Herbal teas are one of the oldest herbal preparations on the planet! They also happen to be one of the easiest, most accessible, and most economical ways to get the nutritive and medicinal benefits of herbs into your every day. If you’re looking to work more with the therapeutic properties of plants, learning how to make your own nourishing herbal tea blends is a fantastic place to start! Here you’ll learn a simple 3-part formula for blending functional herbal teas.
HERE YOU’LL FIND:
What is Herbal Tea?
The Health Benefits of Herbal Tea
Why You Should Be Blending Your Own
The Easy 3-Part Formula for Blending Herbal Teas
Let’s Make an Herbal Tea Blend (Sample Formula)
40 Herbs to Use in Your Tea Blends
Herbal Tea FAQs
Resources & Further Reading
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What is Herbal Tea?
Have you ever been to a tea shop or tea house? If you have, you’ve probably sat down to an overwhelming novel-sized menu with enough reading material to keep you there for several weeks. There are literally thousands of teas out in the world! And to make it even more complicated, many entirely different teas all come from the same exact plant.
All the varieties of white tea, green tea, black tea, and oolong all come from one plant, the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). They only vary in the way they are grown and handled after harvesting. It’s a deep and fascinating world of tea, for sure.
However, I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret fact, herbal tea is technically not real tea since it doesn’t come from the tea plant.
Instead, herbal tea is an infusion or blend of plant matter from any other edible plant and can be more accurately referred to as a tisane. Herbal teas, or tisanes, can be made from roots, leaves, bark, fruits, seeds, or flowers.
Is Herbal Tea Good for You?
The short answer is: yes!
Traditional cultures have been drinking herbal teas for hundreds of years. Herbal teas are easy to make, require little to no equipment, and are incredibly economical. Because herbal teas can be so delicious and beneficial to your health, the herbal tea drinking traditions continue worldwide today.
The Endless Health Benefits of Herbal Tea
There are hundreds of herbs you can use to make herbal tea. Likewise, there are hundreds of health benefits of drinking herbal tea!
The health benefits of herbal tea are as varied as the incredibly wide variety of the herbs themselves. Here are some familiar examples:
- Chamomile is known to be a calming, nerve-soothing, and mildly sedative herb. Chamomile tea is, in turn, often enjoyed before bed for better sleep.
- Calendula is an incredible immune-boosting herb. Likewise, calendula tea is often enjoyed at the first sign of a cold.
- Peppermint is an uplifting and energizing herb and makes a great caffeine-free afternoon pick-me-up alternative to coffee. Peppermint can also help with digestion and is a common after-dinner drink.
And those are just single herb teas. Different herbs can be mixed and matched into all kinds of different herbal formulations to be used for specific therapeutic purposes.
For example, an immune-boosting herbal tea may include several different herbs known to help support the immune system. And a sleepy time tea will often include a blend of herbs that all help to support sleep. The possibilities might just literally be endless.
Herbal teas are also often caffeine-free, although some herbs, like yerba maté, do contain some caffeine. This makes herbal teas a great choice for those that are sensitive to caffeine.
Why You Should Be Blending Your Own
It’s super empowering, badass, and good old renegade herbalism fun! Do you even need another reason?!
But I get it. Not everyone has the time, will, or desire to blend their own herbal teas. Sometimes it’s 1000% easier to grab a box of herbal tea bags at the grocery and be done with it.
I’ll admit, I don’t always blend my own herbal teas, but I try to as often as possible. And when I do, I do so in larger batches that will last me several weeks or more. (Timesaver hacks are forever at the top of my Virgoan list of priorities.)
Here are my top reasons to blend your own herbal teas:
- You have control over the quality of the herbs. While there’re many companies making high-quality herbal teas, the herbs that typically make it into tea bags are oftentimes lower quality. Tea bags are often filled with bits, pieces, and herbal dust leftover from other herbal products.
- You can customize blends to meet your specific health concerns. There’s an herbal tea on the market for next to every single universal health concern. Nonetheless, you may be looking for something different. Making your own tea blends allows you complete authority in choosing herbs for their specific health benefits.
- You can customize blends to suit your taste. Licorice root isn’t my favorite. And do you know how many commercial tea blends contain licorice root!? I don’t actually know the answer to that question, but sometimes it seems like all of them. In learning how to make your own tea blends, you can leave out the herbs you don’t enjoy and add in the ones you do!
