Ahhhh…… tea you would be hard pressed to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy a cup whether black or of the herbal kind first thing in the morning, mid way through the day and into the evening to end a long hard day.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, second to water. Black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong all come from the same plant -Camellia Sinensis. Though from the same plant, the levels of antioxidants differ between teas. This depends on the level of processing and how young the leaves were when picked. For example white tea has higher levels of antioxidants because it is actually the baby leaf of green tea hence picked much earlier.
The reason why tea induces a sense of relaxation and calm is because it contains a compound known as Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in both black and green tea however higher levels are found in green tea. Recent research into the effects of Theanine shows that it crosses the blood brain barrier, increasing alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are seen on an EEG and mostly found in wakeful relaxation with eyes closed. The compound seems to help people focus on mental tasks. For me the most unique and interesting quality of theanine is that it helps alert focus whilst inducing calmness. The calming effect of theanine is related to its upregulation of inhibitory neurotransmitters, while also regulating dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
Tea also contains a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Recent studies show that EGCG is effective against cancer cell growth, cardiovascular disease, endometriosis, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and dementia to mention a few.
Let’s look at the health benefits of some different types of tea.
Green tea holds a large amount of benefits. Firstly it’s high in antioxidants (free radicals fighters) known to cause damage to our cells. Studies support its affect on lowering cholesterol levels and its support of our cardiovascular system including high blood pressure due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-blood clotting effects. Due to green teas high levels of EGCG, research also shows improvement of diabetes. Green tea also has an affect on metabolism hence fantastic to drink when trying to lose and maintain weight. In Chinese Medicine we look at the cooling properties it has to the blood therefore recommend patients with skin issues such as acne, eczema and psoriasis to consume 2 to 3 cups daily (these conditions are aliments where blood heat is part of the cause). Several new research studies have recently been published that show the benefits of green tea and its effect on anti aging. Who doesn’t love the sound of that!!!
Tip :Green tea can be bitter in nature, so when making a cup pour some boiling water over the bag or leaves, throw out that water and then proceed to pour more boiling water into your cup or pot. Adding lemon juice also ups the antioxidant levels of the green tea.
As previously mentioned white tea is the baby leaf of green tea therefore has higher levels of antioxidants and isn’t bitter. The same amazing properties found in green tea hold here, especially its anti cancer properties.
One of the most popular herbal teas consumed universally for its calming and soothing affects both physically – soothing a unset GUT or menstrual cramps and emotionally/mentally to calm and sooth an overactive mind as well as induce restful sleep. Chamomile tea is also great used topically to sooth irritated eyes and skin. Brew up the leaves or tea bag, allow to cool and apply. I’ve often applied cooled chamomile tea bags to red, irritated hay fever affected eyes.
One of my absolute favourite teas consuming daily with pleasure. A caffeine free herbal tea rich in minerals (iron, calcium, potassium,copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium) antioxidants, high levels of polyphenols as well anti microbial properties. Rooibos tea encourages relaxation, helps insomnia, headaches and soothes an upset stomach and other gut issues (nausea, cramps, diarrhoea). Due to its property of reducing inflammation Rooibos helps improve skin.
Peppermint tea is a very popular tea regularly drunk for its calming effect on the GUT. It also helps clear a blocked nose, soothe a sore throat and ward off a cold. Due to peppermints invigorating aspect it can calm an anxious stressed individual.
In Chinese Medicine when patients have a weak spleen and stomach leading to bloating, indigestion or a lack of appetite we don’t particularly advise patients to consume too many cups, as its cooling nature weakens the digestive organs. The spleen and stomach prefer warmth to perform their roles optionally.
Ginger is such an amazing herb for its warming, anti inflammatory and balancing properties. In Chinese Medicine we recognise ginger as a balancer of Yin & Yang. The most widely known property of ginger is its effect on stopping nausea. Due to its anti inflammatory nature it’s beneficial in cases of arthritis and rheumatism, lowers cholesterol and helps with weight loss.
The warming combination of herbs – nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and clove in part a beautiful warming soothing effect. I often recommend my patients drink a few cups daily especially in the cooler winter months because of its warming properties.
Known for its beneficial effects on the liver it cleanses the liver, eases constipation and helps digestion. Dandelion also reduces fluid retention and relieves the pain and swelling of arthritis. Drinking too many cups can bring on nausea because of its effect on the liver so start with one cup and slowly build up to 2 or 3 cups or your level of tolerance.
Drinking herbal teas which are caffeine free is a great way to maintain fluid levels in the body too, as caffeine is a diuretic – flushing water out of the body. In the cooler months i personally find it really difficult to drink water even at room temperature therefore drink lots of herbal tea to maintain hydration levels.
When choosing tea, organic is always best to avoid harmful pesticides and herbicides and try to look for unbleached tea bags for obvious reasons.