Tea, whether traditional or herbal, has long been rumored to bring health benefits to those who drink it. In recent years, researchers have proven the veracity of folklore claims that herbal teas are good for your health. Teas like chamomile, peppermint and hibiscus have been found in controlled studies to bring measureable benefits to those who drink them; teas like Echinacea and rooibos may also bring benefits.
Even traditional teas — black, green and white teas made from the leaves of the tea shrub, Camellia sinensis — have been found to contain antioxidant compounds. These compounds, known as flavonoids, can help protect tea drinkers against a range of chronic ailments.
The Proven Benefits of Herbal Teas
Chamomile tea has long been popular for its perceived health benefits. People have traditionally used chamomile tea to ease stress and promote relaxation. It’s also been used as a traditional remedy for illnesses ranging from menstrual cramps to the common cold.
Researchers at Imperial College London have proven that the health benefits of drinking chamomile tea are more than just rumor. In a study of the effects of tea made from German chamomile, the researchers found that chamomile tea does have antibacterial properties — it can boost the immune system to help your body fight off colds and infections.
They also found that German chamomile tea contains glycine, an amino acid known to ease muscle spasms, relax the nerves and act as a sedative. Study participants who drank the tea regularly were found to have high levels of glycine in their bodies.
But what about other herbal teas? Peppermint tea has been found to have powerful antiviral and antimicrobial properties, making it another tasty option for boosting immunity. Teas made with peppermint also contain antioxidants, which protect against cancer, heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and neurological disorders. Peppermint teas may fight tumors and ease allergy symptoms.
One study has found that hibiscus, a type of herbal tea made from the popular flower of the same name, helps lower blood pressure in some people with slightly elevated blood pressure levels. Rooibos, which is made from a South Africa herb, also contains antioxidant flavonoids and may help prevent cancer. Echinacea teas may help boost immunity.
Traditional Tea Is Good for You, Too
Traditional teas are made from the leaves of the tea shrub, Camellia sinensis, which is native to Asia. These teas contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which help to prevent a number of chronic illnesses ranging from cancer to stroke. There are five primary types of traditional tea:
- Black tea: made with tea leaves that have been fermented; this type is used in many flavored teas
- Green tea: made with tea leaves that have been steamed
- White tea: made with tea leaves that have been neither cured nor fermented
- Oolong tea: a traditional form of Chinese tea made with tea leaves that have been cured in the sun
- Pu-erh tea: a type of black tea made from tea leaves that are fermented, aged and formed into cakes
Green tea has perhaps been the most widely studied form of traditional tea. It contains high levels of an antioxidant known as ECGC, the most powerful of all the flavonoids found in tea. Green tea’s high levels of ECGC mean that it may help slow or stop the growth of several cancers, including bladder, pancreatic, lung, breast, stomach and colorectal cancers.
Green tea may also prevent atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and high blood cholesterol. It may help to reverse the effects of oxidative stress in the brain and may help keep body fat percentages within healthy levels. Oolong tea has also been found to be effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels, and pu-erh tea may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and prevent weight gain. Black tea may help prevent stroke and has been found to protect the lungs from damage caused by tobacco smoke.
White tea, which is unfermented and uncured, contains the highest levels of antioxidant compounds. Of all the traditional teas, white tea may be the most effective at fighting and preventing cancer.
Teas of all kinds, both herbal and traditional, have long been believed to bring health benefits. Modern research shows that claims for the health benefits of tea-drinking are largely true. Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint and hibiscus have been found to ease stress, boost immunity and lower blood pressure. Traditional teas help fight cancer and protect the heart, arteries and brain. So pour yourself a cup of tea — and drink to your health!