How To Make Your Own Herbal Tea Blends
There are many, many ways to go about blending your own herbal teas. You could pull five random herbs out of a hat, throw them together, and call it a tea. You could pick a feeling, like happiness, and pull together all the mood-boosting herbs you know. Or you could just really love lemon and put together a mix of lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon peel, and maybe a little mint just for variety.
On the other hand, you might want to target a specific health concern. And depending on the complexity of the health concern and your personal medical history, choosing herbs for your tea may require additional research on your part and/or a consultation with a practicing clinical herbalist.
However, most of the time, blending teas with a specific function in mind such as helping with sleep or calming your nerves can be pretty simple.
Herbal Tea Blending for Your Health | An Easy 3-Part Formula
I learned this 3-part formula in herbal medicine-making classes while in graduate school at Bastyr University. I believe it was originally developed by beloved herbalist William LeSassier and perhaps popularized by herbal visionary Rosemary Gladstar.
Regardless of the origins of this tea blending formula, in the world of herbalism, where the sheer volume of amazing, nutritive, medicinal, and delicious plants can be overwhelming, this 3-step approach gives brilliant guidance. It’s a great place to begin if you’re new to learning how to blend your own herbal teas.
And with that said, it’s also not a strict set of rules to follow. It’s simply a starting point, a way to wrap your head around the limitless possibilities.
In this 3-part formula, herbs are classified into 3 basic groups. Which one of the groups they end up in depends on the motivation or intention behind creating the herbal tea. As motivations change, the herbs may change groups or switch roles.
To understand this, I think it helps to think about how one single herb can have several different medicinal actions. For example, peppermint is often used to support healthy digestion. However, peppermint is also a gently stimulating nervine that can help to nourish and support the central nervous system.
Depending on your intention or reason behind creating your herbal tea blend, peppermint may play the role of the target herb in a blend for digestion or the supporting herb in a blend intended to help ease stress.
While not at all difficult, using this 3-part formula to blend your own herbal teas does require some knowledge of the medicinal actions of herbs.
Part 1: Choosing Your Target Herb(s)
What is your motivation for creating this herbal tea blend? What herb(s) will directly target your issue or area of concern?
Amount of Total Blend: 3-4 parts (70-80%)
The target herb is your main event and the reason you’re blending this tea in the first place. It’s the herb that most directly targets the issue or area of concern. It can be a single herb or more than one herb.
Herbs that may be used as target herbs include:
- Chamomile in a blend for stress and anxiety
- Echinacea for an immune-support or cold-care blend
- Dandelion leaf in a blend for digestion
- St. Johns Wort in a mood-boosting blend
- Mullein in a blend for respiratory support
Part 2: Choosing Your Nourishing Herb(s)
What herb(s) will help restore or nourish the area of concern? How can I support my target herb(s) in its purpose?
Amount of Total Blend: 1-2 parts (10-20%)
Nourishing herbs are typically tonifying herbs, ones that will support the specific part of your body that you’re targeting. They’re often adaptogens, herbs that can help to adapt to stress of all kinds and better increase your resistance to disease, inflammation, or any other symptom that may be stress-induced.
These supporting herbs are typically high in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory compounds. And again, you could choose more than one nourishing herb.
Herbs that are often used as nourishing herbs include:
- Marshmallow root
- Stinging nettle leaf
- Licorice root
- Milky oats
- Tulsi (holy basil)
Part 3: Choose Your Synergizing Herb(s)
What herb(s) will help stimulate or enhance the actions of my target herb(s)?
Amount of Total Blend: 1-2 parts (10-20%)
The synergizing herbs pull your whole herbal tea formula together. They’re herbs that help to encourage a particular organ system into action. Oftentimes, the synergizing herbs are:
- stimulants that may increase circulation and more effectively “drive” the herbs to their target
- laxatives that encourage elimination through the bowels
- diuretics that increase elimination of toxins or metabolic wastes through water loss
- expectorants that encourage elimination through the lungs (by coughing)
Do you see the pattern? These herbs get things moving! And by doing so, they increase the effectiveness of the other herbs.
These synergizing herbs also happen to typically be pretty flavorful, and oftentimes highly aromatic or even spicy. Think of these herbs as the cherry on top, the accent that really ties the whole outfit together.
