Types of Herbal Teas
Teas fall into two main categories - Infusions and Decoctions.
Infusions are what most people think of as tea, but there is a difference between standard beverage tea most people make (by dunking a teabag in hot water) and a herbal infusion made from steeping herbs for 10 to 20 minutes in water to allow the therapeutic phytochemicals to infuse into the water. Infusions work best for leaf and flower material and usually extract more of their phytochemicals more easily.
Decoctions involve boiling or simmering herbal matter in water for around 10 - 20 minutes. They are normally used for root and twig material as it can be very difficult to extract medicinal phytochemicals from them.
A Quick Note on Macerations
Most roots can be made into decoctions however there are a few which, when heated loose their active constituents and so creating a cold maceration can help preserve their medicinal properties. Macerations are simply just decoctions which aren't made by heating, boiling or simmering (basically just using cold water).So just to sum things up:
- Herbal Beverage Tea = Tastes nice but not much medicinal or nutritional benefit and normally comes in tea bag form (Hot)
- Herbal Infusion = Taken medicinally made from leafs and flowers (Stronger and served Hot)
- Herbal Decoction = Taken medicinally made from roots and barks (Stronger and served Hot)
- Herbal Maceration = Taken medicinally made from roots and barks (Stronger and served Cold)
Tasseography or "tea leaf reading" is what most people think of when using tea for magickal purposes but many magickal practitioners create herbal tea blends to aid them in a specific magickal working for example a purification rite may be added from a tea containing: Nettles, Star Anise, Yarrow, Horsetail, Rosemary, Basil, Fennel Seed, Clover, Cinnamon, Dandelion, Marigold, Cloves, Cayenne, Echinacea, Sage, Blue Flag, Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, Ginger, Clivers.
Shamans have been known to make teas or brews from plants for their psychotropic effects and to aid them in reaching altered states of consciousness. Ayahuasca for example is made from a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi and shrub called chacruna.
White, Green & Black Tea
A tea can really only be classified as a tea when the leaves are from the Camellia sinensis plant. Other teas, such as herbal teas, are technically therefore not considered real teas because they are made from different plants and herbs although this does not generally stop us from referring to or marketing them as teas.
The three main teas - White, green, and black tea - are made from the leaves of the same species Camellia sinensis. The differences between them are mainly determined by the level of oxidation as well as the weather conditions and soil.
White tea originally a Chinese beverage is minimally processed and not oxidized, meaning it retains the natural antioxidants, but does not develop as much flavour, colour, or caffeine. Sweet or flowery flavours are characteristic.
Green tea popular in both Japan and China has a minimal amount of oxidation, halted by additional pan-frying (Chinese teas) or steaming (Japanese) steps. The additional processing brings out more flavour, and allows for caffeine to develop, at the cost of a reduction in antioxidants. Characteristic flavours are grassy, vegetal, and earthy, with sweet notes.
Black tea the most popular tea in the Western world is fully fermented, which blackens the leaves and causes the formation of caffeine and tannins. It generally possesses the most robust flavour and highest level of caffeine, but the least antioxidants.
So Which Should I Drink?
I personally consume herbal beverage tea's as a healthy daily drink alternative to fizzy drinks. I reserve infusions for helping with specific conditions or when I feel my body would benefit from a particular herb or group of herbs, for example Chamomile at night to help with sleep or an Immune boosting blend when I get a cold ("Get well stay well tea").
Many herbalists drink both teas and infusions on a daily basis so it's more personal preference and using your own judgment.
A little Bit of History
Tea has been drunk in China for thousands of years, Around 3000 BC a "mythical figure, Shen Nong - the divine husbandman - supposedly discovered its properties when a few leaves fell from an overhanging branch into a kettle of water he was boiling conveniently underneath."
Tea was first introduced into Europe in the 17th Century and was regarded as a medicinal herb, it was advertised as a remedy to cure over-indulgence and digestive trouble by many Tea-houses.
Make Your Own
How To Brew A Herbal Tea
- Boil Water - The goal here is to boil the water so that it’s so hot that it quickly and easily infuses into the herbs and works to pull out the properties of the herbs.
- Place Tea In Strainer - There are a lot of options. I personally like using loose leaf teas with a ball strainer but if your making tea for more than one person you may wish to use a loose leaf teapot which has a strainer compartment built in.
- Pour Hot Water - Simply pour the water in the tea pot of into the cup with your strainer in.
- Steep Your Tea - Steep times will vary depending upon what herb you’re using and how hard (or tough) it is. For most tea leaves and flowers, 10 minutes of steeping is perfect.
- Sweeten Your Tea - Not necessary but some people like to sweeten their tea with honey for example.
How To Make A Herbal Infusion
- Place required amount of herb in warmed china or glass teapot or cafetière (but nothing metal), traditionally 1 oz (26g) of dried herb.
- Pour boiling water in traditionally 1 pint (500ml).
- Leave it to infuse for approx 10 minutes.
- Strain through a sieve.
- Sweeten with honey if required.
How To Make A Herbal Decoction
- Crush up plant components with a pestle and morter.
- Pour 1 ox (25 g) of ground dried plants matter in a stainless steel, glass or ceramic saucepan.
- Add 1 1/2 (750 ml) of cold water to saucepan.
- Bring to boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for approx 1 hour (the volume should reduce by about a third).
- Strain and add water to make up the required amount.
- Honey can then be added to sweeten decoction.
Can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
Most Popular Teas & Infusions
Plenty of people drink green tea throughout the day, loaded with antioxidant and flavonoids, a warming cup of green tea can help to ward off free radicals but it’s worth remembering that it naturally contains caffeine – so if you’re a restless sleeper, it’s better to get your hit first thing in the morning rather than last thing at night.
Experts have claimed that the flavonoids in this sedative tea act as a mild tranquilliser and sleep-inducer, binding to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Several studies have also linked chamomile to reducing menstrual pain, targeting inflammation and lessening migraines.
Turmeric Tea (a.k.a "Golden Milk")
As an anti-inflammatory, a 2017 study found that curcumin could reduce the most prominent symptoms of arthritis and joint pain. Researchers have also credited the tea for boosting immune function, lowering cholesterol and even preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
studies have found that menthol has anti-spasmodic effects, which can help soothe many stomach ailments, including aches, pains, cramps and even flatulence. Has been known to be great for hangovers.
Drinking Echinacea has been found to be effective in shortening the duration of cold and flu symptoms, while one study found that it could reduce the odds of developing a cold by 58%.
Who Should I Buy From?
You should buy from us of course lol - In all seriousness this is a good question and completely depends on what you want to drink and why but I have listed a few things you might what to think about.
- Supermarkets carry many many different brands these days but despite the prices all their teas fall in the beverage tea category so if your expecting teas with medicinal benefit you might want to think again.
- Specialist tea shops source and sale high quality teas usually employ monologists to create special blends for flavour and sometimes medicinal benefits. These are great places to visit to sample different teas and find out what's out there.
- Herbalists are essentially medical practitioners so if you are interested in using tea specifically for treatment of a medical concern are a great place are the best place to go to get professional advice and to find someone who can sale you unbranded but still high quality teas.
- Apothecaries and "Occult" Stores can provide you with a wealth of knowledge and options when it comes to exploring some of the more unusual and magickal uses of tea. They often carry their own blends designed for magical uses but also often stock medicinal teas.
If you would like to check out our range of herbal teas please click here