Subscribe to TeaMuse
History

Tisanes: From Legends to Present Day

Herbs & Spices = Tisanes
Herbs & Spices = Tisanes
Unique ingredients used for TCM
Unique ingredients used for TCM

Tisanes or herbal teas have been enjoyed for thousands of years. These blends, which contain herbs and spices are used for healing and also consumed for their good taste. Have you ever wondered where tisanes come from and how they became popular? You’re in luck! Keep reading to learn about this history of tisanes and why they’re still consumed today.

The term Tisane

Even though tisanes are often referred to as herbal teas, tisanes actually aren’t teas at all. They don’t contain any tea leaves. Instead, they include things like herbs, spices, flowers and fruit pieces. Some believe that these infusions were given the name tisane after the Greek term, ptisanē. That word is used to describe a medicinal drink. Others think that the French coined this term. It’s said that they combined the words“ti” and “sans” which translates to “tea without tea”.

There’s limited documentation on the exact origin of tisanes. However, it’s believed that these blends were first popularized in China. Shennong or the Divine Farmer from an old Chinese legend is said to have lived from 2737-2697 BC. He was passionate about health, created his own herbal blends and tested the impacts they had on his body.

The legend says that this began when leaves from the twigs he was burning to fuel his fair blew into his pot of hot water. That’s when Shennong chose to taste the accidental infusion. In the years that followed, he continued to experiment with these drinks.

Shennong’s discoveries did not go unnoticed. Throughout his life, it’s said that he transformed the diets of people in China because of his passion for health. He’s also credited with discovering 365 different kinds of medicinal plants and herbs. Shennong would later become known as the “God of Chinese Herbal Medicine” because some of the tisanes he blended acted as antidotes for many kinds of poison.

Popularity in America

Tisanes have been used for many purposes and they have a rich history of being consumed by many. However, the first recorded instance of Americans drinking a lot of tisanes came after the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Following this event, drinking tea wasn’t considered to be patriotic. So, many Americans turned to herbs. Some popular choices included peppermint and dandelions.

Tisanes today

Today, you’ll find herbal teas in the pantries of people from different cultures around the world. How are they being consumed? There are many ways. Even though the practice of using herbs was used in China thousands of years ago, these types of blends are still used in Chinese medicine today. Doctors who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use all kinds of ingredients. If you have an aliment, there’s a tisane in Chinese medicine that aims to cure it.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health these are “Primarily plants, but also some minerals and animal products. Also, different parts of the plants, such as the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds, are used.” These ingredients are commonly combined into an herbal drink, but they can also take the form of capsules or powders too.

However, the popularity of tisanes goes beyond TCM. There are tons of delicious and fruity iced tea blends that are used to replace sugary drinks. Other people enjoy this as a hot beverage before bed, and herbs like chamomile can make it easier to sleep.

Interestingly, herbal tea has also returned to its “roots” (pun intended). Today, tisanes are widely consumed for their health benefits. For example, peppermint can relieve nausea and hibiscus may help to lower blood pressure.

Wrapping up

Whether you like tisanes for the taste or health benefits, one thing is certain. These herbal infusions are as complex in history as they are in flavor! From floral to fruity, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Just like Shennong, you can try out different herbs and see what you like best.

Note: If you do plan on consuming a tisane for health purposes, please speak with your doctor or nutritionist first.

Do you have a favorite tisane or herbal tea? Let us know and share this post with a friend who loves tisanes too. Cheers!

Note from Adagio:

Alyssa is a self-described "technology + marketing writer for hire, Tea enthusiast & Dog mom," and our newest author for TeaMuse! She came to us by way of our Creators Outreach program! We're continually looking for new Authors and Contributors for both TeaMuse, and our Tea Blog! Check out the link for more info!