Nutrition - teas as tonics

Tuesday 08 May 2018

Teas as tonics.

Many times I get asked what is best to drink and is there anything that will support me with my side effects. My answer is usually to investigate the benefits of herbal tea infusions. If they are a new idea to you then sometimes it is a case of trial and error to see which ones that you like and enjoy.

I previously wrote a blog on tea and coffee (link below)  and the benefits so this time I am going to throw it open and look at other teas’ that have been shown not only to be pleasant and nutritious but also help with some side effects of treatment like nausea, sickness and bloating.

When I was researching this I found books and books and pages and pages on different teas and their proposed benefits so obviously I have had to whittle this down. I am going to look at the more easily available common types of herbals teas and their properties.

Making tea for maximum benefit

I remember watching a documentary once, not so long ago, about teas and it was clear that the infusion time was important to reap the maximum benefit from the tea, whatever type. It was recommended that the tea infuse for 10 minutes to gain maximum benefit. Adding milk to tea negated the health benefits. I have since had this confirmed in other reports on tea.

Generally all teas are rich in plant flavonoids which act as powerful antioxidants that help to protect the cells of the body from damage. Different teas have different levels of antioxidants and different types. One study concluded that 3 cups of black tea has approximately the same antioxidant power as eating 6 apples, which I found interesting.

Rooibos or Red tea. This is probably the one that is the nearest to our ordinary cup of black tea and if you are new to fruit/herbal teas this is probably the best to try first. It is caffeine free and like other teas contains many anti-oxidants.

Some research has looked at the link between this tea and cancer and have reported that the high antioxidant levels have anti cancer properties. Rooibos also has a high mineral content particularly magnesium (essential for energy production), calcium and manganese (for our bones) and zinc for our immune system.

Probably the most benefit comes in the fact it has a high Quercetin level and Quercetin has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, can help with cramps, diarrhoea and indigestion.

Ginger tea is perhaps the most familiar tea (beyond our normal cuppa). Ginger is very soothing to the digestive system and helps with feelings of nausea. It also has antispasmodic properties which helps to relax and soothe the digestive system. It is also energising and stimulating.

The best way is  use ginger in tea is to buy fresh root ginger, peel and chop about a teaspoon and infuse with hot water. Some people add a slice of fresh lemon and a teaspoon of honey. This sipped slowly is very beneficial and comforting.

Peppermint or mint is another good tea for digestive discomfort. This helps with digestive bloating and pain from trapped wind. It has been shown also to benefit nausea and sickness and relieve congestion.

By far the best way is to pick or buy fresh mint leaves. Use a small bunch, rinse them if they are straight out of the garden, and infuse in a mug with hot water. Nothing else is needed and it is so refreshing that you can feel it doing you good.

Cinnamon tea has got similar properties to mint but is also very warming and improves circulation and blood flow. It is also renowned for helping to balance blood sugar levels, supporting the hormone insulin in its role as a blood sugar balancer. This is good if you are weaning yourself off sugar in a bid to eat a more healthy diet. It helps with cravings!!

Buy cinnamon sticks, break one up and infuse with hot water. Most people also add a teaspoon of honey. You may need to strain this before drinking as the cinnamon bark can flake.

Chamomile tea has been shown to be very beneficial for its calming relaxing properties and many people drink it at bedtime to help induce a good relaxed sleep. If you can buy dried chamomile that would be best but I do know that the tea bags also have a very good effect.

Lavender tea has very similar properties as chamomile.

Lemongrass tea has also been shown to support with anxiety and stress. It reduces blood pressure (so be aware if you are on blood pressure lowering medication) because it is a mild diuretic reducing excess fluid levels in the body. It also aids digestion after a meal. Tea bags seem to be the simplest option. You could crush some lemon grass and infuse with boiling water but I have not tried this.

Rosehip is another very interesting tea to try, It has been shown to support the immune system because of its high level of vitamin C. It also supports the adrenal function. Our adrenals suffer when we are stressed. Because of its high level of vitamin C this also aids healing of tissues and the skin. Rosehip tea bags are the most convenient way.

Blackberry leaf is probably a more unusual tea and has been shown to help with diarrhoea, to reduce pain and inflammation in the throat and gums, and has anti-bacterial properties, particularly against Helibactor Pylori. This is a bacteria that can flourish in the stomach as a result of low stomach acid. Chemotherapy can interfere with good stomach acid balance. Again a tea bag seems to be the simplest option or forage blackberry leaves, wash them and infuse them like the mint leaves. Blackberry leaf tea should only be drunk occasionally as in large quantities it may affect the liver and absorption of calcium.

Echinacea tea is used to prevent or shorten the duration of the common cold. Sometimes when we get run down and the immune system becomes depleted colds can easily develop. There are some reports that echinacea also helps with pain and inflammation. The leaves and flowers from the upper most part of the plant contain the beneficial compounds. Buy them lose dried or again buy the teabags.

I could go on and on but I think the teas I have mentioned cover most of the reported medicinal properties. Next week I want to include some mixed tea recipes and their health benefits that you might like to try.

Find out more about tea on our blog abut tea and coffee

Blog originally posted by Caroline August 2014 - updated April 2020

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