medical Association.
To some of you herbal teas and infusions are nothing new. But to the population in general these blends of various plants, seeds, flowers, spices, fruits, and so on, seem new and foreign. More and more, though, they are coming into demand as alternatives to colas and sugary beverages. Part of this is due to the successful marketing of three key players in the herbal arena (Rooibos, yerba mate, and honeybush) and part due to concerns over health, including the effects of caffeine.
Rooibos, Yerba Mate, and Honeybush Gain Attention
- Rooibos – (Aspalathus linearis, aka “Redbush”) From South Africa. The leaves aren’t red on the bush but turn red when processed. They steep up a red liquid. This herbal was introduced to the US in 2001 by a major US tea vendor that misnamed it “Red Tea” and later issued a statement regretting this misleading moniker, even though they still use it. (True red tea is what we in the US call black tea.)
- Yerba Mate – (Ilex paraguarensis leaves and small twigs) Originally from Paraguay and now enjoyed in Uruguay, Argentina, and southern Brazil on a daily basis instead of coffee. The liquid has a slightly bitter edge and an intensely earthy yet refreshing taste. To be truly traditional, pour it in a small, round pot called a mate gourd and sip it through a wooden or metal filtered straw, called a bombilla.
- Honeybush – (Cyclopedia intermedia) Also from South Africa. Named after the honey-scented blossoms it produces. Leaves are harvested while the plant is in bloom. The liquid is reddish brown and has a sweet, citrusy, yet mildly spicy taste. Often flavored with vanilla, mandarins, oranges, and other items.
These are, of course, not the only substances used in herbal teas. A wide range from agrimony to yucca is available, with each said to address specific health concerns.
Caffeine Concerns Cause a Rise in Turning to Herbals
Even though true teas infused from Camellia sinensis leaves have a third or less of the caffeine on average that’s in a cup of tea, this amount can still be too much for people who are overly sensitive. Too much caffeine (and how much that is will vary by individual) can cause:
- a higher number of visits to the bathroom
- slight nausea that could become more severe
- rapid heart rate
- nervous conditions including anxiety, depression, restlessness, and tremors
- inability to slip off smoothly into sweet dreams
- built up tolerance to caffeine requiring higher intake to achieve the desired effects (in fact, cutting back suddenly on caffeine can result in headaches, low energy, a cranky disposition, the “blues,” and “foggy brain” where concentrating takes effort)
- women are usually advised by their doctors to refrain from caffeine during pregnancy to keep it from affecting their baby (what the mother eats, the child does, too)
All of this has made the fact that the low or total lack of caffeine in most herbal teas really up their profile among those seeking this relief. Honeybush is extremely low in caffeine. Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free, as are a variety of other plants used in herbal teas.
Health Claims Abound
The human ailments, conditions, or symptoms said to be aided by the most herbals are cancer, coughs, diarrhea, depression, insomnia, heart disease, headaches, fever, digestive issues, anemia, arthritis, asthma, nervousness, and general breathing issues. Many are undocumented or poorly researched. But some claims have merit. Honeybush has virtually no tannin and lots of dietary minerals and vitamins. Rooibos contains calcium, potassium, alpha-hydroxy (for skin), zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, and fluoride but with half the tannin in some true teas (Camellia sinensis). More scientific study showed that Rooibos contains flavanoids which are free-radical fighting antioxidants, that is polyphenol content similar to green tea. Similar studies have been done on blueberries (declared by some to be nature’s superfood), ginger, ginseng, cinnamon, cardamom, and a host of other ingredients typical of herbal teas. An acceptance in the West of Eastern philosophies and studies have also seen a rise in Ayurvedic tea blends gaining acceptance.
For whatever reasons you have made the switch to herbal teas, or if that is on your agenda for the near future, you will find one that suits your taste and needs. Fruity, spicy, floral, sweetish, tangy, or whatever flavor profile you prefer is readily available. Our store site recently added a number of these in recognition of their growing popularity. We hope you’ll take a moment to browse them. We will be adding more in the near future, so please be sure to check back with us.
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