Types of Herbal Tea - A Comprehensive Guide
There are hundreds of types of herbal tea, from ginger tea to hibiscus tea to lemon balm tea, and beyond. So, how do you categorize them? What do they taste like? And which should you incorporate into your diet for extra health benefits?
At Zest Tea, we are all about high-caffeine, plant-powered tea blends. But we also select some of the finest natural herbs and organic ingredients to flavor our teas. You can learn more about our herbal ingredients and many others in our guide to herbal teas below.
What Are Herbal Teas?
Herbal tea doesn't just refer to teas made with well-known culinary herbs, like rosemary or lavender, for example. Many people use the term herbal tea to refer to any tea type that isn't made from leaves of the tea plant. The Camellia sinensis tea plant produces caffeinated tea leaves that are processed into green tea, black tea, white tea, and several other tea types.
So, 'herbal tea' has become synonymous with caffeine-free tea. Technically, this makes these beverages infusions rather than tea, and they can contain all manner of plant material. Roots, flowers, leaves, and stalks are all used to create different types of herbal tea.
Most herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, but there are a few exceptions - see yerba mate below. Furthermore, there are some herbal tea blends that actually taste like caffeinated tea, just without the caffeine - take a glimpse at rooibos tea too.
The history behind herbal teas reaches back centuries in numerous cultures. Herbal medicine was used to treat a wide range of ailments. Interestingly, herbalism is still popular in many areas of the world today - you may have heard of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine before.1
Herbal Tea Health Benefits
One of the reasons herbal tea is so popular is because of the medicinal properties associated with it. Herbal tea ingredients are linked to numerous health benefits, so this isn't unfounded. However, the potency of herbal tea benefits is unclear. Clinical studies tend to use plant extract - usually a high concentration - to achieve results. You're unlikely to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, or drastically improve your skin health just from consuming one cup of herbal tea.
Our advice is to take the health benefits of herbal tea with a pinch of salt. Enjoy these teas for their delicious flavors and make sure to contact a medical health professional for advice on using herbal tea as a treatment.
The Ultimate List of Herbal Tea Types
By no means is this a definitive list of herbal tea types! We've listed our personal favorites, including the ingredients we add to our energy teas, plus some of the most popular herbal teas. You'll find notes on the flavor, origin, and linked health benefits of numerous herbal teas below.
This adaptogenic herb creates one of the Ayurvedic herbal teas that's reported to treat stress and anxiety.4 It's found more often in a blend of herbal ingredients, as the pungent and bitter flavor of ashwagandha can be overpowering by itself.
Research has also discovered that ashwagandha could be beneficial for treating numerous neurodegenerative diseases as well as spinal cord injury.5
Barley tea is made by infusing roasted barley grains with hot water to create a toasted, warming flavor. It's popular in numerous Asian countries but is also consumed in the West. Barley infusion contains a number of antioxidative compounds6 and improves blood fluidity, helping your body to naturally flush out toxins and improve circulation.7
Cardamom seeds are one of the spices we use to create our Spicy Masala Chai. Although tea made with just cardamom is rarely consumed, it is a popular ingredient in many spiced tea (chai) blends.
Cardamom has anti-inflammatory properties, chemopreventive properties,8 and may prevent hepatic damage.9 In traditional medicine, cardamom has supposed benefits for cardiac, digestive and kidney disorders, and may control teeth and gum infections.
Chamomile is one of the oldest and most widely-used beneficial herbs. It's made from the bright yellow and white flowers of the chamomile plant, Matricaria. Unlike many tisanes made from flowers, chamomile doesn't have an overly floral flavor. Instead, this naturally sweet tea has a hay and honey taste.
Potential health benefits of chamomile tea include reducing anxiety, inducing sleep, and stimulating the immune system.10
Cinnamon is another spice ingredient in our Spicy Masala Chai. Arguably one of the most popular spices, it's also found in many winter-themed drinks, including coffee beverages and our comforting Cinnamon Apple blend.
Herbal teas containing cloves tend to have a floral, warm and astringent flavor. Another ingredient in our Spicy Masala Chai, cloves are commonly used as a treatment for tooth ache as they have a numbing effect when applied topically.
There's also evidence that consuming cloves daily can lower cholesterol by 9%.13
Dandelion infusions can be made from the flower, leaf or root of the dandelion plant - all parts are edible! Dandelion in general has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.14
Dandelion root is used most commonly in tea blends with a nutty roasted flavor, and is used to prevent and treat numerous liver diseases and hepatic injuries.15
Like chamomile tea, echinacea tea is made from the flowers of a plant in the daisy family. Usually made from the Echinacea purpurea plant, echinacea tea has a floral and refreshing taste.
