Steeping "Hibiscus Delight", made from hibiscus flowers, rose hips, orange peel, green tea, and red raspberry leaf[1]

Herbal teas, also known as herbal infusions and less commonly[2] called tisanes (UK and US /tɪˈzæn/, US also /tɪˈzɑːn/),[3] are beverages made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water; they do not usually contain any true tea (Camellia sinensis). Often herb tea, or the plain term tea, is used as a reference to all sorts of herbal teas. Many herbs used in teas/tisanes are also used in herbal medicine. Some herbal blends contain true tea (e.g., the Indian classic masala chai).

The term "herbal" tea is often used to distinguish these beverages from true teas (e.g., black, green, white, yellow, oolong), which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Unlike true teas, most tisanes do not naturally contain caffeine (though tea can be decaffeinated, processed to remove caffeine).[4][5] A number of plants, however, do contain caffeine or another stimulant, like theobromine, cocaine or ephedrine. Some have the opposite effect, acting as a sedative. Some common infusions have specific names such as mate (yerba mate) and rooibos (red bush). Hibiscus tea is one type of herbal infusion, but many described as some other plant have hibiscus as the main ingredient, or a major one.[6]


Herbal tea in a glass teapot and cup

Some feel[clarification needed] that the term tisane is more correct than herbal tea or that the latter is even misleading, but most dictionaries record that the word tea is also used to refer to other plants beside the tea plant and to beverages made from these other plants.[7][8] In any case, the term herbal tea is very well established and much more common than tisane.[2]

The word tisane was rare in its modern sense before the 20th century, when it was borrowed in the modern sense from French. (This is why some people feel it should be pronounced /tɪˈzɑːn/ as in French, but the original English pronunciation /tɪˈzæn/ continues to be more common in US English and especially in UK English.)[3]

The word had already existed in late Middle English in the sense of "medicinal drink" and had already been borrowed from French (Old French). The Old French word came from the Latin word ptisana, which came from the Ancient Greek word πτισάνη (ptisánē), which meant "peeled" barley, in other words pearl barley, and a drink made from this that is similar to modern barley water.[9]


See also: List of plants used in herbalism and List of culinary herbs and spices

Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds or roots. They are made by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. The herbal tea is then strained, sweetened if desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.


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While varieties of tisanes can be made from any edible plant material, below is a list of those commonly used for such:

Health risks

See also: List of herbs with known adverse effects and Controversies regarding the use of plastic in teabags

While most herbal teas are safe for regular consumption, some herbs have toxic or allergenic effects. Among the greatest causes of concern are:

Herbal teas can also have different effects from person to person, and this is further compounded by the problem of potential misidentification. The deadly foxglove, for example, can be mistaken for the much more benign (but still relatively toxic to the liver) comfrey. Care must be taken not to use any poisonous plants.

The US does not require herbal teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they be safe for consumption.

Fruit or fruit-flavored tea is usually acidic and thus may contribute to erosion of tooth enamel.[15]

Adverse herb‑drug interactions

See also: Grapefruit–drug interactions and Cytochrome P450 (CYP)

Some phytochemicals found in herbs and fruits can adversely interact with others and over the counter or prescription medications, among other ways by affecting their metabolism by the body. Herbs and fruits that inhibit or induce the body's Cytochrome P450 enzyme complex function can either cause the drug to be dangerously ineffective, or increase its effective absorbed dose to potentially toxic levels, respectively. Best known examples of adverse herb‑drug interactions are grapefruit or St John's wort, contraindicated for several medications including Paxlovid and oral contraceptives, but other herbs also affect the CYP enzyme family, showing herb‑drug interactions.[16][17][18]


See also: Health effects of pesticides

Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, herbal teas, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals.[19][20] According to Naithani & Kakkar (2004), "all herbal preparations should be checked for toxic chemical residues to allay consumer fears of exposure to known neuro-toxicant pesticides and to aid in promoting global acceptance of these products".[19]

