I grew up watching my grandmother Parvati sit on the porch, petting our family dog, Arthur, and sip on her fragrant milk-less tea. In India, we often brew tea in water, then we pour in half a cup of milk and two spoons of sugar, give it a good stir and voila! So, it was quite astonishing for me to witness her consume the clear amber liquid. “It’s no normal tea Anu, it’s herbal tea!” she would say.
She had her whole stash organized in a chestnut box with six compartments, each filled with a specific kind of herbal tea ranging from ginger for the morning, peppermint for after lunch, to chamomile for a better sleep.
The consumption of these teas is an age-old practice, with a lot of healing properties linked to their properties. Herbal teas feature heavily in Ayurveda, and while this is an alternative medicinal approach, originating on the Indian sub-continent, there is plenty of current scientific research that points to the medicinal properties of herbal teas!
What is Herbal Tea?
Herbal teas are made out of flowers, dried fruits, spices, or herbs and can be used as an alternative medicine. They are very different from regular teas, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea (a mixture of the qualities of black and green tea), which are all brewed from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Nowadays herbal tea is consumed as a healthier alternative to sugary sodas and as a flavoring agent for drinks. The usual health benefits associated with it include:
- Antioxidant intake
- Immunity boosts
- Relief from menstrual disorders
- Reduced stress
- Induced sleep
What’s not to love?!
So, let’s dive in deeper and explore some of the different types of herbal tea:
More than 1 million hot cups of chamomile tea are consumed everyday. It’s particularly known for inducing relaxation and sleep. Commonly available in two varieties – German and Roman chamomile – it’s one of the most widely documented plants worldwide and its magical recipes have been passed down through the centuries.
When the flowers of the Matricaria species or chamomile are dried, they contain the medicinal properties of flavonoids and terpenoids (an all stop solution, as it’s said to be anticancer, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic).
The usages of chamomile are plenty. Drinking this tea can help with muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids. You will often find this flower’s essential oil being used in cosmetics and aromatherapy.
The bioactive phytochemicals (variety of compounds), present in vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, lend therapeutic effects for mind and body. It is the perfect agent to promote holistic health!
Did you know that in Germany peppermint tea is sometimes prescribed as a general treatment for dyspepsia, or as it’s more commonly known, an upset stomach? Well, that says a lot about the potent abilities of this herbal tea. Known as one of the most traditional and effective liquid solutions (also recommended by grandma Parvati), it is indeed great for digestion and an effective breath freshener.
It is noted for being present in various mints and gums, too. The vapor emitted from the leaves’ essential oils contain menthol and menthone, which improve breathing through the nose. Peppermint tea predominantly contains rosmarinic acid and flavonoids (found in every vegetable and fruit), helps to cool down your system, and stimulates digestion. It is also known for its strong antioxidant properties. It has anesthetic effects on the central and peripheral nervous system, lightly easing your bodily pains.
The magic of sage shows great promise in treating Type 2 diabetes, based on animal models. While the tests are still undergoing, scientific findings have shown that sage (also known as Salvia Fruticosa) contains high levels of rosmarinic acid, which helps control blood sugar levels. It has also been noted that it can function as anti-inflammatory, which can mitigate complications of diabetes, similarly to a controlled diet.
Sage extract contains antioxidant properties, which can help to induce cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells, such as Murine L1210 leukemia cells, and regulate imbalances in reactive oxygen species formation, which is commonly observed among patients suffering from diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and inflammatory conditions.
No scientific findings would have convinced me with the power of sage, like the change I noticed in my body after consuming it as an herbal tea, and coupling it with a few other products. Now, I’m swearing by it – as you can clearly see.
Sage’s powers aren’t limited though! A 2010 study from the National Library of Medicine has shown that sage can reduce risks of depression, lower our risks of colon cancer by protecting cellular DNA, treat obesity (when accompanied by a change in eating habits and counsel of nutritionists), boosts cardiovascular strength, and shows great potential in mitigating the effects dementia!
A quick ginger tea on the go can potentially decrease that tickly feeling at the back of your throat. An age-old tradition to ease nausea and vomiting, ginger is also recognised by The British Herbal Compendium as a remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy.
Ginger tea treats nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, as well as diverse ailments such as arthritis, muscular aches, and fever. The herbal tea will increase gastric emptying, which leads to better digestion.
An effective and inexpensive treatment, this herbal tea is remarkable for all sorts of situations!
It is said that during the second World War, when vitamin C was not readily available, the British would make a syrup out of rosehip plants to increase their intake of nutrients.
Being rich in antioxidant properties, it can assist with weight management, as well as helping to maintain healthy skin. Out of the most common herbal teas, this is the richest in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, all of which help to protect your immune system.
The inhalation of rosehip oil, a well-known aromatherapy practice, can reduce stress, as it reduces the systolic blood pressure and the rate of breathing.
- Lemon Balm
This lemon scented herb has been recommended by several herbal apothecaries. Another ancestral formula to elevate mood and relieve stress, this contains rosmarinic acid which has a direct effect on cognitive functions and one’s mood.
The plant contains benzodiazepine properties that make the tea have a calming effect.
Why not give this a try to relax for a little bit!
So, now that we’ve looked at all the benefits of herbal tea, who’s up putting on the kettle and making a fresh brew?