Echinacea is a phytotherapeutic agent that can be used for skin health, specifically for wound healing.16 It is also a good herbal tea for the immune system, as studies have found that "extracts shorten the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections."17
The fiery, warming flavor of ginger tea is a favorite among the Zest team - we even wrote an article exploring ginger tea health benefits and caffeine levels (spoiler, it's caffeine-free).
Ginger root tea is a popular treatment for cold symptoms. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve a blocked nose and anti-nausea effects that settle an upset stomach. It's commonly mixed with lemon and honey to create a slightly sweet and soothing beverage.
Drinking tea when you are unwell is also a good way to stay hydrated.
We use a touch of hibiscus in our Blue Lady black tea blend to add a sweet and slightly sour note that really pops with the fruity ingredients. Just like ginger, we wrote a complete guide to hibiscus tea covering which parts of the hibiscus flower are used and its surprising health properties.
Did you know that hibiscus herbal tea may lower high blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels?
Many types of herbal tea are commonly combined with caffeinated, traditional tea types. Jasmine is a great example of this, as it's often consumed with green tea. However, jasmine-only teas do exist and they have a very refreshing flavor.
Jasmine flowers have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to relieve pain, and recent research has confirmed that the herbal ingredient has potential for the development of non-opioid analgesics (painkillers).18
Both the flowers, buds and the leaves of the lavender plant can be steeped as herbal tea - so long as it's an edible variety such as English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. If you're unsure if your lavender is the edible variety, just select from the many pre-packaged lavender teabags and loose leaf blends available.
Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm tea looks similar to many plants in the mint family and has a slightly minty flavor amidst the lemony notes. The plant is native to south Europe and north Africa, however it is now grown around the world.
Drinking herbal tea made with lemon balm leaves can improve cognition and mood to reduce stress.21
Lemongrass herbal tea has a strong lemon and grass flavor. It's a popular ingredient in South-East Asian cuisine and is also used in numerous tea blends. Lemongrass herbal tea can prevent bacteria and yeast growth, and may assist with lowering blood sugar levels.
While lemongrass is often used in aromatherapy too, it can sometimes cause allergic reactions after inhalation and rashes when applied topically.22
Licorice Root Tea
If you have a very sweet tooth, then licorice root will be perfect for you. Brewing licorice root produces a very intense aniseed-flavored infusion.
The root of the licorice plant has been used to treat a sore throat since before the Song dynasty in China,23 and recent research has confirmed that licorice has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties.24
Moringa is a herbal tea made from steeping the leaves of the moringa plant, Moringa oleifera, in water. The flowers of this plant are very fragrant and often used in perfume and skincare products, however it's typically the leaves that are used to create an infusion. Moringa has a fresh flavor that's similar to green tea but with an earthier note.
There's evidence that moringa has "anti-fibrotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-hyperglycemic, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-cancer properties."25
Passionflower tea is a little floral, grassy and earthy in flavor. It's most often blended with other herbal tea leaves and flowers, but you can still find pure passionflower tea available. The main benefit of consuming passionflower is the sedative and sleep-quality-improving effects, just like chamomile and valerian.
Interestingly, one double-blind study found that normal-strength passionflower tea is potent enough to improve sleep quality.26
Mint teas are incredibly popular, but there are various kinds of mint tea all made from leaves produced by plants in the mint family. Peppermint tea, Mentha × piperita, is strong, sweet and incredibly refreshing. The menthol in peppermint tea leaves a bright, cooling effect in your throat. Besides freshening your breath and aiding digestion, peppermint can also be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).27
We use peppermint with green tea and pomegranate to create our tasty Pomegranate Mojito energy tea.
Another, milder mint leaf that's used to create herbal tea is spearmint. Like lemon balm, it is low in menthol and has a warmer sweetness compared to peppermint. Spearmint, Mentha spicata, has anti-cancer properties and demonstrates anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective activities in clinical studies.28
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea is one of the most popular types of herbal tea amongst women - particularly pregnant women. Although there's no experimental data to back up these claims, many people believe that raspberry leaf is beneficial during pregnancy, can relieve menstrual cramps, and can reduce the duration of labor.29
You should speak with your doctor before consuming any herbal teas if you are (or could be) pregnant.
Red rooibos tea, also known as just red tea, is a popular alternative to green and black tea because it has a tannin-like flavor but no caffeine. This herbal tea is made from the needle-like leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant in South Africa.
Although there's little evidence, many people believe that consuming this herbal tea benefits the heart and digestive system, and can treat anxiety.30
Rose tea is typically made from the dried petals of the rose plant flower. Rose tea contains a significant amount of vitamin C which can boost the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer. Herbal teas made from rose petals are also a good source of vitamin E, which alongside vitamin C is good for your skin.31
The flavor of rose tea is quite pungent, slightly sweet, and very floral. It's often blended with caffeinated white tea or black tea - it would go particularly well with our Earl Grey blend.
