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Tasting tea: health

Many people promote teas and tisanes for their health benefits. They are often used in traditional medicines. This is a very complex topic, requiring considerable expertise, because while many popular tisanes are known to be safe, there are many that are dangerous to drink, such as foxglove or comfrey. This House of Books carries a variety of common tisanes known to be safe, but because we are not specialists in this field we do not promote their use medicinally.

The way we brew tea in the United States leaves the final beverage safe to drink. In some countries, such as India or Egypt, the tea leaves are boiled with the water (technically this is known as decoction). This extracts both soluable and non-soluable components from the leaves and increases the presence of contaminants. However, we pour hot water onto the dry tea leaves and steep it briefly (technically this method is known as infusion). 

One hears from time to time that tea may contain contaminants, such as pesticide residue. This issue has been carefully studied and it turns out to be less of a problem than one might think. In the first place, we can remember that we do not consume dry tea, only brewed tea. We infuse it for only a few minutes in water. Any pesticide stays in the tea leaf itself. You get slightly more contamination if you brew for a long time, but even with the more contaminated brands of grocery store tea sold in tea bags it won't be much. If you stick to good-quality, hand-harvested tea, you have no worries. Those are reliably clean and that is what we carry at This House of Books. The National Library of Medicine has technical references to this issue. See for example:

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