Taking the time to brew a hot cup of tea can help ease anxiety and stress. And researchers have found that simply holding a warm mug gives you a more generous, kind demeanor and improves your perception of others. Of course, the herbs themselves offer many benefits.
Here are several healthful teas to consider next time you put the kettle on.
De-Stress with Tulsi
This divine tea, also known as holy basil or sacred basil (Ocimum sanctum, syn. O. tenuiflorum), is well known in its native India and has recently become popular in the United States. It is planted in temples around India.
The leaves and flowers have adaptogenic properties, which means they help the body adapt to stress, decreasing its effects. In addition to its calming and energizing properties, tulsi decreases inflammation, improves cognition and mood, lowers blood sugar, boosts immune function, and balances the stress and blood sugar hormone known as cortisol.
Tulsi blends particularly well with green tea. Steep the herb for five minutes or as long as you like.
We can thank the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) for providing this popular beverage. Black, oolong, green, and white teas all come from the leaves of this plant, but different flavors and properties develop depending on how it is grown, harvested, and processed.
Green and white teas are the least processed forms of true tea, giving them slightly less caffeine, more antioxidants, and greater health benefits. Green tea boasts more scientific research than any other tea, though it’s fair to assume white tea is at least as good, if not better.
Drinking green tea regularly is linked to improved cognition, weight loss, immune function, and mood, as well as decreased inflammation and cancer risk.
Tea has a small amount of caffeine. If this interferes with sleep, makes your heart go pitter-patter, or frays your nerves, consider naturally decaffeinated green tea or very lightly brewed white tea.
Cinnamon bark makes a deliciously sweet tea that’s free of sugar and caffeine. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and it lowers blood sugar by making cells more sensitive to insulin. Cinnamon is an astringent herb that tightens and tones the digestive tract in cases of diarrhea and leaky gut.
If you’re making tea with plain cinnamon, seek the whole sticks or chips because the powder transforms into a mucus-like consistency (not dangerous, just unpalatable).
You can simmer cinnamon for 20 minutes or let it steep for an hour or longer.
Revel in Hibiscus
If you’ve tasted any red or fruity tea blend, you’ve probably sipped hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Also known as roselle and “rosa de Jamaica,” hibiscus comes from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Sipped cold and sweetened, it helps keep you cool on a hot day and tastes a bit like a more sophisticated form of Kool-Aid. Unsweetened, it more closely resembles pure, tart cranberry juice.
Hibiscus is made with the flower calyx of the plant, but it provides more fruit flavor and color than almost any dried fruit. It contains anthocyanin and bioflavonoid compounds similar to berries.
Recent research has uncovered impressive benefits of this blood-red tea: It performs as well as several hypertension medications and also helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Like cranberry juice, it may help prevent urinary tract infections. Sipped with honey, it’s effective for soothing sore throats.
Seek Good Vibes
The source of your tea matters. Organic teas will contain fewer pesticides and other synthetic farming agents while having a better impact on the environment. Several popular tea brands have been under scrutiny for potentially containing illegal levels of pesticides. For tea coming from far away, seek fair-trade options, which ensure that the people who grew your tea (often in developing countries) are treated and paid well.
Many herbal teas are available from farms that use organic methods and put good vibes into your tea. Good vibes matter: In one study, tea drinkers who drank tea “treated” with good intentions from Buddhist monks had greater mood benefits than those who drank tea made from the same ingredients but without the “treatment.”
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“Effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa on blood pressure and electrolyte profile...” by D.C. Nwachukwu et al., Niger J Clin Pract, 11-12/15
“Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension...” by C. Serban et al., J Hypertens, 6/15
“Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth” by L.E. Williams and J.A. Bargh, Science, 10/24/08
“Metaphysics of the tea ceremony...” by Y.J. Shiah and D. Radin, Explore (NY), 11-12/13
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