by Matt Gibson
What’s a tisane? Most of the tea steaming in cups around the world is made of the leaves and buds of a shrub botanists call Camellia sinensis. All of the “true teas,” such as black tea, green tea, and oolong tea, are the product of steeping the Camellia sinensis plant’s leaves. Herbal teas are also known as tisanes, and though they’re not “true teas”, these delicious drinks have seen a popularity explosion in recent years.
Tisanes are infusion beverages brewed from any plant other than Camellia sinensis, typically an herb or flower. Some tisanes call on parts of the plant other than the leaves and buds used in “true teas,” such as flowers or roots, to produce their flavor. It’s simple to choose plants for your garden with plans for future cups of soothing, flavorful herbal tea. We’ll show you what you need for a tisane garden and how to care for it—before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the aroma wafting from your tisane, hands cradling your teacup to soak up its cozy warmth.
Herbal teas have been enjoyed for centuries both to heal various maladies and for their flavor alone. Experts have identified evidence of tisane being sipped in the long-ago civilizations of ancient China and Egypt. Tisanes are almost always caffeine free and can be enjoyed either hot or over ice. Throughout history, various cultures have turned to tisanes as a source of natural healing because of the nutrients and antioxidants they contain.
Types of Tisanes / Herbal Teas
Tisanes are split into categories, which are determined by what part of the plant is used to make the tea or infusion. The following list gives you the rundown of the main types of tisanes along with a few examples of each type.
Leaf: French verbena, lemon balm, mint, lemongrass
Flower: Rose, chamomile, hibiscus, lavender
Bark: Cinnamon, black cherry bark, slippery elm
Fruit/Berry: Raspberry, blueberry, peach—any type of fruit infusion, really
Seed/Spice: Cardamom, fennel, caraway
Root: Ginger, chicory, echinacea
Sometimes tisanes are concocted from a combination of different parts of the same plant. Kombucha tea is commonly considered a tisane, but it is actually a symbiotic yeast colony and is made from what is basically a living bacteria.
How to Make Your Own Tisanes
Tisanes are typically made in one of two ways: an infusion or a decoction. An infusion is made by pouring boiling or nearly boiling water over dried or fresh plant matter, then steeping for a specific amount of time. For decoctions, Instead of pouring hot water over the plant matter, place the plant material directly into the boiling water. The decoction technique is usually reserved for making a tisane when a plant would be complicated to infuse, such as those with small surface areas or ingredients shielded by tougher exteriors. Infusion is usually the method for making teas with leaf, flower, or seeds, and decoctions are used for bark, root, and berry teas.
Steeping times vary widely depending on the type of tisane that you are making. Some tisanes only need a quick steep for as few as two minutes, while others can range up to 15 minutes until they’re fully brewed and ready for consumption. The amount of plant product you’ll need to make a cup of herbal tea fluctuates as well, depending on the type of tisane you’d like to make.
Tisane Garden Herbal Tea Options to Grow
Not only is mint known by gardeners for how easy it is to grow, this fragrant plant is also a favorite among tea aficionados around the world. Mint tea is a familiar remedy to soothe stomach pains, such as painful cramping, and also pitches in to aid in digestion. The refreshing flavor of mint tea is known to freshen breath, reduce flatulence, and stimulate the appetite. Lemon balm is closely related to mint, but lemon balm has a distinct lemony flavor along with its minty aftertaste.
Crisp, tart, and refreshing, lemon verbena is a wonderful addition to an herbal tea garden. Lemon verbena tea can improve joint pain, help reduce asthma, and aid in digestion. In its favored climates, such as tropical and subtropical areas, this plant is also very easy to grow. Lemon verbena does require full sunlight to thrive and will not live through severe winters. However, gardeners can still choose to grow lemon verbena if they live in cold climates by planting in containers and transporting the plants indoors during the winter.
Ginger tea has been used medicinally in south and east Asia since ancient times. This spicy plant has been applied by practitioners of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to take advantage of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Ginger tea is a longstanding folk medicine treatment to address digestion and appetite issues, and advocates say it helps fight off common ailments including the cold, flu, and nausea.
The flavor of ginger tea is both pleasingly sweet and tantalizingly spicy. Ginger is hardy in USDA growing zones 9-12, enjoys filtered sunlight, and is great for gardeners of all experience levels because it’s easy to grow. Establish ginger in areas of your garden where it will grow up surrounded by taller plants or where it can lean against a wall or structure. Ginger plants can’t survive high winds and need the blockage of heftier neighbors or support to keep them upright.
Lavender tea is not one of the most popular herbal teas on the market, which you may find surprising once you’ve tasted a cup. The floral bouquet and bright, refreshing taste of a lavender tisane is a one-of-a-kind experience that just might become an everyday treat. Even without sweetener, a lavender infusion is slightly sweet, with the fragrance forward. Lavender herbal tea is calming, and it can be used as a stress or tension reliever as well as to treat headaches.
