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Beacon Senior News

The secret health benefits of tea

Aug 23, 2021 11:59AM ● By Wendell Fowler
Two clear mugs of mint tea, with tea leaves floating in it

A tea-holic’s guide to sticks, roots and leaves

“Hello, my name is Wendell, and I’m a tea-holic.” 

Once I experienced their ancient health-creating and sustaining benefits, a hot cup of delightfully delicious herbal teas has become my constant companion. When I’m cold, a brewed tea warms my weary bones. If I’m sad, it uplifts me. When frazzled, tea comforts me.

Regarded for eons in the East as the key to good health, happiness and wisdom, steeped leaves, sticks, roots and herbs have captured the attention of researchers in the West. 

The University of Minnesota explains, “It’s likely that humans have used plants as medicine for as long as we’ve existed.” Archaeological excavations (some as early as 60,000 years ago) seem to confirm that theory, discovering the remains of medicinal plants such as opium poppies, ephedra and cannabis at sites.

Green tea has been used for ages in traditional Chinese medicine for its therapeutic value. It increases fat burning, contains antioxidants that may lower the risk of some cancers, protects the brain from aging, treats bad breath, prevents type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and may improve brain function.

But this teacup-toting writer is talking about much more than green and black teas. Steeped tea can be derived from herbs, roots, sticks, leaves and even mushrooms. There’s tulsi (holy basil), oolong, antioxidant chai, chamomile, spearmint, stinging nettle, lemon balm, hibiscus, rooibos, ginger, sage, dandelion, echinacea, lion’s mane, reiki mushroom tea—the list goes on and on.

Here are just a few health benefits from some of my favorite teas:

Black and green tea may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 10-20 percent. Drinking more than four cups of green tea can also slow cancer growth.

Chamomile tea is known for its calming effects and is frequently used as a sleep aid. PubMed reports peppermint tea supports digestive tract health and has antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Ginger tea fights inflammation, stimulates the immune system, and is effective for relieving nausea caused by cancer treatments and motion sickness.

Hibiscus tea, one of my favorites, may help lower high blood pressure and fight oxidative stress. However, it shouldn’t be taken with certain diuretics or at the same time as aspirin.

• Several studies found sage tea improves cognitive function and memory and may benefit colon and heart health.

Rosehip tea, made from the fruit of the rose plant, is high in vitamin C and anti-inflammatory plant compounds. Several studies have investigated the ability of rosehip powder to reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

• The leaves, stems and flowers of the passionflower plant are traditionally used to relieve anxiety and improve sleep, and studies have begun to support these uses. For example, one study found that drinking passionflower tea for one week significantly improved sleep quality.

• Therapeutic uses of holy basil herbal tea or essential oil help skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal and joint conditions. Research on holy basil (tulsi) supports potential health benefits such as reduction of respiratory issues, stress and anxiety regulation, and improved dental health. Holy basil contains bioactive compounds that may help open up airways and improve breathing. These compounds may also have antimicrobial and antiviral properties which help reduce the duration of common cold and flu symptoms.

When it comes to consuming instant or bottled tea, however, one deserves a good flogging with a used teabag. Nutritionists agree any tea is good tea. But they prefer brewed teas over bottled to avoid the extra empty calories, inflammatory sugar, and dubious artificial sweeteners, flavors and coloring.

In addition, many mainstream prebagged teas contain ingredients that would alarm the health-conscious. Most major brands use chemicals to bleach tea bags, and tea leaves are often sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides. Read labels, perform due diligence, and ask questions. Organic free trade, non-GMO tea is a safe bet.

Outside of the grocery store, Grand Junction shops like Willow Creek Herbs and Teas and Kratom Bar (which has locations in Clifton and Montrose as well) specialize in and sell tea products.

Japanese culture describes preparing tea as a meditative ceremony of pouring all one’s attention into a predefined, patient method. In modern times, it might befit us to return to nature’s generous apothecary of steeped medicinal leaves, sticks and roots and become happy, healthy tea-holics.