Herbs that are often used as synergizing herbs include:
✺ HERBALIST TIPS ✺
At first, make small batches. Then tweak to the perfect balance of flavors before making larger batches.
Hit the books! Find yourself a good herb book for blending inspiration and to learn more about the herbs.
Let’s Make an Herbal Tea Blend!
Here’s an example of an herbal tea blend. Let’s make a blend for digestive support using peppermint as our target herb.
Your herbal tea blend for healthy digestion could look like this:
- 3 parts peppermint leaf (target herb) – an herb that directly targets the digestive system and can help ease symptoms such as gas and bloating, indigestion, and painful stomach cramping
- 2 parts marshmallow root (nourishing herb) – a soothing mucilaginous herb to nourish the cells lining the digestive tract
- 1 part ginger root (synergizing herb) – a warming and stimulating herb to help increase circulation to the digestive organs
- 1/2 part fennel seed (synergizing herb) – a gentle laxative to promote movement in the bowels
40 Generally Safe-For-All Herbs to Use for Tea
This may seem like a long list, but it’s actually a very tiny snippet of the world of herbs and spices that can be used in making your own herbal tea blends.
Please note that while these herbs are generally considered to be safe when consumed in small amounts (ie. 1-2 cups of tea a day), as opposed to larger medicinal doses (ie. 4-6+ cups a day), many of them are contraindicated if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription medications.
Plus, bodies are different! Always be sure to check with a licensed practitioner or practicing clinical herbalist before introducing new medicinal herbs to your diet.
With that said, here are 40 generally safe-for-all herbs and spices to use in your herbal tea blends:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
- Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Calendula (Calendula offiicnalis)
- Cardamom (Eletarria cardamomum)
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
- Cayenne (Capsicum spp.)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Chickweed (Stellaria media)
- Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
- Cleavers (Galium aparine)
- Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- Corn silk (Zea mays)
- Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)
- Elderflower (Sambucus spp.)
- Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
- Hops (Humulus lupulus)
- Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
- Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
- Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
- Plantain (Plantago spp.)
- Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
- Orange Peel (Citrus sinensis)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Rose (Rosa spp.)
- Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
- Saffron (Crocus sativus)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
Herbal Tea FAQs
Where can I find herbs to use for tea?
The first best place to find high-quality herbs is to either grow them yourself or get them locally from someone who does. However, I know that not all of us have that option.
If you have a health food store with a bulk section near you, you may be able to find dried herbs there. If it’s an option, always opt for organic herbs and spices.
And once you’ve exhausted those possibilities, the next best place to get high-quality herbs and spices is from reputable online retailers. I’ve purchased so many herbs online over the years. Without a doubt, I can tell you that Mountain Rose Herbs consistently outshines the others. The quality of the herbs, vast selection, and awareness and ethics around harvesting and environmental impact make them my medicinal herb go-to.
How much loose leaf tea should I use per cup?
You’ll find that most commercial blends of tea recommend 1-2 teaspoons. And commercial tea bags typically contain 1 teaspoon of herbs. These quantities make an excellent tea, however, they are considered to be “beverage tea” quantities that may not necessarily deliver a therapeutic dose of herbs.
For a more therapeutic herbal tea, use 2-3 teaspoons per 8 ounces of water. When I make my herbal teas, I typically use 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) per cup. However, you may choose to use less depending on your taste preferences.
How do I make herbal tea taste better?
The easiest way to make herbal tea taste better is to use delicious herbs! Herbs like ginger, lemongrass, peppermint, citrus, and lemon balm are all delicious and potent herbs to include in your blends. In fact, you could make taste an important factor in choosing the herbs for your blend if that’s a surefire way to get you or your loved ones to drink it!
However, sometimes we need the not-so-great tasting herbs to do some work for us. Sweet herbs like stevia or licorice root and help make a bitter herb more palatable. Otherwise, try adding a slice of lemon to your tea when brewing or lightly sweeten your tea with honey (or herbal honey) or maple syrup.
You could also consider another herbal preparation altogether. Instead of a tea, think about making a tincture, syrup, or herbal honey with the more unpleasant-tasting herbs.
What’s the best way to store herbal tea?
Any and all herbs and spices, including your herbal tea blends are best stored in airtight containers, in dry and cool locations, out of direct sunlight. In fact, storing them in a dark location like a cabinet or pantry is even better.
