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A hibiscus tisane beginning to steep

Tisane, or "herbal tea", is a term for any non-caffeinated beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material. These drinks are distinguished from caffeinated beverages like coffee, maté, kuding, and the true teas (black, green, white, yellow, oolong, etc.), or from a caffeinated tea, in which the caffeine has been removed. In addition to serving as a beverage, many tisanes are also consumed due to a perceived medicinal benefit.

Like beverages made from the tea bush (Camellia sinensis), tisanes can be served hot or cold. Tisanes have been used for nearly as long as written history extends. Documents have been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of tisanes. Among the Chinese, tisanes are commonly known as liang cha.


Herbal tea in a glass teapot and cup

The English word "tisane" originates from the Greek word πτισάνη (ptisanē), a drink made from pearl barley, similar to the modern barley water.

Health benefits

Tisanes are often consumed for their physical or medicinal effects, especially for their stimulant, relaxant or sedative properties. The medicinal effects of certain herbs are discussed under herbalism. The medicinal benefits of specific herbs are often anecdotal or controversial, and in some countries (including the United States) makers of tisanes are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims about the medicinal effects of their products.

Antioxidant properties

Available as pure or blended samples, tisanes are popular because of their fragrance, antioxidant properties and therapeutic applications. The antioxidant properties (AOP) of tisanes from temperate plants of mainly Lamiaceae have been well-studied while those of tropical tisanes are less well-studied. Recently, a comparative study showed that tropical tisanes were more diverse in types and more variable in AOP values than temperate tisanes. Tisanes generally had lower antioxidant values than true teas of. Exceptions were lemon myrtle, guava, and oregano teas with AOP comparable to black teas. Mint and peppermint tisanes had significantly stronger ferrous ion chelating ability than true teas.

Health risks

As tisanes can literally be composed of any plant material, including some plants that are known to be toxic, the specific ingredients must be checked for health and safety individually. Most retail tisanes sold as beverages could be considered safe, but medicinal tisanes could easily contain herbs that cause damage in large amounts.

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

  • Comfrey, which contains alkaloids that can cause permanent liver damage with chronic use.
  • Lobelia, which contains toxins similar in effect to nicotine.

Tisanes 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.

The UK does not require tisanes to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they are safe for consumption.


Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, tisanes, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals. 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".

During pregnancy

In addition to the issues mentioned above which are toxic to all people, several medicinal herbs are considered abortifacients, and if unknowingly consumed by a pregnant woman 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.

Additionally, a study found that frequent and regular use of cannabis throughout pregnancy may be associated with a small but statistically detectable decrease in birth weight.


Baskets of dried hibiscus for making karkade, or "hibiscus tea", a popular tisane worldwide

In Egypt, tisanes such as karkade are very popular. They are served in ahwas.

In China, the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is used in formulating natural tisanes and they are very popular in enhancing health and addressing core issues within the body; e.g. formulated recipes like hawthorn plus oolong / pu-er can address the high fat level in body's bloodstream. The Chinese term liang cha, means cooling tea, and the Chinese drink it to cool down the body when it was overheated due to weather or sickness.

In Sri Lanka, tisanes have a long history within the local tradition of indigenous medicine. Iramusu (Smilax regelii), Beli (Bael), Ranawara (Senna auriculata), Polpala (Aerva lanata), weniwel (Coscinium fenestratum), and kothala-himbutu (Salacia reticulata) are among the many plant species used to make tisanes, which are used to treat a wide variety of ailments. The widely used "Paspanguwa" (translated as five-portions) is a common local remedy for colds and fever containing the five ingredients Pathpadagam (Mollugo cerviana), Katuwelbatu (Solanum virginianum), Koththamalli (Coriander seed), Thippili (Long pepper), and Inguru (Ginger), often served with a sweetener of sugar or Jaggery.


This retail mixture contains rooibos, coconut, ginger, cinnamon, apple, cardamom, black pepper & almond.

Tisanes can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can also be boiled on a stove. The tisane is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.

Major varieties

While varieties of tisanes are defined as any plant material for infusion, below is a list of common herbs:

  • Anise tea, made from either the seeds or the leaves.
  • Asiatic penny-wort leaf, in Southeast Asia
  • Artichoke tea.
  • Bee Balm
  • Boldo, used in South America
  • Burdock
  • Cannabis tea, used in the preparation of Bhang
  • Caraway tea, made from the seeds
  • Nepeta|Catnip tea is used as a relaxant, sedative, and to calm
  • German Chamomile|Chamomile tea is used as a sedative
  • Che Dang, very bitter tea made from Ilex causue leaves
  • Chinese knot-weed tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea, made from dried flowers, is popular with Chinese Dim sum
  • Cinnamon
  • Coca tea, infusion made from coca leaves.
  • Coffee tea leaves and coffee cherry tea are tisanes made using the leaves and cherries of the coffee plant; in coffee the coffee beans (seeds) are instead used.
  • Cerasse, a bitter Jamaican herb

File:Mr. Ollivanders Magic Potion fruit tisane.jpg|thumb|right|Apple, rose hips, orange (fruit)|orange zest (ingredient)|zest, papaya, peppermint, liquorice root, cymbopogon|lemon grass, cinnamon, blackcurrants, rose and Malvaceae|mallow blossoms.

