Art of Tisane
Having grown up in China, I was exposed to a wide array of medicinal and culinary herbs on a regular daily basis. As I think back to my childhood, I am flooded with memories of “Ba Bao Cha”, reverently known as the “eight treasure tea”, my mom made for me each morning. This delightful and uplifting concoction is a blend of eight common ingredients found within Chinese cuisine and herbal medicine: Chrysanthemum, Goji Berry, Honeysuckle, Licorice, Red Date, Hawthorn Berry, Dried Tangerine Rind, and Brown Sugar.
With its lively amber hue, refreshingly sweet taste, and gentle healing properties, this ubiquitous brew of China is practically a national treasure. The energetic synergy culminates in an elixir renowned to improve energy levels, detoxify the body, nourish the digestive system, relax the nerves, and uplift the spirit. Savoring such tea is an everyday example of the Chinese culture using readily available herbs to promote a sense of balance and overall health. Eight Treasure Tea is one of the many herbal concoctions that are consumed regularly by the people of China. Many others incorporate herbs that are harvested during certain times of year, or are used in order to harmonize the seasonal influences: invigorating herbs are taken in spring, cooling herbs in summer, tonic herbs in autumn, and warm herbs in winter.
Throughout history, cultures have relied on herbal tisanes for many reasons. It appears there is some variation in the etymology and history of the word “tisane”. While some sources credit “tisane” coming from the Greek word ptisanē (originally referring to a beverage made from the crushed grains of pearl barley), others refer to the French as coining the term. One could argue that Ti (Tea) and Sans (French for “without”) or Ti (Tea) and Sine (Latin for “without”) could mean “tea without tea”, as a tea without tea could be a hot beverage with anything but tealeaves in it. At Arogya Tea in Westport, we refer to all tisanes in our collection as those herbal combinations that do not include tealeaves…and though we are often caught using the expression ”herbal tea”, it is sometimes considered a misnomer.
In any case, and whatever you choose to call it, today’s tisane can refer to an herbal infusion enjoyed as a delicious beverage, often comprising a subtle to significant medicinal effect. Across the globe, countless cultures enjoy tisanes for soothing all kinds of pain and healing various internal and external wounds. Others enjoy them to simply feel better and uplift the spirit…while another may select from a variety of tisanes in order to free up a clogged belly or calm down a headache. So whether it’s a matter of tossing a handful of chamomile blossoms into a pot of hot water to brew a tummy soother or a concoction of herbs selected for fighting the flu, tisanes have been popular staples in the kitchen and infirmary for centuries. However, it should be noted that one need not have an ailment to enjoy a tisane. Many tisanes are consumed merely because they are delicious (while having many health-promoting qualities to boot…).
Because tisanes are largely a combination of herbs, and do not contain actual “tealeaves”, they usually do not contain any caffeine. There are a few exceptions, however, such as the Yerba Mate leaf, which does contain a slight amount of caffeine. Overall, most tisanes are generally made from lighter, more flavorful, and aromatic herbs (and may contain any part of the plant, such as leaves, flowers, crushed seeds, roots, hips, fruit, or stems). Some of the more commonly known culinary herbs such as rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, cinnamon, and fennel are frequent components of tisanes, and each carries its own unique medicinal value. It should also be noted, however, that some herbs, while flavorful, may have some unpleasant side effects and/or interact with medications one may be taking, so it is important to do some research or consult a professional herbalist before experimenting with various herbal combinations.
When choosing a particular tisane, one should think about the theme or goal one hopes to achieve with the tisane, other than just to enjoy a great-tasting brew. In the herbal kingdom, there are many categories and classifications each with a specific purpose, and may be organized according to those qualities such as diuretics, stimulants, cleansers, warming or cooling agents, detoxifiers, sedatives, immune enhancers, tonics, etc., etc. Having a clear idea about one’s purpose for the tisane is important, as there are certain ways to best glean the herbal energetic actions and healing properties. Tisanes intended for cleansing, detoxification, and weight loss may work best when taken on an empty stomach, while those designed for energy, stamina and tonic purposes work best with meals.
At Arogya Tea, we offer a variety of caffeine-free tisanes that are both flavorful and effective at targeting various health issues. The following is a sampling of some of the tisanes you will find on our shelves:
Organic Turmeric Ginger: One of our most popular and beloved tisane concoctions, comprised of Ginger, Orange Peel, Licorice Root, Lemongrass, Turmeric, and Essential Oil of Lemon. This sweet and hearty brew is excellent for its anti-inflammatory qualities, while promoting strong digestion and circulatory health.
Cold & Flu: a tried and true, go-to/grab-two in the winter months, containing Licorice Root, Elder Flower, Echinacea Root, Calendula, Lime Blossom, Fennel, and Cinnamon. This delicious tisane boosts immunity while easing body aches, strengthening digestion, and soothing a sore throat and cough.
Organic Digestive Aid: a wonderful companion for holiday dinners and for those with occasional digestive weakness or disharmony. Cardamom, Peppermint, Spearmint, Ginger, Licorice Root, and Natural Oils of Basil and Clove promote optimal digestion and elimination.
D-Stress: The 21st century tisane endowed with ancient herbal wisdom. Holy Basil, Fennel Seeds, Orange Peel and Spearmint provide an adaptogenic terrain for our nervous system to find harmony and our digestion to be smooth.
Chocolate Orange Rooibos: Decadent and delicious as a dessert tea or anytime health-brew, antioxidant-rich and caffeine-free Rooibos is masterfully combined with Chocolate Bits, Orange Peel, and Orange Petals.
Making tisanes can be really quite fun, as they can consist of herbs found in one’s backyard, the local farmer’s market, or made from herbs harvested in various exotic parts of the world. When designing a formula or a healing tisane, many herbalists think very carefully about how to comprise a balanced remedy using various herbal constituents. The Chinese medicinal formulas portray some of the most sophisticated theories behind their remedies. For example, a Chinese herbal formula often consists of the principal herb, or “King herb”, to attend to the main complaint or health issue; the associate herb, or “Minister herb” to help strengthen the effects of the “King herb”; the adjuvant, or “Assistant herb” to help with the lesser symptoms or balance the irritating or toxic effects of the other herbs; and the guiding herb, or “Messenger herb”, which coordinates the effects of the other herbs and delivers the energetics to a particular site in the body.
The range of therapeutic effects from most herbal tisanes range from relatively mild to extremely strong when made into a tea; therefore, it is important for one to know the effects of what one is consuming or else consult an herbalist or health care professional. With so many medicinal and culinary herbs harvested around the world, with greater accessibility and accountability for how they have been grown and cultivated, we are able to create new and delicious personalized creations for the health of ourselves, and thus our planet…