One cannot dive into the health benefits of tea without also diving into the millennia-old history of this aromatic drink. There are ancient legends surrounding tea—one of the most widely known being about an ancient Chinese farmer named Shennong and a tea leaf that saved him from a fatal poisoning. This story points to a more concrete fact: tea has been used for medicinal purposes across the globe since its inception.
Tea made its way to Europe in the seventeenth century; after it did, it turned into more of a social affair with traditions like afternoon tea (which began in nineteenth-century England). Today, it continues to be an integral part of cultures all over the world, including for medicinal reasons. (Nothing says “Begone, stuffy nose!” like a cup of ginger tea with honey before bed if you have a cold.) One need only look at the myriad of health benefits tea can bring you to understand why.
In 2019 alone, Americans consumed over 3.8 billion gallons of tea, making it the most popular drink behind water. The nutrients in your daily cup of tea depend largely on the type, as different kinds of tea offer different remedies.
Those brewed from the Camellia sinensis plant include black tea, oolong tea, and green tea. Each contains various amounts of caffeine. Compared to an eight-ounce cup of coffee, which contains about ninety-five milligrams of caffeine, an eight-ounce cup of black tea has around forty-eight milligrams of caffeine, whereas there are about thirty-eight milligrams in oolong tea, and around twenty-nine milligrams in green tea. While you may associate caffeine with getting the jitters, these lower levels can help maintain healthy brain functions, like memory and reaction time.
Black tea is the variety that is most similar to coffee in that it contains the most amount of caffeine out
of all the teas. Varieties of black tea include English breakfast, Earl Grey, and chai. Other examples include Darjeeling, Kenyan, and Assam. Whether drank hot or cold, with milk or with lemon, black tea is thought to contain the most amount of tannins, which can help with gastrointestinal issues.
A partially oxidized tea, this variety boasts a solid number of beneficial properties. This is largely due to it containing polyphenols as well as the amino acid theanine, which is what makes you feel calm after drinking a cup of oolong.
This type of tea soars above many beverages when it comes to health benefits. A natural fat burner, green tea has been shown to boost metabolism (depending on the individual). It can also help slow the aging of your brain, while its powerful antioxidant properties may help ward off different kinds of cancer.
While these four types of tea offer up their fair share of rewards, herbal kinds—those made from dried roots, flowers, and fruits—can also help your well-being. (Just be sure to read the ingredient list to ensure you don’t accidentally trigger an allergic reaction.)
If you’ve ever struggled to get a good night’s rest, chances are you may have tried a cup of chamomile tea before bed, and with good reason. This herbal tea can help those suffering from insomnia, eliciting an overall calming effect.
Are you feeling nauseous? Spicy ginger tea is a helpful remedy, regardless of the cause. The drink can also help combat inflammation issues, as well as various types of pain, whether in the abdomen or discomfort caused by headaches.
This tart, pink herbal tea is ideal for those with high blood pressure, as it may help reduce blood pressure levels. It’s also packed with antioxidants, which may help repair cell damage over time. The cranberry-like taste of hibiscus tea is also a great alternative to a sugary treat after dinner.
You may not hear about sage tea as often, but it’s high time to introduce this herbal variety into your life (most notably, your mornings). Sage tea may help improve cognitive capabilities, which includes giving your mood and memory a boost.
Other healthy herbal teas include peppermint, echinacea, rooibos, and rose hip, all containing a unique blend of flavors and beneficial properties that could have a positive impact on your well-being.
IN HOT WATER
If you’re trying to drink more tea to reap its healthy benefits, it’s best to steer clear of teas not found in their purest forms, like heavily advertised detox teas, lattes, and bubble teas. If you do enjoy a chai latte every now and then, be careful not to overdo it, as it contains many added sugars. Similarly, bubble teas are also packed with unnecessary calories. Detox teas, on the other hand, can do even more harm. Many have significant amounts of caffeine and laxatives, which, in the short term, could aid in weight loss, but not in a healthy way, and could also cause dehydration. Because detox teas aren’t regulated by the FDA, it’s best to avoid them and to stick to a nutritious diet and a regular exercise regimen to maintain a healthy lifestyle instead.
STEEPED TO PERFECTION
Arthur Dent, the protagonist in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, said, “A cup of tea would restore my normality.” Many people can attest to Dent’s words about this popular beverage. Tea has become a part of people’s everyday lives, whether in the morning, late afternoon, or before bedtime. With healthy properties, aromatic flavors, and a rich history to make you appreciate what you’re sipping that much more, it’s about time to go enjoy a cup for yourself and soak it all up.
If you’re pregnant or have a medical condition, be sure to consult your doctor before consuming new teas.
For more info, visit nccih.nih.gov/health/tea