Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet, with many people and cultures ascribing to it benefits of tranquility and healing. From both the Western and Eastern perspectives, teas and infusions offer multiple benefits. There is only one plant that officially produces tea: Camellia sinensis. This plant contains the buds and leaves that give us white, green, pu-erh, oolong and black teas. All other “teas” such as ginger, chamomile, and rooibos are categorized as tisanes (tea-ZAHNS), a French word for herbal infusions. The drinks we choose certainly contribute to overall nutrition, and teas can be part of that healthful life.
Tea leaves contain compounds, called catechins, which have antioxidant properties, countering cell damage and offering anti-carcinogenic protection. Green and black tea have been shown to contain not only catechins but also healthful phytonutrients like L-theanine, which can produce an alert but calm state. Teas are a phenomenal way to deliver the healing power of herbs to the body-mind complex. In Ayurveda, the tea selection will change with the season. Mindful sipping seems as organic to tea as the ingredients themselves. As we hold each fragrant and beguilingly colored brew, the connection to our senses invites us to focus on what is before us, bringing us deeper into the moment.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE HERBS FOR TEA
Calendula: Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help heal cuts, scrapes, bruises, insect bites, and minor wounds, as well as conjunctivitis and sore or infected gums
Chamomile: Calms anxiety and stress, and may have a positive effect on attention deficit disorder; antibacterial and anti-inflammatory; beneficial for the liver and digestive system; and eases skin inflammations, as well as bacterial skin diseases, cuts, and abrasions
Cinnamon: The highest antioxidant values of any spice—reduces inflammation, lowers blood sugar, alleviates nausea
Comfrey: Relieves pain and inflammation, particularly for those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis; great topical treatment for burns, abrasions, and other skin irritations Echinacea: Improves immunity, reduces stings and itching when applied topically
Fennel: Promotes a strong immune system and improves metabolism and digestion
Ginger: Relieves nausea and morning sickness, helps with pain management, has anti-inflammatory properties that may fight colon cancer
Ginkgo: Used to treat Alzheimer’s disease because of its benefits for memory and mental clarity; relieves tinnitus, vertigo, diabetes, and asthma; combats stress and anxiety; fights allergic reactions
Hibiscus: Natural antioxidant proven to lower blood pressure
Peppermint: Improves digestion, relieves pain, and eases nausea
Tulsi (Holy Basil): Helps bring down fevers, cures cold and sore throat, relieves insect bites and skin infections, helps with kidney stones and cardiovascular disease
Turmeric: Best known for its cancer-fighting properties, via the cancer-fighting compound curcumin; reduces inflammation and eases joint pain and arthritis; soothes the digestive system
Valerian Root: The most widely recognized herbal sedative, used for insomnia, anxiety, and pain relief