LDS Church members must abide by a “Word of Wisdom”, an official health code established by LDS leaders that prohibits alcohol, drugs, tobacco products, coffee and tea; additionally the Code advises them to consume healthy foods and exercise regularly.
Word of Wisdom also cautions against excessive caffeine intake and notes that herbs such as chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm teas should not be consumed in large quantities as these may cause esophageal irritation and stomach ulcers in some people. Furthermore, many herbs have not undergone extensive scientific testing which could contain toxic chemicals.
These issues have caused some Church members to query whether the Word of Wisdom applies to herbal teas. To gain more clarity on this issue, it may be beneficial to examine its history and purpose.
The Word of Wisdom is a divine law that provides health guidelines to Latter-day Saints, encouraging them to remain clean and healthy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints regards the Word of Wisdom as essential enough for inclusion into its canonized scripture Doctrine and Covenants 89; according to church policy members should abstain from coffee, black tea and green tea which contain high levels of caffeine.
Some have raised questions as to why the Church has not stressed that green and iced tea, both containing caffeine in a form prohibited by the Word of Wisdom, also violate its principles. This confusion results from misinterpreting church statements regarding this matter which state that members should avoid “teas” but not “tisanes”, thus meaning green and iced tea fall within this definition and therefore contradict its requirements.
Church statements on the Word of Wisdom state that members should avoid “teas”, such as black, green, oolong and pu-erh tea; but not tisanes (typically made with other plant leaves besides tea leaves) such as herbal teas, yerba mate or matcha; however these beverages are considered not true “teas”. Tisanes should only be consumed in moderation according to Church policy as they do not fall within this definition of tea consumption.
To be a faithful disciple of God, we must learn to focus on following the spirit and purpose of the Word of Wisdom rather than trying to add extra rules that Heavenly Father has not given us. Doing otherwise causes confusion for those trying to follow it as well as contradictions which lead to hardship and ignorance.