Here are some storage jar options:
- Clear Glass Jars (like canning jars or recycled jars): These are great for tea blends you go through quickly, as exposure to light will degrade the quality of your herbs more quickly. For a decorative option, I love these 16 oz display jars with bamboo lids.
- Amber Glass Jars: These jars have built-in UV protection and are great for keeping out on the countertop where they might be exposed to natural light.
- Tea Tins: These metal tins with airtight lids are also great for minimizing exposure to light.
Which is better: loose leaf tea or tea bags?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think a lot of it is also personal preference. While tea bags can be much more convenient, loose leaf tea requires some equipment (and therefore a tiny bit more time).
As far as quality, the tea used to fill some tea bags can often be of lower quality. I always go for loose leaf first unless I’m blending my own teas and filling my own tea bags. Loose leaf is much less processed, whereas the tea in tea bags can often be the leftover bits and pieces and herbal dust from other herbal products.
And secondly, some tea bags are made of plastic or bleached fabric. Choosing loose leaf eliminates this concern.
Is it okay to mix different herbs?
Generally, yes. As long as you’re using edible herbs in your herbal tea blends, it’s generally okay to mix different herbs. However, if you have specific health conditions or concerns, it’s always best to check with a licensed health practitioner or practicing clinical herbalist beforehand.
Can you make tea from fresh herbs?
You most absolutely can! Making herbal tea from fresh herbs is usually so much more of an in-the-moment kind of thing. For example, you just did a little gardening and have a handful of fresh mint, lemon balm, calendula, and lavender. I would throw these fresh herbs into a quart or gallon of room temperature water and let them infuse for a few hours or overnight.
You could even set the glass container in the sun for a few hours to make a solar infusion, or under the moonlight for a lunar infusion. However, you generally wouldn’t make large batches of fresh herbs meant for tea like you would dried herbs.
Can you make tea with cold water?
Yes, making tea with cold water would be considered a cold infusion. Cold infusions are typically used for fresh herbs or lighter, more delicate plant material like leaves and flowers. They take much longer than hot infusions. Whereas you can make a hot infusion in as little as 8-10 minutes, cold infusions are often done for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
How long should I steep herbal tea?
Because herbal teas lack the tannins that can make true teas like white, black, green, or oolong bitter, you can steep them for much longer.
Steep herbal teas covered for 8-30 minutes. The longer you steep them, the stronger they will be in flavor and the more time the water has to extract the beneficial compounds from the plants.
Does herbal tea have caffeine?
Sometimes. While most herbal teas do not contain caffeine, there are some herbs (that aren’t true teas from Camellia sinensis) that do. Herbal teas that do contain caffeine include yerba maté and guayusa. Cacao nibs, sometimes used in herbal teas, also contain a small amount of caffeine.
Does herbal tea go bad?
Herbal tea doesn’t “go bad” so much as it just loses its potency. However, if herbal tea is exposed to moisture, it can definitely mold. To keep your herbal tea at peak potency for the longest amount of time, store it properly. Herbal teas should be stored in airtight containers, in cool and dry locations, out of direct sunlight (and preferably in a dark location like a pantry or cabinet).
If you notice any unfavorable changes in appearance, smell, or even taste, compost and start over.
Is green tea herbal tea?
No, green tea is not considered an herbal tea. Green tea comes from the cured leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas, on the other hand, are made from pretty much any edible plant other than Camellia sinensis.
I don’t have the time to make my own blends. Where can I buy high-quality herbal tea?
I mean, who does have time?! I get it. You have to pick and choose your battles when it comes to Time. You can find high-quality loose leaf teas at online retailers like Mountain Rose Herbs. In fact, Mountain Rose Herbs has an impressively large collection of herbal tea blends, all of which were thoughtfully formulated by practicing herbalists.
Some of my most favorites are:
- Evening Repose Tea with chamomile, peppermint, lavender, lemon verbena, and rose
- Moon Ease Tea with cramp bark, marshmallow, passionflower, and ginger
- Pollinator Tea with lemon balm, dandelion, echinacea, yarrow, calendula, and thyme
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Check Out These Other Herbal Guides:
Resources & Further Reading
- A Quick Guide to Tea Blending Ingredients, Jenier World of Teas
- Tea Blending as a Fine Art, Joseph M. Walsh
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner
- The Herbal Kitchen, Kami McBride
DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.