With temperatures dropping and colds/flu on the rise, warm up with a cup of one of these popular, healthful brews.
Tea, the second most commonly consumed beverage worldwide (after water), has been regarded for thousands of years as a key to well-being. Now we are finding out much more about the many health benefits found in the different varieties of this popular drink made from God's plants and herbs.
Traditional teas – black, green, white and oolong ¬– are made from the plant camellia sinensis, and all contain high levels of antioxidant polyphenols. In fact, tea ranks as high as or higher than many fruits and vegetables in the ORAC score, a score that measures antioxidant potential of plant-based foods. (See The Power of Antioxidants, Explained for more on ORAC scores).
Some studies have suggested that tea's polyphenols may reduce the risk of ovarian, gastric, esophageal and skin cancers, if one consumes 2 to 6 cups daily. Other studies have found that polyphenols help prevent blood clotting, lower cholesterol levels and inhibit bacteria that cause bad breath.
Drinking tea has also been linked to a reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lowered stress hormones, and an increased immune response.
All these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and seem to heighten mental alertness. Black tea, the kind most Americans and Europeans drink, has the highest caffeine content, and the strongest flavor.
But the rising superstar is green tea, with a list of health benefits that seems to grow daily. Because of green tea's minimal processing – its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented like black and oolong teas – green tea is said to contain over four times the concentration of antioxidant catechins than black tea.
More than a decade's worth of research about green tea's health benefits includes findings that it may:
• Protect against cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, stomach, colon, blood, pancreas and prostate
• prevent clogging of the arteries
• reduce risk of stroke,
• boost metabolism and burn fat
• counteract oxidative stress on the brain
• reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases
• lead to stronger bones by promoting bone formation
• protect gums
• improve cholesterol levels
• reduce the risk of death from heart disease
• improve psychological well-being
See Dr. Cherry's video on green tea and More Green Tea Benefits for more information on some of these specific health benefits.
Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used, but two of the most common and beneficial herbal teas are hibiscus and chamomile.
Recent research found that drinking 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day for 6 weeks had a significant effect on participants' blood pressure. In fact, the higher the person's blood pressure, the more it lowered it. In fact, the blood pressure reduction seen with the tea is equal in size to the typical effect of a prescription anti-hypertensive medication. Even small changes in blood pressure, when maintained over time, can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
See Dr. Cherry's video on hibiscus tea for more on this research.
Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea appreciated for its mild, fruity flavor and capacity to soothe nerves and promote sleep. Chamomile also has anti-spasmodic properties, which can be helpful for people suffering from stress, muscle spasms of any kind, and menstrual cramps.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have also discovered that chamomile can help people with some intestinal discomfort. Chamomile works as an anti-inflammatory and reduces gas when consumed after meals.
So take your pick of one or more of these cups of tea and enjoy their many benefits. Because many of the health advantages are found to be best achieved by drinking 2-6 cups per day, you may also want to supplement with extracts from the plants and herbs.
Green tea extract can be found in the full spectrum daily supplement Basic Nutrient Support (as well as Cardiovascular Support, Weight Management Program and Liver Support).
Chamomile, with its calming properties, is part of the Stress Support, Sleep Support and Menopause Support formulas.