Cool Off with Refreshing, Good-for-You Herbal Iced Tea
Yes, iced tea is good for you! Here's why, with 10 delicious iced tea recipes to add to your summer sips.
Sweltering summer days call for a tall, thirst-quenching glass of herbal iced tea. After water, tea is the second most-consumed beverage on Earth — and for good reason. But there’s more to tea than just its refreshing taste. Herbal teas are packed with plenty of health benefits, too. Did you know peppermint improves digestion and boosts immunity? Chamomile reduces anxiety and aids sleep? Rooibos is rich in antioxidants, while ginger helps with upset stomach and inflammation.
We were curious to learn more about the world of herbal teas and their health benefits, so we turned to Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT, a holistic registered dietitian, licensed nutritionist, and clinical herbalist, who runs Whole-istic Living in Austin, Texas, for her expert advice on all things tea.
Then, inspired by the options, we rounded up a bunch of homemade herbal ice tea recipes to get sipping.
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Herbal tea Q and A with Jenna Volpe, founder of Whole-istic Living
Yummly: What are herbal teas?
Volpe: Herbal teas are infusions or decoctions, which can be made using the flowers, stems, leaves, seed pods, roots, or barks of a plant considered nutritious and/or medicinal for people. The parts of the plant being used in the tea will vary depending on the particular qualities and benefits of each herb. A traditional herbal tea infusion can be made with hot or cold water. Either way, making an herbal tea infusion means steeping the loose dried leaves, flowers, or seeds of a plant in water for at least 15-20 minutes or overnight, and then straining before drinking it. In modern-day culture, people make herbal tea infusions using tea bags and tend to steep them for less time, although traditional infusions are exponentially more potent, effective, and enjoyable.
Yummly: How many different herbal teas are out there?
Volpe: There are many hundreds of different types of herbal teas used around the world, with many hundreds of different uses and benefits. Since there's a lot of overlap among properties and actions of herbal teas, most herbalists will stick to just a few dozen herbs to work with. Most often, we try to choose plants that are easy to access and available in abundance for sustainability purposes.
Yummly: What are the benefits of herbal teas?
Volpe: Herbal teas have been consumed for thousands of years, not just for taste, rituals and traditions, and enjoyment, but also for different types of medicinal purposes. Herbal teas can make a wonderful source of nourishment (in the form of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), and they can be used to support all different aspects of our health. There are herbal teas for supporting virtually every organ system and tissue state in the body.
Yummly: What are the best herbal teas for beginners?
Volpe: There are so many different types of herbal tea that I absolutely love — it's almost impossible to narrow down my favorites to just a few! But a couple of my favorite herbal teas for beginners would be those that are safe and easy, such as chamomile or lemon balm for reduced anxiety/better sleep. Of course, when it comes to herbal teas, there is no "one size fits all" approach. There are always exceptions. For example, someone with hypothyroid should not use lemon balm, and someone with an allergy to ragweed should avoid chamomile. And during pregnancy, there are lots of herbs that are not considered safe.
Yummly: Does it matter if you drink herbal tea iced or hot?
Volpe: It doesn't matter if we drink our herbal tea iced or hot, as long as the herbs have been properly extracted. Most of the time, herbal teas are best extracted using hot water, but it's totally fine to cool the tea off before enjoying it.
Yummly: Do herbal teas contain caffeine?
Volpe: Most herbal teas do not contain caffeine. Green, white, and oolong teas (all from Camellia sinensis) aside, the only two caffeinated herbal teas that come to mind are yerba mate and yaupon.
Yummly: Is there a recommended company you can suggest for purchasing herbal teas?
Volpe: When purchasing herbal tea, I encourage people to shop organic and go with loose-leaf whenever possible. I also prefer to go with companies that practice ethical and sustainable harvesting methods. And I order my tea online versus buying it from a store, mostly because the longer a tea is sitting out on a shelf exposed to light, and the older a tea is in general, the more potency is lost.
[Volpe recommends purchasing loose-leaf, organic herbal tea from Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, and Frontier Co-op. All three online apothecaries carry rooibos, a caffeine-free herbal tea that comes from South Africa.]
Yummly: Can you reuse tea bags?
