Teas and 'herbal teas' (a.k.a. 'tisanes') have been associated with health across many cultures and generations. Now, some scientific research has begun to support traditional uses, while dismantling other claims. Based on a mix of traditional use and current research, here are some of the top detoxifying teas and tisanes out there. Drink to your health with these so-called 'detox teas.' (*See note at bottom.)
You've probably heard a number of claims about the health benefits of green tea. It is rich in antioxidants and is a great substitute for less healthy beverages. If you want extra vitamin C in your tea, opt for deep green Japanese green teas. However, the 'healthiest' teas to drink are the ones you'll drink regularly. If you prefer black tea or other teas, drink them instead -- just avoid adding any milk or sweeteners!
Oolong (a.k.a. 'wu long') tea has been associated with weight loss/control in some (limited) studies. While the potential health effects have been heavily hyped, there is some anecdotal evidence that oolong may help in weight loss. I say any unsweetened tea that replaces soda (or energy drinks, or fruit-based drinks) in your diet is probably a step toward weight control.
White tea is higher in antioxidants than most other teas. When brewed at a low temperature, it's also lower in caffeine than most teas. It has a very mellow flavor that appeals to some detoxers. Although they were once very rare, flavored and unflavored white teas are increasingly available outside of China.
Pu-erh tea has long been consumed after heavy meals as a digestif in parts of China. It's also traditionally associated with digestive and heart-health benefits, among other things. Abundant anecdotal evidence supports these uses, but not many formal studies have been conducted. While more research needs to be done, it certainly doesn't hurt to try it!
Tea and probiotics in one beverage sound like an ideal detox combination. Little research has been done on kombucha tea and many health claims surround it, so be (especially) wary about anything that sounds too good to be true. However, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence surrounding kombucha's benefits for liver stimulation (and, thus, hangover amelioration), digestive benefits and mood benefits. Hardcore detoxers be forewarned: Kombucha has a small amount of caffeine as well as a low level of alcohol.
Rooibos (a.k.a. 'red bush' or 'red tea') is high in antioxidants (though not "25 times higher in antioxidants than green tea," as some claim). Flavor-wise, a great substitute for black tea or coffee. It's also easy to blend with other flavors, including many of the detoxifying spices and herbs in this list. Unlike everything before it on this list, rooibos is caffeine free.
Ginger has long been considered to be warming, cleansing, beneficial to digestion and a diuretic. It's also quite enjoyable to drink. Some add lemon juice or zest to their ginger "tea". Ginger also tastes great with other masala chai spices.
Masala Chai Spices
Many masala chai spices (such as ginger, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper) are considered to be detoxifying. Try making masala chai without milk or sugar for the most potential benefit. If you want to avoid caffeine, skip the black tea and boil the spices for an antioxidant-rich, flavorful decoction.
Peppermint invigorates without caffeine, so it's great for those who are trying to reduce or eliminate caffeine in the diet. Some say it is cleansing, and traditionally it's used to aid in digestion. If you like peppermint, you may also want to try its less-common relative spearmint for a sweeter, mellower flavor. For ideas on brewing peppermint mint tea recipes.
I think of chamomile 'tea' (actually a tisane) to be 'the anti-coffee.' It's incredibly soothing, especially during times of stress (like, say, when you're trying to cut things like caffeine and dairy out of your diet). Some people are allergic to chamomile, especially if they have hay fever, so don't drink it if you have hay fever or similar allergies.
According to traditional Chinese herbalism, brewed chrysanthemum flowers are said to neutralize toxins and cleanse the liver. Sometimes, chrysanthemum blossoms are blended with pu-erh for a pleasing flavor and (possibly) additional benefits.
Orange peel infusions are said to aid in digestion. They're also wonderfully warming, satisfying substitutes for other, less detox-friendly beverages. Boil orange peel on its own, or add it to your tea as it brews.
Rosehips are high in vitamin C. They are also said to ward off headaches, which are a common side effect of detoxification.
Like Japanese green tea, parsley is rich in vitamin C and is said to freshen the breath. It's traditionally used to treat a range of ailments and it's high in several vitamins and minerals. Brew fresh or dried parsley in boiling water to taste.
Lemongrass is considered to be a cleansing herb. It is often served after massages in Thailand. Bonus: it's delicious!
Red clover is said to stimulate the liver to help remove toxins. Although it can be brewed alone, red clover is also part of many detox blends and GT's Botanic #9 Kombucha.
There are lots of brands of 'detox blend' teas and tisanes out there. Some are more reputable than others. Here are my top recommended detox teas, including blends from Yogi Tea, Traditional Medicinals and more.
Other Detoxifying Herbs
There are a number of other purportedly detoxifying herbs that can be brewed or boiled for their health benefits. My top picks are aniseed, barley, burdock root, dandelion root, fennel seed, holy basil (a.k.a. 'tulsi tea') and licorice root (which shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant/lactating).
*Note: I am not a physician. Do not take this article as medical advice. Consult with a physician or herbalist before taking these if you have any health issues, are pregnant/lactating or have had adverse reactions to herbs in the past. Use as directed by a reliable source. Whenever possible, brew fresh, high-quality herbs and teas.