Tisanes. To Tisane or not to Tisane?
What on earth is a tisane I hear you fervently shout? Well tisane is basically a herbal beverage brewed from any edible plant (think camomile, peppermint etc.), whereas ‘tea’ (think green, Assam, black etc.) comes from the one plant called Camellia Sinensis. We have many varieties of tea because the leaves, once picked, are prepared in different ways. Other differences between tisane and tea include: teas contain caffeine, not all tisanes do and tisanes can use the flowers, stem, bark, roots or fruits of a plant, tea is just the leaves.
I’m a big fan of tisanes and apart from water it’s all I drink. They are a great way to hydrate yourself but they can also give added benefits depending on the type. So here’s a rundown of my top three. Just a heads-up, green tea isn’t in the list – it’s too obvious and mainstream for me.
Hibiscus has a tart and sour taste and is one of my favourites. It’s a dark red colour and has been consumed since ancient times due to its medicinal properties as its high in polyphenols (a plant compound that’s beneficial to health). Research has shown it’s useful to those with diabetes, helps with blood pressure and protects the liver.
Hibiscus also contains malic, tartaric and citric acid – all three are very powerful in maintaining good health and combined with it’s high vitamin C levels make it a must-have considering flu season is nearly upon us. Hibiscus is particularly useful for men in the fact that it flushes excess estrogen out of the body. Men need small amounts of estrogen but in recent decades this hormone has increased in prevalence within the male body. Scientists are unsure why but believe it could be down to the use of plastics (compounds within plastics disrupt hormones) and soy products (a plant estrogenic). A few cups every day will naturally lower the levels in your body.
Bamboo has a mild grassy taste and is a little bit oily. The plant itself is a little unusual in the fact that it’s the fastest growing plant in the world and can grow up to 80 feet. It’s been used extensively in Chinese medicine for centuries and is high in silica. Silica is a trace mineral and is extremely beneficial to our health in terms of our joints, connective tissues, skin, hair, nails, and digestion, the Western diet often lacks it. It’s crucial for the creation of collagen and its chock-full of antioxidants leading it to be dubbed an all round ‘beauty tea.’
Jiaogulan translates to ‘twisting-vine orchid’ and it has a very odd but pleasant taste. This drink is very popular in the Southern Provinces of China. The thing about this area of China is that there are a lot of people over the age of 100, the Chinese Government cottoned on to this in the 70’s and sent a crack team of experts to find out why. After much deliberation they found that this tea was the connecting factor across the area. It’s consumed in high quantities on a daily basis. Research (mainly from China and Japan) has found it to be full of saponins. Ginseng, when discovered, was praised for having 29, Jiaogulan has 82. These saponins increase circulation to the internal organs and boost the immune system.
Another interesting point about this tea is the fact that it’s an adaptagen – “a normalizing action on various bodily functions regardless of the direction of the pathological condition’ – N. V. Lazarev a top Russian Scientist – meaning that it is very balancing, good for stress and helps you ‘adapt.’ It’s also very high in anti-oxidants – it helps create antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase which is extremely beneficial in fighting free radicals.
What to look out for when buying tea
Its best to buy loose leaf as with teabags the leaf pieces are a lot smaller (often dust sized) which affects the quality and the taste. Also teabags tend to be bleached/treated with chemicals/the fabric glued together/ made with questionable material i.e. a type of plastic. These things with boiled water added into the equation can leach into your brew. Grim. Whenever I order a drink whilst in a cafe/restaurant I split the tea bag and pour the leaves in, but any waiters that walk past always try to replace my drink and they look at me in horror when I say it’s fine like that. I have odd habits what can I say?
Another thing to look out for is organic. Once picked, the leaves, flowers, stems etc. don’t get washed so any chemicals that are on there, stay on there. Finally, origin. Where your tea comes from is important because different countries have different food standards. China in particular gets a bad rap because even though the tea and soil are stated as organic the water used isn’t. Factories dump a lot of waste into rivers which ends up on farmer’s crops.
So there you have it, my top three tisanes – bottoms up.