Tea is more than a beverage. It is actually good for your health too. Several studies show that drinking a cup of tea daily will do wonders to your health. From calming your mind and body to strengthening your immune system and fighting cancer; these are just but some of the health benefits of drinking tea. However, it was said that there are more than 3,000 varieties of teas, with each having its own distinct flavour, characteristics and health benefits. With so many varieties to choose from, the question now is what kind of tea should you drink?
The answer is it all depends. It all depends on what you are feeling and what your condition is. Different teas have different benefits. So, it is really a matter of what you need at the moment.
I visited a tea factory in Beijing, China several years ago. During that visit, I’ve learned some of the common teas available in the market today and their health benefits. Here is what I have learned about common herbal teas and their benefits:
Green tea has been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. Because of its large concentration of catechins, a natural antioxidant, green teas are best used as an antioxidant.
Modern quick meals especially canned goods, junk foods, processed foods and fast food such as burgers, chips, chocolates, donuts, french fries, instant noodles, pastries and pizzas are oxidant foods. Oxidants found in these foods are harmful to our body because they can chemically alter and damage our DNA resulting in degenerative diseases.
So, if you are the type of person who loves eating these kinds of food, it is best that you include drinking a cup of green tea in your lifestyle. Green tea’s antioxidant properties will help get rid of the oxidants that you have consumed. It can improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimers, and treat skin disorders.
Black tea and green tea came from the same plant. The only difference is that black tea is fermented while green tea is not. Although it has the same health benefits as the green tea, the antioxidant benefits of black tea is not as high as that of the green tea because some of the antioxidants were destroyed during the oxidation process.
Despite that, black tea is the most popular among all the types of teas. About 80% of tea drinkers worldwide drink black tea. Have you heard of the English breakfast, Irish breakfast or Earl Gray teas? Well, all of these teas are actually varieties of the black tea. How about the famous milk tea? Most milk teas use black tea as their base ingredient.
Black tea is often the eye-opener tea in the morning because out of all the teas out there, black tea contains the most caffeine. Black tea has about 1/3 of caffeine that can be found in your coffee. Since black tea is fully oxidized, it also has a heavy flavour. Because of these characteristics, black tea is the best tea to drink if you want that extra boost in energy and increase in mental alertness most especially in the morning.
Other health benefits of black tea include increasing body immunity, inhibiting tooth decay, fighting cancer, preventing stroke, protecting the lungs from damage and reducing the risk of diabetes.
Just like the green tea and the black tea, oolong tea came from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. The difference is that green tea is unfermented, black tea is fully fermented while oolong tea is partially fermented. Because of this, it was said that the health benefits of oolong tea surpassed that of green tea and black tea because it has the combined characteristics of both teas.
Oolong tea is best for weight loss. It is ideal for people who are on a high fat diet because it enhances the metabolic processes, improves fat mobilization and prevents fat cell proliferation. Thus, it helps in weight reduction.
Aside from its antioxidant properties, oolong tea contains vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, B, C, & E. It also contains folic acid and some detoxifying alkaloids which were formed during the semi-fermentation process. Oolong tea also helps prevent cancer and diabetes, manages stress and improves mental health.
Pu-erh Tea is actually aged black tea. What makes it so special is that it is only produced in Yunnan, China. Production takes place on the top of the mountain in very high altitude mountain conditions with very fertile soil free from pollutants and with more sunshine and very cool night temperature. After the fermentation process, the leaves are aged for many years.
This is the reason why it comes with a high price tag. Although there are cheaper ones available in the market today, the Chinese government only recognised the ones grown from that specific region from the Yunnan province as the authentic pu-erh teas. An aged old pu-erh tea from the Yunnan province will cost you about a whooping US $10,000 per 10 grams. In fact in 2013, a 2083g 100 year old pu-erh tea was auctioned for $1.5 million dollars.
Many Benefits of Pu-erh Tea
So, what is so special about it? Our tea sommelier in China told us that in that specific region in Yunnan province, there are no incidents of heart attack, no high cholesterol and no other cardiovascular diseases among the population. This is despite the fact that people there eat nothing but meat. It is too high a place to have seafood and the vegetable plants could not survive because of the very cold weather conditions. Yet, most of the residents there lived up to 100 years.
Several studies have shown that long term use of pu-erh teas can lower LDL and increase HDL. The bad cholesterol is the LDL because it increases risk of a heart attack or stroke. On the other hand, the HDL known as the good cholesterol helps remove the bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Pu-erh also burns the stored body fats including the ones enveloping the liver.
Another benefit of pu-erh teas is that it increases the good bacteria in the intestines. It cleanses the spleen, stomach and blood. It also suppresses fat production.
So, if you are a person who is always having problems with your high bad cholesterol level or fatty liver or you want to have your body cleanse or you simply just want to eliminate that unwanted stubborn hard-to digest fats, then pu-erh tea is for you.
If you are a beginner, chamomile tea is a good tea to try first because of its light earthy taste with hints of apple and floral flavour, not to mention its wonderful aroma. Taken from dried chamomile flowers; it has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.
It is best taken before bed because it is a sleep inducer and mild tranquilizer. Chamomile tea is also helpful if you want to relax because it reduces stress.
Chamomile tea is also a natural remedy for coughs and colds. It is also good for digestive problems such as diarrhea, flatulence, indigestion, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting. It is also helpful in relieving menstrual pain and muscle spasm. In addition, it has beauty benefits because it lightens the skin, reduces acne, treats sunburn and it has anti-aging properties.
The best tea to drink if you have indigestion and gas is mint tea. Dubbed as the “stomach healer”, mint tea works wonders if you have stomach problems such as diarrhea, flatulence, heartburn, indigestion and stomach pains.
Mint tea also has a soothing effect. It relaxes both the body and the mind, thus reducing your stress level. It is also good for curing bad breath.
Ginger tea helps fight respiratory problems associated with common colds such as cough, flu and sore throat. It also alleviates symptoms from environmental allergies.
Ginger is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is an ideal remedy for joint and muscle pains. You can also drink it to relieve nausea and vomiting.
Sambong is a herbal medicine that is widely used in Southeast Asia. The Philippine government in fact named this herb as one of the top 10 herbs that is effective in treating disorders specifically because of its kidney cleansing properties.
Sambong tea primarily works as a diuretic or water pill. It is well known to treat urinary tract problems such as kidney and bladder stones and UTIs or urinary tract infections.
Sambong also has analgesic properties that serve as a pain reliever. It can also lower blood pressure by removing excess sodium brought about by its diuretic property. It can also cure sore throat and relieve stomach pain.
Turmeric tea is known to boost the immune system, treats inflammation and serves as an anti-cancer agent. It has been used as a medical root for thousands of years because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, the yellow pigment found in turmeric known as curcimin has been recognized by the National Cancer Institute as an effective anti-carcinogen or anti-cancer agent.
Turmeric tea also eases arthritis. It also helps prevent Alzheimers and liver damage. It can also help manage diabetes.
To maximise its benefits, just remember that fresh tea is always better than those found in sachets. However, do bear in mind that although tea has numerous health benefits, too much intake can lead to negative side effects. So, drink moderately.
First published in Pinoy Smart Living on 07.08.2018