When I was younger, my mom would make me a warm cup of tea whenever things seemed a little rough: when I couldn’t fall asleep, when I was feeling under the weather, when my best friend was being a big you-know-what. Ever since, I have always associated drinking tea with a general-nice-kind-of-feeling, and drank it primarily for this reason.
Only a couple of years ago did I became more interested in what exactly was in my tea. I knew what sort of flavors I liked, sure, but I had no clue how the different teas could be beneficial health-wise.
Ooh this was a fun journey! There are so many different types of teas with a wide variety of flavors and health benefits.
First things first, I was surprised to learn that much of the tea I drink is not technically tea. “Tea” is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and includes black, green, white, and oolong tea. “Herbals,” such as chamomile and ginger, are not technically tea but infusions of dried fruits, flowers, and herbs. But all of us regular-folk refer to these as tea so I am including them here (sorry to any of you scientific-sticklers).
- Green tea*: Has a high concentration of EGCG, a catechin (potent antioxidant) found in teas. Its high antioxidant level may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and reduce risk of stroke.
- Black tea*: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke and may reduce the risk of stroke.
- Oolong tea: Similar to black tea, but is fermented for a shorter time, giving it a richer taste. It may aid in weight loss.
- White tea: Uncured and unfermented tea. The leaves are picked when they are very young, giving it a more milder flavor than the other varieties, as well as making it less caffeinated. It contains more antioxidants than green or black tea. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas. An animal study found that consuming white tea resulted in improved glucose tolerance and a reduction in LDL cholesterol.
- Chamomile tea: Promotes sleep. Helps ease basic symptoms associated with indigestion and promotes overall stomach health. It contains strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can reduce the severity of stomach cramps, stomach ache, flu, stomach acidity, bloating and gas. Helps ease headaches: it successfully helps people who are suffering from migraines by relaxing the muscles and ensuring a more sound sleep. It helps to manage diabetes and lower blood sugar level. A study conducted by Diabetes Research Centre found that individuals who drank chamomile tea daily were able to decrease their blood sugar by a quarter.
- Marshmallow root tea: Has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years by the Syrians, Chinese, and Egyptians. Contains mucilage, which coats both the respiratory and digestive tract and soothes stomach irritation and ulcers, as well as a sore throat. For this reason, it was traditionally used to treat bronchitis.
- Dandelion root tea: Helps stimulate the liver and promote detoxification. High in iron and zinc. Has mild laxative properties and is often used to help maintain regularity. Recognized as a great blood builder. Can help relieve digestive problems. Its positive effects on the liver and digestion may aid the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- Echinacea tea: Has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans to fight colds, the flu, and infections. Studies have shown that it shortens the recovery time for the common cold by an average of 1.4 days. It has been reported to help enhance immunity against coughs and the flu, as well as other upper respiratory ailments. It stimulates your immune system and activates T-cell renewal. It helps alleviate swollen glands and soothe sore throats.
- Ginger tea: Aids in the absorption and digestion of food after eating. It helps the body release gastric acids necessary for digestion and may help soothe stomach-ache and ease the bloating often associated with overeating. Also increases circulation and supports good blood flow, which may reduce the chance of blocked arteries.
- Red raspberry leaf tea: Well known for its benefits during pregnancy, but is beneficial to women at all stages of life. Naturally high in vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron, and b-vitamins, which make it helpful for nausea, leg cramps and improving sleep during pregnancy. The specific combination of nutrients, makes it extremely beneficial for the female reproductive system: it strengthens the uterus and pelvic muscles which some midwives believe leads to shorter and easier labors.
- Nettle leaf tea: Boosts the immune system, circulation, the urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive system, and the endocrine system. Is sometimes used to loosen congestion and open the bronchial airways for individuals with asthma and/or allergies.
- Hibiscus tea: High in vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals, which boost the immune system. Also beneficial in ridding the respiratory tract of bacteria that may lead to infection. The antioxidant properties can also slow down the growth of pre-cancerous cells. Can lower blood pressure in patients with mild to moderate hypertension. A study found that patients who drank two cups of hibiscus tea daily for one month lowered their systolic blood pressure, which is the same response induced by a prescription medication.
*Unfortunately, green and black tea can be high in fluoride. For this reason, I personally do not drink these teas very often. Since mature leaves contain as much as 10 to 20 times the fluoride levels of young leaves from the same plant, and since white tea is produced from very young leaves, I drink white tea more often.
Loose teas are generally less processed than bagged teas. In addition, with loose tea, you do not need to worry about the hidden dangers of bagged tea, the chemicals that are often used to coat the tea bags.