Thyme is a hardy and versatile choice for an herbal tea garden. This classic herb is low maintenance, grows well in full sun or partial shade, and enjoys dry but sunny conditions. There are over 350 different strains of thyme, and these types each have their own specific variations when it comes to smell and flavor. Most species of thyme thrive in USDA zones 5-9. Don’t stress about pruning thyme plants grown for herbal tea before they begin to flower. Simply throw the blooms into your tea along with the plant’s leaves for a especially bright floral flavor profile.
Traditional healers and folk medicine practitioners have relied on the thyme plant across history because of its antiseptic properties. With this benefit in mind, it’s no wonder that thyme tea can help calm stomach issues and ease a sore throat.
Chamomile is a thirsty plant that likes lots of sun and sandy soil. The herbal tea has been used throughout history as a relaxant, anxiety reliever, and an all-natural sleep aid.
Most herbs cultivated for tisane production are harvested for their leaves, and the leaves themselves show off in the finished product as the main ingredient brewed to create the herbal tea. When you choose chamomile, however, the small flowers with their delicate white petals and yellow stamens are the prize of the plant. That’s because these flowers (that resemble miniature daisies) are what you’ll collect and brew for this relaxing, calming tisane.
If your garden is in a cool climate area, you will want to grow your jasmine in a container so that you can bring it in during the winter months—this tender plant will not tolerate harsh winter weather. The jasmine plant is actually a vine, and to be successful, it needs a trellis or some other type of support to grow and climb upon.
For jasmine tea, use freshly bloomed flowers. You can mix them with green tea to enjoy a blend of green tea with a hint of jasmine, or you can steep the jasmine flowers all by themselves. Either way, this herbal addition deserves a sunny spot in your tea garden.
Rosemary is a key herb for culinary applications, but it can also make a delicious tisane infusion. If you live in a warm, humid environment, you’ll find it’s very easy to take good care of your rosemary plants. Simply give them a spot where they can enjoy full sun and a light, well-draining soil.
Rosemary tea is believed to improve digestion and increase cognitive function. Rosemary is also high in antioxidants, so savoring this herb has the additional perk of helping your body defend against heart disease and cancer.
Growing sage is a smart choice for tisane gardens in hot, dry climates. It can be grown directly in garden beds—or in containers, as long as the plant is given a little extra water. (Don’t forget, containers drain and the soil inside them becomes dry more quickly than soil in garden beds.)
Used against various illnesses because of its antiseptic properties, sage tea can be effective against mouth ulcers and sore throats. This herb is also a mood enhancer that is put to work in alternative medicine treatments as a remedy for depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
To make sage tea, use one tablespoon each of dry and fresh sage, then steep for three to five minutes in nearly boiling water. Though sage has a pleasant taste, some consider the tisane to be a bit pungent when the herb is brewed by itself. You may choose to add in some honey, blue agave, or another natural sweetener if you’d like to cut the intensity of this herbal remedy tea.
Basil is familiar to most home chefs and is big on flavor, making it an MVP in the kitchen. In its most iconic use, chefs depend on basil to impart traditional flavor to Italian cuisine, such as pasta, pesto, pizza, and lasagna. One particular variety of basil, called holy basil or tulsi, is the only type gardeners working on a tisane garden should select. Tulsi/holy basil is the variety of basil that’s best suited for use in herbal tea concoctions.
Holy basil enjoys warm, tropical regions and is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. This heat-loving herb flourishes most in climates where the temperature stays moderate, between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Tulsi tea tastes great all by itself, but as an alternative, the leaves can also be paired with ginger and a dash of honey. This combination will help with stress relief and is said to help treat common illnesses, such as the common cold, flu, asthma, and influenza. Basil tea can also help with blood sugar levels and heart disease. This delicious beverage can even be used as a breath freshener.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is a natural choice in the tisane garden because it’s easy to grow and requires very little care from the gardener to thrive. St. John’s Wort has been used throughout history as a sedative and antidepressant. When used in moderation, this hardworking plant is a common herbal remedy to help cure insomnia, curb anxiety, and soothe depression. To make your own St. John’s Wort tisane, steep one teaspoon of St. John’s Wort in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Videos About Growing a Tisane Garden
Gardener and YouTube user Sarah Raven shows off her scented leaf pelargoniums and walks viewers through her garden, pointing out her favorite plants to grow for making herbal tea. She highlights her favorite garden-fresh tisane recipe: mint and lemon verbena. Raven also discusses the pros and cons of preparing herbal tea in a glass tisaniere:
Looking specifically for tisanes that help with skin and hair health? This top 10 list should provide a nice assortment of options to choose among:
Once you’ve tried the classics, it’s time to broaden your horizons and experiment with more exotic herbal teas. This feature will show you how to make three different tisanes using recipes from China: