If you’re looking for a caffeine-free alternative to tea and coffee, you might wonder: does herbal tea have caffeine? With so many options available, it’s important to know which herbal blends are likely to keep you from sleeping well. We’ve selected our favorite caffeine-free herbal teas to try, along with some tips of which herbal teas to avoid if you don’t want a caffeine hit!April 28, 2022 5:15 pm February 05, 2022 5:32 pm
What is the difference between normal tea and herbal tea?
The word ‘tea’ can refer to a particular species of plant – Camelia sinensis. This plant produces leaves which can be brewed with water to create a drink.
In Britain, for example, the classic ‘builder’s brew’ is made by infusing black tea leaves with water and adding a dash of milk.
Many cultures around the world make hot drinks with other plants. Because the method of brewing in hot water is similar, they have come to be known as ‘teas’ as well – despite not actually containing the leaves of the Camelia sinensis plant.
For instance, the term ‘herbal tea’ can cover teas made with herbs, fruits, flowers, barks, and essentially any plant except actual tea leaves!
In many cases, the ingredients used to make herbal teas are caffeine-free. This makes them an excellent choice if you’re trying to stop relying on coffee to help you get up in the morning!
They’re also great for those of us who can’t consume caffeine for health reasons.
Which herbal teas do contain caffeine?
While it would be great if we could declare all herbal teas a ‘caffeine-free zone’, unfortunately it’s not quite that simple.
Some herbal teas do naturally contain caffeine.
The most popular caffeine-containing herbal teas are yerba mate and guayusa. Both of these are popular in South America but have begun to spread around the world.
Yerba mate is made with the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis, a holly plant native to South America. It is especially popular in countries like Argentina and Paraguay. In fact, Argentinians consume 250,000 tons of Yerba mate every year, according to some estimates!(1)
Much like Camelia sinensis, the Yerba mate plant naturally contains quite a bit of caffeine. Indeed, Yerba mate contains more caffeine than black tea and only slightly less than coffee. Definitely one to avoid just before bedtime, then!
Guayusa tea, which is becoming more popular in the USA, uses leaves from another holly plant called Ilex guayusa. There is some variety in caffeine content, but generally speaking it contains about half as much a cup of coffee.
What about green and white teas?
Many people believe that green tea is a herbal tea, but this is not the case. Rather, both green and white teas are made from the Camelia sinensis plant, just like ‘normal’ black tea. However the leaves are at a different stage of development, and they are processed differently.
White teas are made with very young tea leaves, usually harvested once a year in the spring. The leaves are simply left to dry naturally. As a result, white tea is the least processed of all teas from the Camelia sinensis plant.
Green tea leaves are also harvested while very young. However, the leaves are steamed after harvesting. (Note: matcha is slightly different – check out our article about the benefits of matcha to find out more.)
Meanwhile, black tea leaves are left to oxidize before they are dried, turning the leaves from green to black. This process also changes the flavor of the tea, adding more complex notes into the final drink.
Assam, darjeeling and ceylon teas are all black teas.
Caffeine in green teas
Because the tea leaves from Camelia sinensis contain caffeine, black, white and green teas all contain it. However, white teas tend to contain the least as they are usually brewed for a shorter time.
However, green teas can have just as much – or even more – caffeine than black teas. Some types of matcha have just as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. This is because with matcha you ingest the powdered leaves in your drink, rather than steeping the whole leaves in water.
That said, green tea provides a different experience from coffee. Matcha, for example, is famous for providing a boost of energy and focus without any ‘coffee jitters’.
Scientists believe this is down to the interplay between caffeine in the tea and other nutrients such as the amino acid l-theanine. It appears that l-theanine tempers the effects of caffeine, helping you to reach a state of relaxed alertness.
So, if you don’t mind a bit of caffeine but want to avoid the energy spikes and crashes associated with coffee, you might like to give matcha a try.
Along with its benefits for focus and energy, it’s full of free-radical-fighting compounds such as EGCG and catechins.
Our Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha powder is the highest possible level of quality. We source it sustainably from small organic farms near Kyoto.
"In many cases, the ingredients used to make herbal teas are caffeine-free. This makes them an excellent choice if you’re trying to stop relying on coffee to help you get up in the morning!"
Our favorite caffeine-free herbal teas
So, now we know which herbal teas to avoid for their caffeine content, let’s take a look at some of our favorite caffeine-free varieties.
