Despite the cold, rain, snow, and the struggle to keep your feet warm by adding more sock layers, the more wintry it gets, the more things there are to enjoy about the cold season, unlike summer.
For instance, winter brings people together thanks to the inevitable need to stay indoors. This, in return, gives a chance for many activities people can indulge in, from cooking and baking to having intimate conversations and watching TV.
Another thing that gives winter a point over summer is that it is always easier to get warm than to cool. The easiest way to do that is by consuming hot beverages. Winter has a vast range of hot drinks that do not just have great tastes but also multiple health benefits.
Besides cocoa drinks and all the espresso-based coffees, herbal teas are a whole new world of delicious, super healthy, and highly diverse tea varieties. They are easily accessible, affordable, and easy to make. But before we move any further, let’s just talk a little about the term ‘herbal tea.’
Tea, as in the actual tea, is a drink made by infusing the crushed, dried leaves of a tea plant in hot water. This tea plant is scientifically called Camellia sinensis, a tree which originated in China thousands of years ago.
There are five types of actual tea: black, oolong, yellow, green, and white. All these types result from applying some changes to the tea manufacturing process. Yet, the one common thing among them is that they do not have any ingredients other than tea.
This actual tea is often called unblended tea to set it apart from blended tea. Blended tea, on the other hand, is a tea drink mixed with other things. Earl Grey is one famous type of blended tea which combines black tea with bergamot oil.
That said, herbal tea is not actually tea as in the drink we just referred to. Herbal tea is the infusion of herbs or spices in hot water without adding any tea powder. For example, cinnamon tea is just cinnamon infused in hot water. Herbal tea is also different from actual tea as it has no caffeine.
Herbs vs Species
It has yet to be determined how many types of herbs and spices there are. Some estimate there are up to three thousand types. Yet, only 40 or so are globally important and more commonly used.
It is relatively easy to tell herbs and spices apart. The basic rule is: the leaf of a plant is a herb. Whatever comes from the other plant parts, such as the bark, flower, bud fruits, root, or seed, is a spice.
For instance, cilantro, mint, parsley, rosemary, and basil are herbs since they are leaves. On the flip side, cinnamon is a tree bark, so it is a spice. Nutmeg, sesame, and cardamom are tree seeds, so they are spices too.
Some plants can be both. For instance, dill is both a herb and a spice. The leafy part, known as the dill weed, is the herb, while the dill seed is used as a spice.
Despite their original forms, we often use herbs and spices in the dried form. In fact, they are better to use this way than fresh. Just like tea, drying and crushing herbs concentrate their taste and aroma. As a result, dried herbs are used to add stronger flavours to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Besides using them for flavouring, many herbs and spices have significant health benefits that boost the immune system and protect the body from chronic diseases. They were also found helpful in reducing stress, feeling relaxed, having better sleep quality, and feeling good overall.
Out of the innumerable herbal teas, here are the top five that will promote your health and warm your heart this winter.
1. Cinnamon Tea
And who is not in love already with cinnamon rolls?
Cinnamon is one of the most famous spices, taken from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum. It is mainly used in cooking to provide a good taste and aroma. The tree itself has a pleasant strong smell derived from the oils in the leaves, flowers, bark, and seeds.
Cinnamon trees originally grow in Sri Lanka, the southwestern coast of India (also known as the Malabar Coast of India), and Myanmar. But they also grow in Indonesia, China (both collectively produce 70% of the world’s supply of cinnamon), Vietnam, and South America.
With a brown colour, cinnamon has a rich, sweet, woody, and spicy flavour. It comes in two forms: sticks and powder, but there is no difference in taste or aroma. Cinnamon sticks are the dried cinnamon bark that curls into quills. Ground cinnamon is the powder that results from crushing those sticks.
Cinnamon tea was found useful for the body and mood. To get the health benefits this spice provides, consuming only one cup a day is recommended. Drinking too much cinnamon on a daily basis can lower blood sugar too much, cause breathing problems, and may even harm the liver.
But with moderate consumption, cinnamon tea can help
- Lower insulin resistance.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Purify the blood.
- Reduce bad cholesterol.
- Relieve stomach pain.
How to Make
Cinnamon tea is super easy and fast to make. Given that every supermarket now has cinnamon tea bags, all you need to do is infuse one bag in a cup of hot water and sweeten it as desired with sugar or honey. The more the bag is left in the water, the deeper and spicier the taste will be. So you can adjust it according to your own preference.
But it is better to use cinnamon sticks for a more profound taste. To make one cup of cinnamon tea:
- Add one cinnamon stick with some water to a pot.
- Set the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil.
- Lower the heat and let this infusion simmer for 15 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the cinnamon stick, pour your tea into a cup, and sweeten it as desired.
2. Nettle Tea
Nettle is a herb derived from the leaves of a, yes, nettle tree, scientifically known as Urtica dioica. Though it is now grown worldwide, the nettle tree originated in Europe and temperate Asia. This region includes Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Siberia, and most of China. Such places are characterised by mild/warm summers, cool/cold winters, and rain all year long or just for a part of it.
Despite its health benefits which we will discuss in a bit, nettle is often referred to as stinging nettle because the nettle leaves have fine sharp needle-like hairs. When coming in contact with them, these fine hairs inject chemicals into the skin. This, in turn, causes dermatitis; the skin then turns red, itchy, and inflamed.
You may think of it as a defence mechanism from the plant against invaders, ‘so long, sucker!’ So, if you ever come across a nettle tree, just do not get any closer and let the masters do the job and bring us the good nettle leaves.
