Tea and Essential Oils

Earlier this week, a friend asked me for some advice on using essential oils in tea. The more I thought about how to answer her, the longer the answer got in my head. I realized that I wanted to approach both teas and oils in such a way that a blog post would be the best way to answer the question. This is just an introduction to the subject, so please feel free to ask questions, leave comments, and try new things!

WHAT IS TEA

Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis (sinensis indicates Chinese), an evergreen shrub native to East Asia. To produce black tea, leaves are harvested and withered and then crushed, torn, curled, or rolled and allowed to oxidize before being dried. As a result, the leaves darken and develop a stronger flavor and aroma. To produce green tea, leaves are harvested, withered, and then heated through steaming (Japanese style) or pan-firing (Chinese style). This process halts oxidation so the leaves retain their color and delicate, fresh flavor. To produce white tea, the leaves are simply picked and left to dry in the sun, resulting in minimal processing and a light, delicate taste.

Notes: The oxidation that results in the preparation of black tea causes it to be harder to digest for most people. Black tea is considered an AVOID for blood types O, A secretors (neutral for some non-secretors), and AB; and neutral for type B secretors (avoid for non-secretors and sensitive secretors). For this reason, I recommend green tea for all blood types, especially since it is high in antioxidants and metabolites. By extension, I advise that most people avoid kombucha (made from black tea and sugar) in favor of jun (made from green tea and raw honey) when drinking fermented sweet teas.

For purposes of this post, “tea” also includes any tisane or herbal tea made either by pouring hot liquid over plant matter or immersing plant matter into hot liquid and letting it steep. The average brewing time for Camellia sinensis tea is relatively short, but that’s not the case with tisanes. While the perfect cup of Cs tea might take 2-3 minutes to steep, an herbal infusion or tisane will take anywhere from 4 to 15 minutes to steep properly.

Disclaimer: The subject of how hot the water should be for each type of tea is a matter of much more debate than I can cover here (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Here are a few links to get you started if you are not satisfied with the way your tea tastes:
https://www.thespruceeats.com/tea-brewing-temperature-guide-766367
http://www.tealeafjournal.com/water-temperature.html
https://willowandeverett.com/blogs/blog/the-perfect-temperature-for-your-cup-of-tea

HERBAL TEAS

As with any other food or beverage, herbal teas vary in their benefits across blood types. Here are some common herbal teas and the blood types associated with them. Anything not listed for your type as beneficial or avoid can be considered neutral until you try it for yourself and see how you react. These lists are for secretors (roughly 80% of each blood type group). If you know you are a non-secretor or would like to know more specifically which teas are best for you individually, I can direct you to specific resources for your lists.

HIGHLY BENEFICIAL

Alfalfa tea – A, AB
Burdock tea – A, AB
Chamomile tea – A, AB
Cayenne tea – O
Chickweed tea – O
Dandelion tea – O
Echinacea tea – A, AB
Fenugreek tea – O, A
Ginger root tea – O, A, B
Ginseng tea – A, B, AB
Hawthorn tea – A, AB
Hops tea – O
Licorice Root tea – B
Linden tea – O
Milk thistle tea – A
Mulberry tea – O
Parsley tea – O, B
Peppermint tea – O
Raspberry leaf tea – B
Rose Hips tea – O, A, B, AB
Sage tea – B
Sarsaparilla tea – O
Slippery Elm tea – O, A
St. John’s wort tea – A
Strawberry leaf tea – AB
Valerian tea – A

AVOID

Alfalfa tea – O
Aloe tea – O, B, AB
Burdock tea – O
Catnip tea – A
Cayenne tea – A
Coltsfoot tea – O, B, AB
Corn silk tea – O, A, B, AB
Echinacea tea – O
Fenugreek tea – B, AB
Gentian tea – O, B, AB
Goldenseal tea – O, B
Hops tea – B, AB
Linden tea – B, AB
Mullein tea – B, AB
Red clover tea – O, A, B, AB
Rhubarb tea – O, A, B, AB
St. John’s wort tea – O
Senna tea – O, B, AB
Shepherd’s purse tea – O, B, AB
Skullcap tea – B, AB
Strawberry leaf tea – O
Yellow dock tea – O, A

USING ESSENTIAL OILS IN YOUR TEA

Now that you have an idea of which tea or teas you would like to consume, your next decision is which essential oil or oils you would like to add. I am often asked whether it is necessary to follow personal food lists when choosing essential oils that are otherwise considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe for use in food). Essential oils are not made of proteins and, therefore, do not include lectins that would help or hinder digestion as far as I have been able to research. Even so, I recommend being careful when using essential oils that come from herbs, spices, and fruits from your avoid lists or from lists of foods to which you have known reactions. Always follow what your body is telling you.

