Plants Used for Making Recreational Tea in Europe

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Plants used for making recreational tea in Europe: a review based on specific research sites

Sõukand R, Quave CL, Pieroni A, Pardo-de-Santayana M, Tardío J, Kalle R, Łuczaj Ł, Svanberg I, Kolosova V, Aceituno-Mata L, Menendez-Baceta G, Kołodziejska-Degórska I, Pirożnikow E, Petkevičius R, Hajdari A, Mustafa B
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013 Aug 13;9(1):58
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3852985

Renata Sõukand of the Estonian Literary Museum and coauthors from Emory University, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Instituto Madrileño de Investigación y Desarrollo Rural, Agrario y Alimentario, Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Rzeszów, Uppsala University, Russian Academy of Sciences, University of Warsaw Botanic Garden, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology University of Warsaw, University of Białystok, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, and University of Prishtina reviewed “local plants used in water infusions as aromatic and refreshing hot beverages (recreational tea) consumed in food-related settings in Europe, and not for specific medicinal purposes.”

Origanum vulgare
Origanum vulgare [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Ivar Leidus]
From the abstract:

“The reviewed 29 areas are located across Europe, covering the post-Soviet countries, eastern and Mediterranean Europe. Altogether, 142 taxa belonging to 99 genera and 40 families were reported. The most important families for making herbal tea in all research areas were Lamiaceae and Asteraceae, while Rosaceae was popular only in eastern and central Europe. With regards to botanical genera, the dominant taxa included Mentha, Tilia, Thymus, Origanum, Rubus and Matricaria. The clear favorite was Origanum vulgare L., mentioned in 61% of the regions. Regionally, other important taxa included Rubus idaeus L. in eastern Europe, Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All. in southern Europe and Rosa canina L. in central Europe.”

Comprehensive, rigorous and fascinating, this is one of my favorite articles posted this year on PubMed.

The study was limited to species collected by people from local wild populations or cultivated in home gardens for personal or family use. As noted in the abstract, the team focused on 29 sample regions located in 14 countries: Russian Federation, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Serbia, Italy, Spain and Portugal (with a qualitative data set from Scandinavia included as a point of comparison).

Subsections and tables detail teas by region, and the text offers many interesting historical/literary observations, for example:

“Historically, some people have shown a preference for recreational tea although they could afford the “real thing”. Recall Agatha Christie’s fictional character Hercule Poirot who always drank recreational tea.”

The authors conclude on an appropriately sober note:

“Future research on the pharmacological, nutritional and phytochemical properties of the most popular plants used for making tea is important to ensure the safety and appropriateness of their use, especially as many of these are consumed on a daily basis. Moreover, in depth regional studies dedicated specifically to the use of local plants for making recreational teas will be important for developing a better understanding of their selection criteria, cultural importance and perceived properties in Europe and abroad.”

(But just between you and me, I’m looking forward to trying some of these teas that are new to me.)

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.