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Thread: How do herbs give medicinal properties into herbal tea/infusions?

  1. #1 How do herbs give medicinal properties into herbal tea/infusions? 
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    Dec 2018
    A lot of medicinally active compounds in herbs are non-polar.
    An example are terpenes (myrcene, caryophyllene, linalool, limonene, pinene, ...), compounds which are virtually insoluble in water. (a polar solvent)

    Tinctures use a mixture of water (H2O) and ethanol (C2H5OH) or water and glycerol to solute active compounds of herbs.
    Ethanol has both polar as apolar properties - so does glycerol - so terpenes can be extracted pretty easily.

    When I make an infusion of say lavender in water, the active compounds mostly should remain in the flowers as the solvent I'm using when making (herbal) tea is water of course?
    (I don't drink oil infusions or something haha.)

    In the case of lavender, the active compounds are found in the essential oil which primarily consists of the terpenes linalool and linalyl acetate.
    But when I brew a cup of lavender tea I can still smell and taste the lavender in the infused water
    and the infused leftover flowers are smelling less, which I would assume means a decent amount of the smelling compounds (which primarily are the terpenes) are taken out of the herb?

    Can someone clarify this.
    What makes herbal tea effective?

    Thank you in advance

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  3. #2  
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    Sep 2009
    Note I have no real knowledge on this subject what follows is based on logic and extrapolation from other reactions with similar types of materials.

    Assuming you're making hot tea, it could have a lot to do with the fact that the water is, well, hot. Adding the boiling or near boiling water to the tea leaves might emulsify the oil into the water thus allowing it to enter suspension. Emulsions are a known thing that can happen that allows oils to be suspended in water even without heat but I would guess this process could be sped up, as most reactions can, by increasing the temperature of the reaction.

    Typically for the emulsion to remain in the emulsified state it requires some type of emulsion agent or it separates (think oil and vinegar mixture for salads it doesn't stay mixed long) and when I've let my tea sit for awhile I've noticed sometimes a light grey/rainbow sheen forms on the surface, so this could be the same thing happening, the oils separating from the water. It is possible to get a stable emulsion without the use of chemicals but it requires extensive and vigorous mixing that is not going to occur in your cup of tea.

    It's basically the same process that allows us to brew coffee, we use hot water to extract the oils and other goodies from the coffee beans. Cold brew coffee is a thing, just like I'm sure cold brew tea is a thing, but it takes a significantly longer time to make, a few minutes vs 12-24 hours.

    Always minimize the variables.

    Semper Paratus
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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman Robbedoes's Avatar
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    Dec 2018
    I don't know if this explains things but tea contains dissolved/mixed herbs. The same medical properties that are present in the fresh herbs are in general present in the tea.
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