When adding essential oils to any beverage, be sure that your oils are meant to be consumed. doTERRA essential oils include a “Supplement Facts” label on the bottle as well as any cautions. The recommended add amount for culinary oils is 1 drop per 4 ounces of liquid, though you may prefer less if the oil has a strong taste to you. If you have any issues with “burping up” oils, consider taking them (1 drop oil per) with a teaspoon of honey and/or ½ cup of dairy or non-dairy milk for adults (exceptions requiring even more dilution are noted with *) with more dilution required for children 6+ and as noted for other groups. Do not use essential oils in any teas to be given to children under 6.

While adding pure culinary oils to your teas may be done for the simple pleasure of taste and aroma, oils can also be therapeutic. If using oils therapeutically, be sure that you add them after the liquid has had a chance to cool slightly so that the chemistry of the oil is not changed. Here is a useful article to reference when considering the temperature of your food or beverage versus the flash point of the oil: https://www.theresaneoforthat.com/how-hot-and-cold-temperatures-affect-essential-oils/
Most herbal teas have their own therapeutic effects, so keep this in mind as well when adding oils.

Below is a list of single essential oils that can be taken internally and any cautions associated with them. A number of doTERRA oil blends are also safe and delicious in teas. My favorites are DigestZen Digestive Blend and OnGuard Protective Blend (check out the ingredients list before you ingest them). Start with the flavors that you know you enjoy.

Basil – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, avoid for pregnant women
Bergamot – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Black Pepper – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Cardamom – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
*Cassia – heavier dilution than normal for adults and children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Celery Seed – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Cilantro – safe for adults, children 6+, and pregnant women
*Cinnamon – heavier dilution than normal for adults and children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Citronella – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Clary Sage – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill (avoid during and after alcohol consumption)
Clove – safe at lower dose for all adults and children 6+
Copaiba – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Coriander – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Dill – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Fennel – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Frankincense – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Geranium – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Ginger – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Grapefruit – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+ (doTERRA makes this oil from the rind rather than the pulp so it is normally well tolerated by those who cannot drink the juice)
Green Mandarin – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Helichrysum – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
*Jasmine – heavier dilution for adults and children 6+,  consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Juniper Berry – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant/nursing women
Lavender – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Lemon – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
*Lemon Eucalyptus – 1 drop to 8 oz. liquid, consult doctor if taking medications, pregnant, or nursing
*Lemon Myrtle – 1 drop to 8 oz. liquid, safe for adults, consult doctor for children 6+ and if pregnant or ill
Lemongrass – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Lime – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Litsea – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Marjoram – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Myrrh – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant/nursing women
Melissa – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
Neroli – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women (use orally only if recommended)
Orange – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
*Oregano – heavier dilution for adults, consult doctor for children 6+ and if pregnant or ill
Patchouli – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Peppermint – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Petitgrain – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Pink Pepper – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Roman Chamomile – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Rose – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
Rosemary – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, avoid if pregnant
Sandalwood – safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
Spearmint – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+ and pregnant women
*Star Anise – 1 drop to 1 cup of warm water or tea, lower dose for adults, consult doctor for children 6+ and if pregnant or ill
*Tangerine – 1 drop to 1 cup of warm water or tea – safe for adults and pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+
*Thyme – heavier dilution for adults, consult doctor for children 6+, avoid if pregnant
*Turmeric – 1 drop to 1 cup of warm water or tea , lower dose for adults, consult doctor for children 6+ and if pregnant or ill
Vetiver – safe for adults, lower dose for children 6+, consult doctor if pregnant or ill
*Yarrow – 1 drop to 1 cup of warm water or tea, safe for adults, consult doctor for children 6+, lower dose if pregnant
*Ylang Ylang – 1 drop to 1 cup of warm water or tea, safe for adults including pregnant women, lower dose for children 6+

MAKING TEA WITHOUT PLANT MATERIAL

If you prefer to make your “tea” using just filtered water and honey and/or hot milk, essential oils can open a whole new world of soothing and delicious beverages. Remember to add any essential oils at the end after a hot liquid has had a chance to cool slightly. Be sure to add the recommended amount of honey and/or milk if you are sensitive to ingested oils.

My two favorite teas made without plant material are:

Turmeric “Golden” Tea – for this one, you can use either powdered turmeric root or turmeric essential oil. Cinnamon, Black Pepper, and Ginger essential oils are fine substitutes, and you can omit the cayenne powder or substitute Pink Pepper oil. Since this would be too many drops of essential oil for one serving, try mixing several drops of each oil in an empty amber glass bottle, shake well, and add the appropriate number of drops of the mixture for the amount of liquid in your mug.
Here is an easy recipe from Wellness Mama: https://wellnessmama.com/223/turmeric-tea/

Masala Chai Tea Latte – I am especially grateful for essential oils in this case because I need to avoid black tea but love the spice combination. For this tea, you can use mostly water or all milk. In this case, just combine several drops each of Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, and Black Pepper essential oils in an amber glass bottle, shake well, and add to heated liquid the number of drops of the oil mixture appropriate for the amount of tot after it has cooled. Add honey to taste.

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