Volpe: If you're drinking your tea just for taste and enjoyment, you can definitely use tea bags over at least a few times and still get the "experience" of tea. However, for herbal teas, I was taught that we can't reuse the tea bags or herbs over and over without losing the medicinal potency.
10 refreshing iced herb tea recipes
With Volpe’s tea advice in mind, we’ve compiled some favorite iced tea recipes for you to try at home this summer. Make a big batch, and keep them in the fridge for family and friends to enjoy anytime thirst strikes.
Calming chamomile iced tea
Chamomile comes from the chamomile flower and has an earthy, sweet taste. “It's mildly sedative and a ‘nervine,’ so it helps with supporting sleep and reducing anxiety by calming the nervous system,” Volpe says.
With just three ingredients, including zingy fresh mint, this healthy homemade chamomile-lavender-mint tea is easy to make. If you let the herbal iced tea sit overnight, the flavor is even better.
Fresh, flavorful sprigs of basil, watermelon cubes, and chamomile tea come together to create a colorful summertime iced tea perfect for a backyard BBQ. In addition to the health benefits from chamomile, basil is known to lower the risk of inflammation — so you get a full dose of refreshing, good-for-you ingredients.
Fruity hibiscus iced tea
Tart-tasting hibiscus flowers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, according to Volpe. “Hibiscus has also been shown, when consumed in large quantities such as 3 to 6 cups a day, to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, support healthy blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation in the body,” she says.
This sparkling homemade iced tea makes a pretty drink for a festive summer gathering. Hibiscus tea comes together with fresh mint leaves, sparkling water, and honey for sweetness. Chill for at least an hour, pour over ice cubes, and then garnish with strawberries or lemon slices.
Blended with pomegranate juice, this hibiscus iced tea is a delicious thirst-quencher. There's a healthy iced tea bonus, too: Pomegranate juice is known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Refreshing ginger iced tea
Ginger, used frequently in cooking, also helps to support healthy digestion and circulation when enjoyed as an herbal tea. Ginger tea is most often used to help relieve nausea or motion sickness, but it has additional benefits. Here’s a tip from Volpe: Try using fresh ginger instead of dried, since dried ginger root can be too spicy for some people. Steep a one-inch slice of fresh, peeled ginger root in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes, then add fresh lemon and honey.
Just four simple ingredients are all you need to create this herbal iced tea. Fresh ginger and honey make the summertime drink a classic.
This bright, citrusy tea is flavored with chamomile, lemon juice, and ginger. Ginger is a great home remedy to reduce inflammation, while lemons are a good source of vitamin C. Fresh ginger has also been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties, Volpe says, so it is often used in conjunction with other herbs when supporting people with a cold or flu virus.
Rich rooibos iced tea
Like hibiscus, rooibos tea is high in polyphenols similar to the antioxidants found in berries.”When consumed in large quantities consistently over time, rooibos, like hibiscus, has been shown to increase the body's antioxidant levels and subsequently reduce levels of the ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood,” Volpe says.
Fresh summertime peaches add yumminess to this caffeine-free, rooibos iced tea. For sweetness, use a bit of honey.
Citrusy lemongrass, ginger, and rooibos come together to infuse this invigorating herbal iced tea with the flavors of Sierra Leone. Pour it into a pitcher filled with ice cubes, then garnish with lime slices and fresh mint.
Cool mint iced tea
Aromatic teas from the mint family, such as peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm, can help to relieve mild digestive discomfort if consumed before meals, Volpe explains. Peppermint and lemon balm may also help support focus and memory, while spearmint has been shown to help support healthy insulin and blood sugar levels. But a note of caution. Volpe says, “I advise people to tread lightly with peppermint or spearmint if they're prone to heartburn or gastric ulcers, which can sometimes get irritated by mint family herbs.”
You know about iced black tea to beat the heat, but why not mix things up and try an iced green tea recipe? Here's how to make iced green tea with matcha: Instead of whisking the matcha powder the usual way, shake it with water in a cocktail shaker or jar. Then add crushed ice, plenty of delicious fresh mint, and some sliced lime, and shake again.
Fresh, ripe raspberries and mint make this combo a flavorful winner. Plus, raspberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidant-rich. Add a touch of sugar or honey as a sweetener.
More ways to quench your thirst
Check out these next articles for additional tasty options for staying hydrated.