During pregnancy

In addition to the issues mentioned above which are toxic to all people, several medicinal herbs are considered abortifacients, and if consumed by a pregnant individual could cause miscarriage. These include common ingredients like nutmeg, mace, papaya, bitter melon, verbena, saffron, slippery elm, and possibly pomegranate. It also includes more obscure herbs, like mugwort, rue, pennyroyal, wild carrot, blue cohosh, tansy, and savin.[medical citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Hibiscus Delight (Loose Leaf Tea Blend) – 1/2 lb". Lone Star Botanicals. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  2. ^ a b "Google Ngram Viewer". Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  3. ^ a b "tisane". Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. 2018-05-23. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  4. ^ "Herbal tea". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  5. ^ Center, Garfield Medical. "Different Types of Tea and Caffeine Content". Garfield Medical Center. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  6. ^ "Blackberry & Blueberry infusion". Sainsbury's. Retrieved 6 March 2024. A typical example, described as Blackberry & Blueberry, but has hibiscus as main ingredient, and 0.5% of the named ingredients.
  7. ^ "tea". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  8. ^ "tea". Lexico. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  9. ^ "tisane". Lexico. Archived from the original on 27 September 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  10. ^ Jenkins AJ, Llosa T, Montoya I, Cone EJ (1996). "Identification and quantitation of alkaloids in coca tea". Forensic Science International. 77 (3): 179–89. doi:10.1016/0379-0738(95)01860-3. PMC 2705900. PMID 8819993.
  11. ^ C.J. van Gelderen; D.M. van Gelderen. 2004. Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas. Timber Press. 280 p.
  12. ^ Boullata JI, Nace AM (2000). "Safety issues with herbal medicine". Pharmacotherapy. 20 (3): 257–69. doi:10.1592/phco. PMID 10730682. S2CID 36757144.
  13. ^ "Comfrey". 3 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Lobelia". 3 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  15. ^ O'Toole, S.; Mullan, F. (2018). "The role of the diet in tooth wear". British Dental Journal. 224 (5): 379–383. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2018.127. PMID 29471309. S2CID 3797429.
  16. ^ Zuo, Hua-Li; Huang, Hsi-Yuan; Lin, Yang-Chi-Dung; Cai, Xiao-Xuan; Kong, Xiang-Jun; Luo, Dai-Lin; Zhou, Yu-Heng; Huang, Hsien-Da (2022-01-14). "Enzyme Activity of Natural Products on Cytochrome P450". Molecules. 27 (2): 515. doi:10.3390/molecules27020515. ISSN 1420-3049. PMC 8779343. PMID 35056827.
  17. ^ Cho, Hyun-Jong; Yoon, In-Soo (2015). "Pharmacokinetic Interactions of Herbs with Cytochrome P450 and P-Glycoprotein". Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015: 1–10. doi:10.1155/2015/736431. ISSN 1741-427X. PMC 4302358. PMID 25632290.
  18. ^ Smith, Dallas J.; Bi, Huichang; Hamman, Josias; Ma, Xiaochao; Mitchell, Constance; Nyirenda, Kumbukani; Monera-Penduka, Tsitsi; Oketch-Rabah, Hellen; Paine, Mary F.; Pettit, Syril; Pheiffer, Wihan; Van Breemen, Richard B.; Embry, Michelle (2023-07-12). "Potential pharmacokinetic interactions with concurrent use of herbal medicines and a ritonavir-boosted COVID-19 protease inhibitor in low and middle-income countries". Frontiers in Pharmacology. 14. doi:10.3389/fphar.2023.1210579. ISSN 1663-9812. PMC 10368978. PMID 37502215.
  19. ^ a b Naithani, V; Kakkar, P (2004). "An evaluation of residual organochlorine pesticides in popular Indian herbal teas". Archives of Environmental Health. 59 (8): 426–30. doi:10.3200/AEOH.59.8.426-430. PMID 16268119. S2CID 31026817.
  20. ^ Naithani, V; Kakkar, P (2005). "Evaluation of heavy metals in Indian herbal teas". Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 75 (1): 197–203. doi:10.1007/s00128-005-0738-4. PMID 16228893. S2CID 41011619.