In the world of Alternative or Holistic Health one tends to find oneself in the Tea isle of the grocery store, looking for more than just a beverage, but a simple medicine. A warm cup of calm, a soothing digestive aid, or perhaps something refreshing, uplifting, and invigorating- these are just a handful of the options one might encounter whilst tea shopping.
First, what is “Tea”- technically, real tea only comes from the leaves of the tea plant, but the harvesting and roasting process changes what kind of tea it is. These are your White, Green, Black, and Oolong teas. They all have caffeine in them, along with antioxidants and other helpful things. They can be acidic in nature, and contain caffeine (although it’s less than coffee), and thus they aren’t the most balanced choices in achieving health. What Americans refer to “herbal teas” are called “tisanes” or “infusions” in other parts of the world, and they are non-caffeinated, made purely with leaves, roots, fruits, or barks of plants. Those are the kinds of teas we’ll be discussing today. These basic teas carry wondrous medicinal properties in their steeped waters, and are best found in every kitchen.
Ginger or Lemon-Ginger- It’s no secret that ginger is not only delicious in food, but highly medicinal. It aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, and is readily available. In Eastern Traditions, such as Ayurveda, a heavy emphasis is placed on digestion and its link with good health. It’s strongly anti-nausea and soothes overly-full or upset stomachs in adults and children alike. Ginger by itself is marvelous, but add a little bit of lemon and it goes even farther in aiding digestion- assisting with gas, bloating, sluggish bowels, and even abdominal cramping. This one is even easy to make at home: fresh sliced ginger root and lemon zest steeped in hot water. This tea is warming to the body, best enjoyed in winter and spring.
Peppermint and other mint teas are beneficial for the digestive system, and simultaneously refreshing. Mint is best in the summer, or after a spicy meal, or for those who are haunted by acid reflux and heartburn. It’s a lighter tea, unlike the full bodied spice of ginger, but quite pleasant after a lighter meal, and more beneficial than a breath mint! Complementary to the Lemon-Ginger duo, Peppermint is cooling in nature and thus best enjoyed in summer or fall.
Rooibos is a red tea comes from Africa. Antioxidant rich, it boosts immunity, aids in digestion, and helps to relieve allergy symptoms! Like Tulsi (listed below) it is a fabulous base and can be easily combined with other herbs.
For sleep, nerves, or relaxation:
It’s best to have a calming, soothing tea on hand, something to wind you down after a long day. There are various strengths available, but these are the herbs you want to look for: Chamomile, Linden Flowers, Passion Flowers, and Valerian, listed from weakest to strongest. A tea with all of these would be a potent sleep tea indeed.
Chamomile is a familiar tea- light, aromatic, and calming to the nerves. Linden and Passion flowers are both antispasmodics, which soothe tension in the nerves, reduce anxiety and worry, while soothing the mind. Valerian root is also well known. It reduces muscle cramps and spasms, and is a wonderful sedative. It can cause some drowsiness, but a little yoga, or early morning walk takes that edge right off, and not everyone experiences it.
(Republic of Tea offers some excellent blends on this front.)
For a strong immune system:
Tulsi, otherwise known as Holy Basil, can be infused by itself, but is often paired with other herbs and spices, ie. Rose, peppermint, ginger. While it is helpful with digestion, is more commonly known for its positive effect on the immune system. It boosts the immune system at its source- your gut- but is efficient at clearing up sinus congestion, coughs, and problems that originate in the lungs. Tulsi strengthens the heart. It’s a renowned herb in India, held sacred for its ability to purify a person both bodily and spiritually.
(Organic India has some great Tulsi-based blends.)
Rose is a great immune booster as it soothes inflammation and reduces excess heat in the body. It helps to purify and clean out blood, the liver, and the intestines.
Many of these teas can be combined with each other. Always select organic, and enjoy!