By David Saunders | UPDATED: 11:28, 26 March 2020
Before modern medicine, it was common to reach for a sprig of mint, a rosehip or a few chamomile flowers if you wanted to help tackle health woes such as sleep, insomnia, stress, hay fever, period pain and even haemorrhoids!
But do herbal infusions – warming drinks made from herbs and flowers – really have any role in today’s complex health landscape?
This was the topic of a research review, commissioned by the Tea Advisory Panel and published in International Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences, which combined the results of ten clinical trials involving more than 550 participants.
The research focused on the health benefits of five common herbal tea infusions, namely chamomile, ginger, lemon balm, rosehip and peppermint/spearmint.
Natural health chemist and tea infusions expert, Dr Tim Bond, comments: “Herbal teas (infusions) are believed to have a beneficial impact on the body because many are rich sources of natural bioactive compounds, such as alkaloids, carotenoids, coumarins, flavonoids, polyacetylenes and terpenoids.
However, we were aware that the gold standard of evidence is human clinical trials and there are few of these around.
“By focusing only on the 10 gold standard trials, we found several areas of evidence-based benefits linked to daily consumption of different herbal tea infusions at intakes of one to three cups daily. These were:
improved sleep quality and glycaemic control with chamomile tea
Improve hormone control, great news for our emotions and less osteoarthritic stiffness after drinking spearmint tea
Reduced oxidative stress with lemon balm tea
Fewer period-related cramps with rosehip tea.
Lead author, Dr Chris Etheridge who is a leading medical herbalist, adds: “We know that herbal tea infusions contain important plant bioactives which can have diverse biological effects in the body.
Examples from laboratory studies include antibacterial and antioxidant effects, the ability to help lower inflammation and allergic disposition, relax blood vessels, and may help target excessive blood clotting – which is a risk factor for heart disease.
“There is also emerging evidence for anti-ageing effects based on cell studies. Taken together, these studies show that the traditional reputation that herbal tea infusions have for supporting health and wellbeing is well deserved”.
A tea for every trend
While Britain is still a nation of committed tea infusion drinkers, the 18-25 age group is seeking out exotic herbal infusions, according to a report by Mintel.
Matcha, bubble tea, single estate loose tea and kombucha now feature regularly on the menus of top tea houses in trendy city centres.
Dr Bond says: “Fashions may change but there is always a tea infusion to complement the latest trend. At the moment, herbal tea infusions are enjoying huge popularity, thanks to their perceived wellbeing benefits.
Our study backs this up by highlighting the emerging evidence between regular herbal tea infusions consumption, health and improved sleep quality”.