  • Citrus peel, including bergamot orange|bergamot, lemon and Orange (fruit)|orange peel
  • Dandelion coffee
  • Dill tea, often consumed to ease upset stomach
  • Echinacea tea
  • Elderberry
  • European Mistletoe (Viscum album), (steep in cold water for 2–6 hours)
  • Essiac|Essiac tea, a blended tisane
  • Fennel
  • Gentian
  • Ginger root can be made into a tisane, known in the Philippines as salabat

File:Bebida de ginseng.jpg|thumb|right|A pre-made, bottled ginsing tisane. Ginseng is a stimulant and can be used as a caffeine substitute.

  • Ginseng, a popular tea in China and Korea
  • Goji, a popular and very simple to prepare tea
  • Crataegus|Hawthorn
  • Hibiscus (often blended with rose hip), a popular tea alternative in the Middle East which is drunk hot or cold. Hibiscus tea is also consumed in Okinawa, where the natives associate Hibiscus tea with longevity. See also Roselle below.)
  • Ho Yan Hor Herbal Tea, a tisane recipe formulated by Malaysian Chinese
  • Honeybush is related to rooibos and grows in a similar area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter
  • Marrubium vulgare|Horehound
  • Houttuynia
  • Hydrangea tea, dried leaves of hydrangeas; considerable care must be taken because most species contain a toxin. The "safe" hydrangeas belong to the Hydrangea serrata Amacha ("sweet tea") Cultivar Group.
  • Jiaogulan, (also known as xiancao or poor man's ginseng)
  • Kapor tea, dried leaves of Epilobium angustifolium|fireweed
  • Kava root, from the South Pacific, is popular for its effects in promoting talkativeness and relaxation
  • Kratom, dried leaves of the Kratom tree, drank for its medicinal and stimulant effects
  • Kuzuyu, is a thick white Japanese tea made by adding arrowroot powder to hot water
  • Labrador tea, made from the shrub by the same name, found in the northern part of North America.
  • Lapacho (also known as Taheebo) is the inner-lining of the bark (or cambium) of the Red or Purple Lapacho Tree which grows in the Brazilian jungles. It is boiled to make an infusion with many and varied health benefits.
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon and ginger tea
  • Cymbopogon|Lemon grass
  • Luo han guo
  • Licorice root
  • Lime Blossom|Lime blossom, dried flowers of Tilia|lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
  • Coca tea|Mate de coca (sometimes called "coca tea"), made from coca leaves. Authentic mate de coca contains very small amounts of cocaine and similar alkaloids. In some countries where coca is illegal, products marketed as "coca tea" are supposed to be decocainized, i.e., the pharmacologically active components have been removed from the leaf using the same chemicals used in manufacturing cocaine.
  • Mentha|Mint, especially peppermint (also mixed with green tea to make mint tea)
  • Sideritis syriaca|Mountain Tea, a very popular tea in the Balkans and other areas of the Mediterranean region. Made from a variety of the Sideritis syriaca plant which grows in warm climates above 3,000 feet. Records of its use date back 2,000 years.
  • Neem leaf
  • Nettle leaf
  • New Jersey Tea
  • Noni tea
  • Oksusu cha (옥수수 차), traditional roasted maize|corn tea found in Korea.
  • Pennyroyal leaf, an abortifacient
  • Pine#Food uses|Pine tea, or tallstrunt, made from needles of pine trees is high in vitamins A and C
  • Qishr, Yemeni drink with coffee husks and ginger.
  • Red clover tea
  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Roasted barley tea, known in Japanese as mugicha and Korean as bori cha. The roasted flavor can be reminiscent of coffee (without coffee's bitterness and caffeine). It is often drunk cold in the summer.
  • Roasted wheat is used in Postum, a coffee substitute.
  • Rooibos (Red Bush) is a reddish plant used to make an infusion and grown in South Africa. In the US it is sometimes called red tea. It has many of the antioxidant benefits of green tea, but because it does not come from tea leaves, it has no caffeine.
  • Rose hip (often blended with hibiscus)
  • Roselle (plant)|Roselle petals (species of Hibiscus; aka Bissap, Dah, etc.), consumed in the Sahel and elsewhere.
  • Rosemary
  • Sagebrush, California Sagebrush
  • Common sage
  • Sakurayu is a Japanese tisane made with pickled cherry blossom petals.
  • Salvia
  • Sassafras roots were steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration|FDA.
  • Scorched rice, known as hyeonmi cha in Korea
  • Scutellaria barbata|Skullcap
  • Serendib (tea), a tea from Sri Lanka
  • Soba#Other uses of the word soba|Sobacha
  • Lindera benzoin|Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) leaves used to make a tea by some native peoples of eastern North America
  • Spruce#Uses|Spruce tea, made from needles of spruce trees is high in vitamin C
  • Staghorn sumac fruit can made into a lemonade.
  • Stevia can be used to make tisane, or as a sweetener in other beverages.
  • St. John's Wort can be used as an herbal anti-depressant.
  • Thyme Antiseptic, used in lysterine.
  • Tulsi, or Holy Basil, in English
  • Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cat's Claw
  • Valerian (plant)|Valerian Sedative.
  • Verbena|Verbena (Vervains)
  • Vetiver
  • Wax gourd in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • Wong Lo Kat, a tisane recipe from Canton, China since Ching Dynasty
  • Galium odoratum|Woodruff
  • Yarrow

Ayurvedic tea

Ayurvedic tea is made of Ayurvedic herbs like Agya Ghas, Yeshtimadhu, Tulasi etc. Various pharmacies have come up with their products using different combinations of Ayurvedic medicines. Ayurvedic tea has also been found to contain nutrients including calcium, potassium, vanadium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.

See also