Five thousand years ago in China, herbal teas were specially blended from plants that exhibited medicinal properties. And today, tea can still be used to maintain health and prevent illness. Find out what makes tea so beneficial and how you can craft your own custom blend to stay healthy.
First of all, what is tea? Technically speaking, tea is the dried and processed leaves of Camellia sinensis, and includes four main tea varieties: black, oolong, green and white. Black tea, produced when tea leaves undergo an oxidizing process that turns the leaves black, has the strongest flavor and the highest content of caffeine – about one-third the caffeine of a cup of coffee. Oolong tea is slightly less oxidized and has less caffeine. Green tea is steamed, rolled and dried immediately after harvest, which halts the oxidation process, allowing the leaves to retain their green color. White tea undergoes the least processing – the young tea buds are picked and air-dried.
All of these varieties have different health benefits. Experts believe that flavonoids are the key health-promoting ingredient in tea. These polyphenol antioxidants are present in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been found to help prevent cell damage. Recent research suggests that tea may also protect against heart disease and many types of cancer.
What about herbal tea? Herbal tea is not really tea at all, but actually an infusion made from various leaves, flowers, fruits and herbs. Herbal tea can also boast many medicinal properties – and it’s caffeine-free. Tailor your tea for your needs by selecting herbs and plants that address your specific health issue. The list of tea recipes that follows offers just a few combinations to help you heal.
1. Warming Tea for Cold Hands and Feet
For a warming tea, make a cinnamon and clove concoction by putting two cinnamon sticks and one teaspoon of cloves in three cups of water. Boil for 15 minutes and then strain. Drink three cups each day.
2. Pore-Opening Tea for Combating a Cold
This is a traditional Chinese remedy for a “wind cold,” which usually occurs during seasonal changes and is often a result of exposure to drafts. At the early stage, Chinese medicine suggests that perspiration is helpful in removing the pathogens from the skin.
Boil one chopped garlic clove, three slices of ginger, one chopped scallion, some basil and a pinch of cinnamon in 24 ounces of water for five minutes. Drink the tea hot and go to bed. Cover up and prepare to sweat. Sweating opens the pores, releasing trapped pathogens from the skin. Drink at least three cups of tea daily until symptoms subside.
3. Stomach-Settling Tea
Ginger has been shown to soothe the digestive lining and balance gastric juices. Make ginger tea by slicing fresh ginger root into two-inch long slices and boiling in one cup of water for five minutes. Strain out the ginger and sip the tea slowly.
4. Alertness-Enhancing Tea
The next time you need a pick-me-up, instead of reaching for harsh stimulants like coffee, try the potent yet gentle energizers in your spice rack. Studies have found that compounds in everyday herbs and spices can increase mental function and physical vitality. All these herbs and spices contain volatile oils that stimulate your senses and increase alertness: dill, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage, bay, peppermint, ginger, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, onion, chives, garlic and leek. Make a tea from any combo!