Herbal teas are used as therapeutic vehicles in many forms of traditional medicine and are a popular global beverage. The purpose of this scoping review was to examine the evidence relating to the clinical efficacy and safety of herbal teas, and to identify the main research themes and gaps in knowledge to inform further work. A scoping review methodology was followed that set out the research question and described the sourcing, selection and analysis of studies. Overall, a total of 145 research publications were retrieved from global bibliographic databases, and after applying exclusion criteria, 21 remained. These studies looked at herbal tea use in female health, diabetes, heart disease and weight loss, with plant species including lavender, chamomile, fenugreek, stinging nettle, spearmint, hibiscus, yerba maté, echinacea and combinations of herbs. Observational studies explored associations between herbal tea consumption and cancer risk, liver health, and the risks linked to the consumption of environmental contaminants in the plant material. Despite plant materials being the basis for drug discovery, and the popularity of herbal teas, the number of articles exploring clinical efficacy and safety is small. In this review we discuss how herbal teas may be beneficial in some areas of clinical and preventative health, and what further research is required to understand whether regular consumption can contribute to healthy living more generally.
Keywords: Herbal tea; Infusions; Phytochemicals; Plant biodiversity; Plant medicine.