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Herbal teas: what they are and what they are for

Herbal teas: what they are and what they are for

In Italian herbal medicine, an herbal tea is an aqueous preparation obtained extemporaneously from several plant drugs and intended to be administered orally, whose role is to physiologically favor the functions of the organism in order to optimize its normal course.

Vegetable drugs for herbal tea (for vegetable drug means "vegetable body or part of it that contains one or more pharmacologically active substances called active ingredients of the drug") must be chosen and cleaned with care, are almost always commercially available in more cuts or less fines called "herbal tea cuts" (TT) and are intended to be used directly by the end user for the preparation of liquid solutions, generally extemporaneous ("at the moment"), using boiling water. 10 to 20 grams of drug are generally used for the preparation of 1 liter of herbal tea.

The herbal teas are prepared by maceration, by digestion, by infusion or by decoction, using drinking water and, before use, are decanted or, if necessary, filtered through cotton wool or gauze. Single-compound (with a single plant) or compound (ie containing the active constituents of a set of homogeneous drugs and similar properties, mixed together so as to achieve synergism, a strengthening of their activity according to a precise purpose) can be prepared. ).

In the Italian Official Pharmacopoeia X edition, 16 species composed for herbal teas are mentioned and there are excellent species already on the market already prepared by different producers of phytotherapeutic preparations that can be purchased in various specialized shops, pharmacy, herbalist's shop.

What are the benefits of herbal tea as a form of taking active ingredients?

Unlike the synthetic drug that contains only one active ingredient, in herbal medicine and phytotherapy what counts is the phytocomplex.

The phytocomplex is the set of chemical components of a plant, resulting from the natural combination of the active ingredient with other substances, therapeutically inactive (for example, cellulose) or with activities of a different nature, but which globally give the plant its specific therapeutic properties. for which it is used. The active ingredients taken individually, in fact, may prove to be less effective or with effects different from those of the plant as a whole. The phytocomplex is, in practice, the whole plant: the problem, rather, is to know which galenic forms really contain it and make it available!

The plant is mostly made up of water, it lives on water and in the water everything is in a living solution. Alkaloids, flavones, tannins, resins, oils, fats, are insoluble or partially soluble in water; the essential oils when they are isolated, that is distilled, certainly are not soluble in water. However, in the living plant all these substances flow, are conveyed, are activated in a predominantly watery environment. For these reasons, the herbal tea still represents a way, certainly light, but acceptable, of administering the active principles of the plant as a whole. The water maintains almost all the active ingredients with the temperature of the infusion in a fairly good solution, and digestive enzymes provide adequate assimilation.

And then the general activities of washing, excretion activation, detoxification and diuresis practiced by the herbal tea are undisputed. No other abundantly watery preparation can bring in solution all the mineral salts present in a plant!

The herbal teas, according to Chinese phytotherapic doctors, have the following advantages compared to other officinal forms: easy absorption of the active ingredients, rapidity of action of the absorbed active principles, possibility of modifying the ingredients from time to time, satisfying the needs of patients.

Instead they have the following disadvantages, especially the decoctions: more time dedicated to the preparation, odor and often unpleasant taste that sometimes the decoction can take.

Who can make an herbal tea in Italy? It depends on the type of herbal tea!

Based on the composition and presentation, herbal tea preparations can be classified as food products (foods, food supplements, herbal preparations) or medicinal products (only on medical prescription).

Among the real food products (foods) are the blends of various teas, fruit teas or fruit-flavored teas and some mixtures of fruit, spices and aromatic plants intended for the preparation of commonly used drinks. Food products must be manufactured in establishments authorized for food production.

The herbal teas can also be prepared extemporaneously (that is, freshly prepared, not pre-packaged) in a pharmacy or herbalist's shop (equipped with a food laboratory) pursuant to and with the limitations provided for by the law, including, very important, for the preparation of preparations, mixing and transformation of herbal products, non-medicated, it is necessary, in addition to the possession of the moral and professional requirements, the possession of one of the following qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in Herbal Techniques, Degree in Pharmacy, Degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies, Postgraduate Degree in Science and technique of medicinal plants or in Pharmacognosy. It should be noted that "extemporaneous preparations" means preparations intended for the individual customer which may consist of the mixture of herbs as they are, dry or liquid extracts of plants used in the food industry and / or included in the list of plants that can be used in food supplements , published on the portal of the Ministry of Health. In the presence of a graduate student it is therefore possible, in the laboratories of such commercial establishments, to mix the herbs for food preparation extemporaneously, but it is not possible to prepare food supplements as defined and regulated with regard to their production and marketing by Legislative Decree 169/04.

For herbal teas classified as food supplements ("food products intended to supplement the common diet and which constitute a concentrated source of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect, in particular, but not in exclusively, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibers and extracts of vegetable origin, both single-component and multi-compound, in pre-dosed forms "), with healthy, non-extemporaneous indications, the formulation is at the head of laboratories authorized by the Ministry, the relevant legislation is that on food supplements (Legislative Decree 169/04), also complying with the list of allowed plants (list BELFRIT, updated with Ministry Decree 10 August 2018 that "regulates the use of dietary substances and preparations (botanicals) in food supplements") and there is the obligation to notify the Ministry of Health before placing it on the market.

A famous recipe among us Herbal Technicians for preparing a healthy herbal tea (supplement) is for example that of Leclerc, useful for the well-being of joint function: blackcurrant leaves (50%), ash leaves (25%), olmaria flowering tops (25 %), when these ingredients are weighed, a cup of boiling water is prepared, and a tablespoon of the preparation is added, which will be infused for 5-10 minutes and should be taken before meals for 2-3 times a day. But remember, if you have the passion of "do-it-yourself" to always ask first qualified herbalists to avoid any inconvenience.

A recipe of food infusion (food) instead could be this "mixture of herbs and fruit": carcadè flowers (or black tea) 30%, dog rose cinorroidi (20%), sweet orange peel (10%), dried fruit apple 10 % coconut (10%), pineapple fruit (10%), papaya fruit (5%), mango (5%).

All the herbal teas that you will find online in our Erboristeria Como are all nutritional supplements with a health claim: relaxing herbal tea, purifying herbal tea, herbal tea for swollen and heavy legs, draining herbal tea, herbal tea for intestinal bloating, herbal tea for constipation, herbal tea for herbal high blood pressure, diuretic herbal tea and slimming herbal tea against cellulite. You can also find our herbal tea cups here.

Would you like to know how a herbalist makes an herbal tea and the methods of extracting the active ingredients according to the Italian Pharmacopoeia? find out in the next article.

Dr. Laura Comollo

Visit our herbal department for any clarification or for more information.

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