Herbal teas are popular all around the world, and many of them have a long history of medicinal use too.
So, you can enjoy your caffeine-free tea while knowing that it’s also providing lots of health benefits for your body as well.
If you’re new to herbal teas, hibiscus tea is a great one to start with thanks to its pleasant, floral and citrus flavor.
You can make hibiscus tea by brewing whole hibiscus flowers, or by stirring a high quality hibiscus powder into hot water.
It’s also common to drink hibiscus tea cold. Thanks to its fantastic poppy-red color and delicious flavor, we also love to use it in our recipes. For example, it provides the ‘sunrise’ effect in our sea buckthorn cocktail recipe!
Hibiscus flowers are packed full of potential benefits for your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Read up on these in our article all about hibiscus health benefits.
2. Valerian root tea
Do you drink herbal tea to help you wind down for a good night’s sleep? Then you’ll definitely want to add valerian root to your arsenal.
Valerian root has a long history of traditional use to help with insomnia, especially in Europe. Nowadays it’s one of the most popular natural remedies for poor sleep.
Insomnia affects 30-40% of adults, and that around 40% of these have tried to treat it with over-the-counter medication or alcohol.(2) However many people prefer a more natural option which means they don’t have to rely on these things to get a good night’s rest.
Valerian root teas are made from the roots of the Valeriana officinalis, a flowering plant. It has a mild, quite earthy flavor, and most people drink it on its own. However you can add other flavors such as honey, lemon or mint if you like.
A meta-analysis of studies published in 2006 found evidence that valerian root improved participants’ sleep by a statistically significant margin. However the researchers noted methodological problems with several of the cited studies and called for more research to confirm the effects.(2)
3. Passionflower tea
Another excellent tea to drink if you’re trying to quell feelings of stress or anxiety, passionflower tea has a very mild flavor. Many fans compare it to a light chamomile tea, and indeed it often appears in blends with chamomile.
A study in 2017 found that passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) increased total sleep time in rats. Interestingly, it increased the time the rats spent in slow wave sleep, while the time spent in REM sleep was reduced.(3)
However, it seems that most evidence for passionflower tea helping with sleep and stress reduction is traditional or anecdotal.
4. Peppermint tea
One of the most popular herbal teas around, peppermint tea is incredibly easy to make using fresh mint leaves, and tastes delicious!
Peppermint tea and essential oil from peppermint are commonly used in traditional medicine.
Scientific research has identified several health benefits from peppermint, including antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiviral activity.(4)
However these benefits were identified in ‘in vitro’ lab tests. Few studies have been conducted into the health benefits of peppermint tea in humans. Once again, most of the evidence for its health benefits are based on anecdotal reports.
However, peppermint tea is 100% caffeine free and has the benefit of being very easy to make fresh at home.
We love to drink a cup of hot peppermint tea in the afternoon or evening when we are avoiding caffeine.
5. Ginger tea
Put that leftover ginger in your fridge to good use by making a fresh ginger tea.
At some point you will likely have heard from an older relative that ginger can help if you have an upset stomach or feel nauseous.
Indeed, many pregnant women like to drink ginger tea (in moderation) to help them cope with morning sickness.
Clinical evidence for ginger’s effects on nausea and sickness have been mixed. Some studies showed a significant improvement versus the placebo, while others showed no effect at all. For instance, a study investigating the effect of ginger on morning sickness suggested that ginger could help in severe cases.(5)
However another study looking at post-operative sickness found that ginger didn’t make any difference to the experience of patients.(5)
Whether or not ginger tea can help with nausea, it’s a fantastic caffeine-free brew you can make at home, and it’s cheap and widely available. Scientists are also investigating whether ginger can help in other areas of health, such as pain management, gastrointestinal problems and inflammation.
The best herbal teas without caffeine
There are many more options available for herbal teas than those mentioned above. And, providing you avoid black, green and white teas, along with Yerba mate and guayusa teas, generally speaking you will also be dodging caffeine.
One final, and important, note on herbal teas. While many are perfectly safe to consume, some people may need to be careful with certain teas. For instance, hibiscus tea is not recommended for pregnant women because there are some concerns about its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Always do your research before adding a new tea to your repertoire, as some herbs are potent and should be treated with care.
That said, many herbal teas are safe to consume and are a great way to enjoy a soothing hot drink without worrying about caffeine.
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