Again, moderate consumption is required to enjoy the health benefits of any food or drink. For nettle tea, a maximum of two cups per day is perfect. Nettle tea has been widely used for healing purposes for a long, long time. More precisely, it was found helpful as it
- Improves kidney health.
- Reduces muscle pain and arthritis.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Protects against or manages diabetes.
- Improves heart health.
How to Make
Despite the chemicals they are backed with, nettle leaves lose all their stinging effects once cooked. All these chemicals completely vanish just by boiling or drying the leaves. These two methods are used to make nettle tea.
If you are using fresh nettle, make sure you hold the leaves from the stems. Add two cups of water in a pot and one cup of fresh nettle. Place the pot on medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer for five minutes.
You can always make the taste stronger by adding more nettle or weaker by adding more water. Additionally, soaking the leaves for a longer time intensifies their flavour.
Once cooked, pour the tea through a strainer, sweeten it with sugar or honey as desired, and voilà, you have a delicious nettle tea to enjoy.
3. Mint Tea
Mint is a plant that grows all around the world. Over 600 types of mint can be found worldwide, each with a different taste and aroma. Peppermint is a hybrid type produced by combining watermint and spearmint. It has nothing to do with pepper but was just called so to set it apart from the other kinds of mint.
Spearmint and peppermint are the most famous mint types, and they are used to make mint tea, one of the healthiest drinks for your body.
Thanks to its numerous health benefits, mint has always been used in traditional medicine. For instance, the oil derived from these mint types is used on the skin to help cure headaches, acne, itching, and muscle pain. It is also used in cosmetics as a fragrance.
Speaking of mint tea, it is suitable for
- Relieving stomach pain and cramps.
- Freshening the breath.
- Improving sleep quality.
- Relieving muscle soreness.
- Easing flu.
How to Make
Mint has a sweet taste that produces a cooling effect on the tongue and the throat, thanks to the menthol content in the leaves.
Though most herbs and spices taste more concentrated when dried, the opposite is true with mint. Fresh mint has most of the flavour and a much more pungent aroma and is generally preferable to dried mint. Yet, the latter will surely do if fresh mint is not accessible.
Mint tea, like nettle tea, can be made using fresh and dried forms. If you are using dried mint, you will have to double the amount of fresh mint. The more leaves you add, the stronger the taste will be. So you can manage the amount based on your preference. Also, the longer you steep the leaves, the stronger the tea taste.
To make mint tea:
- Add one cup of water to a pot.
- Place it on the stove and bring the water to a boil.
- Turn off the heat, add the mint leaves, and let them soak in hot water for five minutes. You can reduce the time in case you want a lighter taste.
Or, if the taste accidentally gets stronger, you can bring it down by adding more water.
Sweeten your tea with sugar or honey as desired, pour it through a strainer, and enjoy.
4. Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberries, apart from being a sweet and highly nutritious fruit, their leaves are can be used to help with various health problems. Raspberry leaf tea has been traditionally used as a cure for women during pregnancy and after labour.
Pregnant women in their third trimester are advised to consume raspberry leaf tea. They may start with just one cup daily, then move it up gradually to two and then three. That said, each woman must surely consult her doctor before doing so. Such a herbal tea is super beneficial for pregnant women as it may tighten pelvic muscles, shorten and ease labour, and boost milk supply.
In addition, raspberry leaf tea is generally helpful as it contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and vitamins C, E, B, and A. These minerals and vitamins help moderate blood pressure, reduce the risk of strokes, and improve metabolism.
How to Make
Raspberry leaf tea doesn’t taste like raspberry at all but rather like bitter, decaffeinated green tea. Like the herbal teas we mentioned, raspberry leaf tea can be made either from fresh leaves or dried leaves.
But unlike them, there does not seem to be a difference in flavour between them.
To make raspberry leaf tea, we use the same method. Add a few fresh leaves or one teaspoon of crushed dried raspberry leaves in a cup of boiling water. Steep the leaves for about five minutes, then sweeten your tea as desired.
Again, the longer you steep the leaves or, the more leaves you add, the stronger the taste will be and vice versa.
5. Lemon Ginger Tea
Ginger is a plant whose root is also called ginger. It is a popular spice used in both cooking and traditional medicine. Around 40 countries worldwide produce ginger, with most of the global production coming from India, Nigeria, China, and Indonesia, in that order.
Ginger has a little sweet, spicy flavour. That is why it is one of the main ingredients in Asian cuisine and is commonly used to make savoury dishes. Like nettle, mint, and raspberry leaves, ginger is used in fresh and dried forms to make herbal tea. Dried ginger has an acidic taste which develops after drying and is not found in the fresh spice.
Lemon ginger tea is an excellent herbal tea that provide many health benefits, such as:
- Improving digestion.
- Easing nausea.
- Reducing inflammation pain.
- Relieving stomach-aches and cramps.
- Reducing common cold symptoms.
How to Make
It is recommended to use fresh ginger to make lemon ginger tea to squeeze as many health benefits from the spice as possible.
To make one cup of lemon ginger tea, add two cups of water in a pot with one sliced lemon and one sliced ginger (about 6 cm). Bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let the lemon and ginger steep for a maximum of 10 minutes, then strain the tea into a cup, sweeten it as desired, and enjoy.
And there you have it…
Five different types of herbal teas that will provide you not only with an enjoyable tea-drinking experience but with great health benefits as well.
In this article, we explained how the term tea is used and how actual, unblended tea is different from herbal tea. Then we moved to the difference between herbs and spices and how both have been used in cooking and traditional medicine.
Finally, we introduced five different types of herbal tea, their health benefits, and how you can make them, which we hope you will.