Unlike the tea made from tea plant (Camellia sinensis), herbal tea or tisane has a long history as a Sri Lankan traditional beverage and has been one of the main beverages consumed by ancient Sri Lankans before the introduction of coffee and tea to Sri Lanka by British colonial planters.
Prepared by boiling herbal plants in water, Sri Lankan herbal tea varieties are usually consumed with a small piece of jaggery to add an extra sweetness.
Most of these herbal plants are also being used as medicinal ingredients in ayurvedic treatments and their medicinal value has been time tested over and over again. Plants like Iramusu, Beli, Ranawara, pollpala, weniwel and kothala himbutu are some of the most sought after herbs, which are being brewed into herbal tea in Sri Lanka, even today.
Consumed hot or cold, health benefits of herbal tea include weight loss, control of blood sugar and lipids.
Among Sri Lanka's most consumed tisane drinks is a mixture made with Polpala (Aerva lanata). Known in traditional medication as one of the best known herbal tea remedies for bladder and kidney stones, polpala is also an effective treatment for cough, indigestion and diabetes and provides instant relief to urinal diseases.
Made by boiling dried flowers of ranawara (Cassia auriculata), ranawara tea is sold at every nook and corner shop in Sri Lanka. Celebrated for its potent quality to cool down the body and provide immediate relief to pains and aches, ranawara is also a strong weapon in the fight against diabetes, urinal diseases and colon diseases.
Bael (Aegle marmelos) flower drink is another fragrant and tasty drink, that iss being consumed across Sri Lanka, for nearly thousand years. Known to relieve palpitations, heart burn, gastric attacks, bowel disorders and vomiting, bael flower drink is prepared by boiling fresh bael flowers for a few minutes in hot water.
Sri Lankans also use a range of green leaves including gotukola (Centella asiatica), mukunuwenna (Alternanthera sessilis) and asswanna (Alysicarpus vaginalis) to prepare light herbal teas, that are high in antibodies which help to control high fever, allergies and worm infections.
Another herbal drink that is in great demand locally and globally is made of kothala himbutu (Salacia reticulata), which effectively control blood sugar levels by hindering the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines.
Made by boiling the bark of the tree, this herbal drink is in great demand all over the world, which has in turn driven the plant to near extinction in Sri Lanka through over exploitation.
Although exportation of any product made from kothala himbutu is banned under Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO) of Sri Lanka, other herbal tea products are exported in bulk, packet and tea bag forms to many destinations in Asia, Europe and USA.
Sri Lankan Herbal product exporters have to receive the Sri Lanka Drug Formulation committee's approval through a series of stringent quality certifications to assure the medicinal value and quality of the products that are being exported.
Many Sri Lankan herbal beverage producers also obtain international ISO certification for their manufacturing, processing and packaging facilities to provide products that are high in quality, freshness and goodness as they were nearly thousand years back.