I am a huge coffee drinker. I have worked in coffee shops, I have participated in latte art competitions, I have been to coffee conventions, and I have tried to quit coffee 5 or 6 times (I hate being dependent on anything) and I always come back. That being said, let me tell you about the benefits of coffee’s not-as-popular-in-America cousin, tea.
Wait! Before you click away. I know, flower petal infused water will never be the same as a strong, earthy, kick-in-the-pants espresso shot, in either flavor or stimulating effect. That’s okay because those are not the reason I drink tea. I drink tea on three occasions: when I’m meeting a friend who inexplicably prefers flower-petals to roasted delightfulness, when I need a caffeine boost or warm drink but not as much caffeine as a double shot, and when I’m sick. (I also drink iced tea when I’m home in North Carolina because nothing is more refreshing and addictive than my daddy’s iced sweet tea. NOTHING.)
That last one is the one I want to focus on in this post: the health benefits of tea.
Herbal tea is probably the most recognizable type of tea in the US right now; when I think of tea (besides drooling over my daddy’s cold brewed liquid paradise), I think of peppermint tea first. It turns out that peppermint and other herbal concoctions are not technically tea. Tea refers to a particular plant, and different types of tea refer to, as with coffee, different ways of processing that plant. White tea is the wilted leaves that are unoxidized, meaning they are immediately dried after picking. Oxidation is a natural enzymatic process that begins immediately picking unless drying is initiated. Yellow tea refers to unwilted tea leaves that are not allowed to oxidized but that are allowed to age into a yellow color. Green tea leaves are the tea leaves that are unwilted and unoxidized. Oolong tea occurs when the leaves are wilted, bruised and oxidized slightly. Black tea occurs when the leaves are wilted, possibly crushed, and oxidized completely (The Chinese call this red tea). There is also post-fermented tea which is a green tea that has been allowed to naturally ferment and the Chinese refer to this as their black tea.
So, actual, legitimate tea, all comes from the same plant. Herbal tea is just a poser. No, but, seriously, herbal tea refers to an infusion of fruit, herbs or other plants with no trace of the actual tea leaf present. All of these teas, whether authentic or poser, offer some combination of health benefits.
I typically drink peppermint or chamomile tea when I’m feeling sick, especially if I have a sore throat. Coffee is harsh on my throat especially, and when I’m having sinusy things, indigestion just explodes (sorry for grossness). Peppermint tea has an opening effect on my sinuses and soothes my throat, especially when combined with honey (which has immune boosting properties) and lemon (which has vitamin C among other useful elements).
Lemon and honey are also known for having strong germ-fighting benefits. Because herbal teas are infused with a variety of plants, they can offer a variety of nutrient and other health benefits naturally.
My favorite, peppermint tea, has also been found to benefit gastrointestinal issues and to cause bloating. Mint has long been associated with soothing an upset stomach, so this follows logically. Experts have confirmed that mint tea can help nausea. Peppermint tea is also believed to help soothe muscle spasms. Though some people find that peppermint tea exacerbates indigestion or heartburn. Peppermint tea has also been found to effectively reduce fevers because it causes the body to sweat due to its menthol component. In many people, it has been found to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as easing constipation. Confirmation for my cold remedy comes from peppermint’s antibacterial elements, meaning it can help the body heal and fight many illnesses and it may help prevent illness with regular consumption. It also contains some necessary nutrients like Vitamin B, potassium (see, muscle spasms), antioxidants (great for detoxing after a bender of food or alcohol especially) and calcium (useful since I just discovered my own dairy-intolerance). Its lack of caffeine, immune-boosting, pain-relieving and anti-oxidizing elements all combine to also make peppermint tea an excellent calming, stress-reliever. Mint is also said to be one of the easiest herbs to grow; it used to grow wild near an old house of mine, and we would dry it to make our own peppermint tea (or chew on for a breath refresher). Tea is also mostly water, so when you’re sick, hungover, or dehydrated, it is a great beverage option. Most illnesses (especially ones associated with fever) require intense hydration for the healing process. Ginger tea is also great for fighting nausea and vomiting, especially in cases of motion sickness. Ginger is also known to aid digestion, historically, also making it a nice addition to a weight-loss regimen.
Experts recommend the tea for colds as well, because of its sinus opening abilities in particular, along with germ fighting honey and lemon of course. Ginger’s characteristic burn in a hot beverage is also great for a cold night when you don’t want to be hyped up, but you’re about to lose feelings in your extremities. Ginger has been found to help your body absorb necessary nutrients more efficiently, which boosts your immune system and overall health. Ginger, like mint, is also connected with anti-inflammation and pain relief and is often used to relieve menstrual cramps and arthritic symptoms. Ginger tea is also linked to lowered risks of Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Chamomile tea can be so delicious. My favorite was a blend called “Meadow” that infused the chamomile flower with other florals in a sweet and aromatic combination. Chamomile is a natural sedative and is used especially by those seeking a natural solution for insomnia. It doesn’t necessarily put you to sleep, but it can calm your nerves and your mind, reduce anxiety and stress, which is another reason I drink it on occasion: to help my anxiety. This herbal tea is also linked with improved digestion. And, as I said above, it can help with colds, c as well as coughs and bronchitis, and has been shown to be a fever reducer. It is also antibacterial. It is also beneficial for muscle spasms, stomach aches, and other digestive issues and is linked to lowered cancer risk and has also been found to soothe hemorrhoids.
Caffeine is also an excellent digestive stimulant, but it can be harsh on the stomach so that herbal teas may be a more soothing alternative to your after-lunch espresso shot. And if you want to improve your post-dinner digestion without staying up all night, an herbal infusion may be the way to go.
My final herbal tea (though definitely not the only other herbal tea) is rosehip tea. I have not had rosehip tea personally, but I do take a regular vitamin C supplement that also contains rose hips. That’s because of rosehips, which are the fruit of the rose plant, are one of the best natural plant sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is imperative for strong and efficient immune function, meaning rosehip tea also helps when you’re sick but can help your body fight disease and deal with allergies. Vitamin C is also important for healthy skin and tissue. Additionally, rosehip tea is known to act as a mild diuretic and laxative, meaning it can correct constipation issues and aid weight-loss issues.
So, coffee is wonderful and glorious (and it’s time for my third cup this morning); but, tea and especially herbal tea, ain’t so bad either.