Rose hips can be used to create a well-balanced herbal tea that's rich in vitamin C and has a slightly tart aftertaste - although nowhere near as tart as hibiscus tea. It's best described as refreshing and tangy.
While it's not the most well-known or popular herbal tea, rosehip provides some great herbal tea benefits. A cup of rosehip tea may provide anti-inflammatory effects that are particularly beneficial for treating arthritis.32
Rosemary is used frequently to flavor dishes in many cuisines, but the small needle-like leaves can also be brewed into tea. When infused with water, rosemary has a fragrant, earthy and fresh quality that's comparable to a pine needle scent.
Initial studies have found that rosemary tisane "increases the level of the most reliable depression biomarker BDNF" which indicates that it could be used as a herbal antidepressant.33
Like rosemary, sage is a herb that's used more in cooking than for herbal teas. Nonetheless, sage tea is healthy and widely-available in tea format. It has an earthy, bitter and herbaceous flavor that's best lifted with a spoonful of honey or slice of citrus fruit.
One very small study found evidence that sage tea improves lipid profile and antioxidant defenses, however a much wider study is needed to confirm this.34 Historically, sage has been used as a remedy for mental stimulation and reducing stomach pain associated with menstrual cramps.
Tulsi tea is also known as holy basil tea, as it's made from the leaves of the holy basil plant which is native to SouthEast Asia. It has an astringent, herby flavor and is steeped in history. It's one of the key herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Studies have found that tulsi tea is excellent for combatting stress - psychological stress on your mind and physical stress on your body. It also has antimicrobial properties.35
Turmeric recently achieved superfood status, but you don't need to spoon it into smoothies to enjoy it's nutrition. Turmeric tea is a vibrant and popular herbal tea type. The bright orange turmeric powder we are accustomed to is made from the turmeric root, which looks very similar to ginger root.
Just like ginger, you can slice fresh turmeric into discs and infuse them with hot water to create turmeric tea. You can also try using the powder to create thicker hot beverages.
Turmeric has an abundance of health benefits, including preventing and treating diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and numerous cancers and autoimmune diseases.36
Valerian Root Tea
Along with chamomile and passionflower, valerian is a popular herbal tea for sleep quality and duration. Brewing valerian root creates an earthy almost spice-tasting tea. Several studies have shown that valerian could be a great treatment to induce sleep and improve sleep quality without negative side effects - but more research is required.37
You'll often find valerian combined with magnesium in sleep supplements too.
Unlike most herbal teas, yerba mate contains caffeine - quite a lot of it, depending on your brewing method! Made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis, a plant native to South America, yerba mate is a stimulating drink that's loved for its health properties. The drink is linked to athletic performance and enhanced cognitive function.38
As for flavor, yerba mate has a rich herbaceous taste with earthy and woody notes. It can be found in teabag-format or consumed traditionally through a straw.
Find out how the caffeine content of yerba mate compares to black tea, green tea, and Zest's high caffeine tea in our guide to which type of tea has the most caffeine.
Herbal Tea vs Fruit Tea
You may have noticed that we're missing some key ingredients from Zest's teas in this list. We've excluded orange, bergamot, apple, and a whole host of other popular tea varieties from this list because they are technically fruit teas rather than herbal teas.
In comparison to fruit juices, fruit teas are made by infusing pieces of fruit in water - including the parts of the fruit you usually wouldn't consume, like the peel. This does make a difference to the flavor and nutritional value of the tea compared to sipping just hot fruit juice. The flavor is more subtle and great for blending with other ingredients, like our premium green and black tea leaves.
Visit ZestTea.com to learn more about our range of flavorsome teas and their non-GMO, natural ingredients.
How many types of herbal tea are there?
Any edible herb can be made into tea and there are numerous other edible flowers and plant components that can be brewed into a flavorful tea. The exact number is hard to calculate!
What is the most beneficial herbal tea?
Each herbal tea has unique properties that may benefit your health. Chamomile, for example, is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient and is widely purported to have sedative effects for sleep (although more research is needed to confirm them).39 To get the most benefit from a herbal tea, choose one that contains a variety of herbal ingredients that target your specific ailments.
What is the healthiest tea to drink daily?
Green tea, made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant is considered one of the healthiest. The health benefits of green tea include reducing the risk of heart disease, aiding weight loss, and managing diabetes. Read our guide to green tea energy to learn more about this caffeinated tea type.
Is drinking herbal tea good for you?
Yes, herbal tea can become a great part of a healthy diet. Besides rehydrating your body with water, herbal teas come with a range of health benefits and have unique properties. To find out which types of herbal tea are right for you, scroll back up to read our guide.