There’s more history to your afternoon chai than you might realize. From the ancient Egyptians to modern-day Japanese culture, tea has long been revered for its health-enhancing benefits.
“For thousands of years tea has been an integral part of both culture and healing,” says Jennifer Hanway, a holistic nutritionist. Today, tea’s popularity holds strong. In fact, it’s the second most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water. Keep reading to find out more reasons to drink (tea) to your health.
What makes tea healthy?
Tea originates from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Generally, tea can be categorized into five types: green, white, oolong, black and pu-erh, depending on the fermentation process, Hanway explains.
The health benefits from tea arise from compounds found in tea leaves known as catechins, which are powerful polyphenols and antioxidants. Research shows that polyphenols can protect against chronic illnesses such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
What type of tea has the most health benefits?
Of all the teas, white tea—followed closely by green tea—contains more catechins and its derivatives due to the presence of a compound called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), Hanway notes. Studies have shown EGCG to benefit your heart and brain, and even help prevent diseases like diabetes and potentially cancer.
How much tea should you drink?
While the upsides sound promising, more research is needed to narrow down how much tea we should drink to reap the benefits, says Diana Savani, RD, LDN. “Studies vary in showing what amount and frequency of tea consumption is most beneficial and for what aspects of health,” she explains. "At the very least, tea certainly provides extra hydration for the body and brings along the powerful antioxidant components that have been proven to support overall health."
So, what does tea do, exactly?
Tea can calm you down.
The mere process of brewing a cup can give a big boost to your mental health. "Tea drinking in ancient populations often occurred as part of a ritual, and in our fast-paced lives we can certainly benefit from the opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness," Hanway says.
Brewing, sniffing, and sipping a cup of hot tea can help to relax you and give the body a chance to recuperate, Savani adds. Next time a busy schedule stresses you out, she suggests sitting down with a hot cup of lavender tea—a well-known calming herb that's been used for its relaxing effects for hundreds of years. Studies have shown a correlation between inhaling lavender and decreased blood pressure and heart rate.
Or, try chamomile, which has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and even to improve sleep quality, says Hanway.
...while boosting your immune system.
Brew up a cup of chamomile, white, or green tea next time you feel like you might be getting sick. Research has found that the EGCG contained in white and green tea can help to boost your immune system. Studies also show that chamomile contains chemical compounds that can increase the production of your white blood cells which are responsible for fighting bacteria, viruses, and other sources of infection.
Rose tea may lower inflammation.
The antioxidants found in tea can help reduce inflammation in your body, which could delay some types of cell damage and prevent disease, Hanway says. Rose tea, in particular, can aid with this, as it delivers antioxidants along with anti-aging benefits and stress-reducing effects.
Lavender tea might help you sleep better.
Research suggests smelling lavender before bed can help you feel more rested the next day and catch zzz's quicker. Also, look for teas with valerian root or passionflower. Studies have shown that both of these ingredients can help you sleep more soundly.
Green tea could lower your cholesterol.
In one study, drinking green tea helped to lower total cholesterol levels of the participants. Further research has indicated the lower inflammation levels resulting from the polyphenols in green tea consumption may help to protect against heart disease as well.
And, peppermint tea can soothe your digestive system.
Sipping a cup of peppermint tea after a big meal has been shown to ease nausea.
Plus, tea can energize you.
Black teas, especially those with soothing yet stimulating licorice root, are perfect for helping you get over a mid-afternoon slump, Hanway says.
"For those looking for a hug in a mug, you cannot beat a cup of traditional English Breakfast," she adds. This is an ideal energizing drink to start your day on a warm, cozy note. Also try, chocolate matcha (a type of green tea) which provides a smoother, steadier energy boost than caffeine. Plus it boasts the benefits of L-Theanine, a plant based amino acid that can help keep you calm yet alert.
This warming beverage delivers more goodness than you may realize.
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