Herbal teas for hydration

Most people know they need to be drinking adequate amounts of water however it can get difficult to keep levels up particularly in Winter when it is cold. Herbal teas can be a good way to keep up hydration and enjoy a warm drink at the same time.

First up did you know that white, oolong, green tea and black teas are all in the green tea family, the difference is in the degree of fermentation. Black tea is fermented and has a higher amount of caffeine as a result, but all of this family have a high level of polyphenols. Fermentation increases the caffeine content so black tea has about 48mg per cup whereas green tea has around 28mg. Given the caffeine content these teas are a better option for the morning when you need a quick energy boost. Green tea blends well with other flavours and some good options can be green tea with lime. If you do have trouble sleeping its usually best to avoid green or black tea later in the day.

Green tea is high in polyphenols and specifically epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has shown to be beneficial for assisting with inflammation and chronic diseases. Wherever possible try and use an organic green tea if you are drinking it for its health benefits.

A number of teas can provide digestive benefits and this includes options such as peppermint and ginger. Ginger is particularly known for anti-nausea effects whereas peppermint is a useful digestive as the menthol helps relax the stomach and may assist if you are prone to bloating. Peppermint doesn’t contain caffeine so its a good choice later in the day and can be made at home by crushing and steeping peppermint leaves in hot water.

Ginger tea can be made by simply slicing up fresh ginger and steeping it for five to ten minutes or by using dried ginger root. Ginger has been clinically researched for post chemotherapy nausea and reduced symptoms by about 40% which is considered clinically significant. (1) It is also known for its assistance with morning sickness.

Ginger is also useful as a mild circulatory stimulant, boosting blood flow and can be a useful addition to a tea blend to help improve absorption of the other ingredients.

For those who have trouble sleeping two useful options are passionflower and chamomile. Passionflower is believed to increase GABA, a neurotransmitter which is calming and may reduce anxiety. (2)Chamomile is a gentle nervine in that it is calming and it may also have a beneficial impact on blood sugar levels as it lowers blood glucose levels. (3) Many people find that they get to sleep easier and have better quality sleep with chamomile tea later in the evening.

It can be fun to try different herbal teas and even make up your own combinations. One of my current favourites is white tea with rose petals. It has a softer flavour than green tea and the rose petals give it a lovely colour and a dose of Vitamin C. For those who would like to try some new tea options some of my favourite online sources for herbal teas are Austral Herbs for the individual components or Mrs Oldbucks in Berrima for a range of pre made teas and individual components.

Regardless of which teas you try make sure its leaf tea as much as possible. There are concerns about micro plastics being used in many tea bags which really isn’t something you want to include in your diet. The major reason to use leaf tea however is it simply gives a better flavour.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist who works at Elemental Health St Ives and is available online and in person for appointments if you want to improve your health. Her preference is for black tea in the morning, prana chai at lunch and green tea or chamomile later in the day.

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941540/

(3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25176245/

Natural medicine for sore throats

My kids have always been a little worried when they were first getting sick, except when they had a sore throat as they would be excited as they could have honey! Good quality Manuka honey that is usually combined with a lemon and garlic tea.

The first symptom that many people notice with a cold or flu is often a sore throat. A niggling or slight scratchiness initially and then within a few hours it has developed into a sore throat. Depending on the symptoms its usually a good idea to provide gentle immune system support and some appropriate homeopathic remedies. Three options are useful for supporting the immune system manuka honey, elderberry and lemon and garlic tea.

Sore throats are often a precursor to a cold or flu so supporting the immune system with Elderberry is ideal. A good over the counter option for Elderberry is the product Sambucol which comes in capsules or lozenges. The advantage of a lozenge is that it provides a way of topically treating the sore throat. This option also tastes a lot better than most which helps if you are treating children.

For sore throats where there is also congestion or a cough its usually helpful to add a good quality tea combined with manuka honey. To make lemon and ginger tea boil up 5 cloves of garlic with a quartered organic lemon in about 1L of water. Bring to the boil an then reduce to simmering on the stove for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on as this ensures that the limonene essentials oils are retained in the tea. One to two cups a day with a teaspoon of good quality Manuka honey will help with symptoms and recovery.

Homeopathic medicine is a useful way to support recovery from a sore throat. Its usual to match the symptoms of the sore throat to the homeopathic remedy. First up look at the location of the sore throat, is it on the left or right side. Then look at the type of pain associated with the sore throat, is it dry, sore, stabbing or burning ? Check to see if anything makes it better or worse (this is what we call the modalities), this could be that its better for cold or warm drinks for example. It could be a little different in that they are better for covering the throat. Then look at any other symptoms that are occurring at the same time and see if they have a similar patter.

Two remedies that focus on the side on which the sore throat starts are Lachesis and Lycopodium, Lachesis tends to start on the left side and usually is associated with burning pain in the throat. Lachesis is also known for people who may have a sore throat but can still talk incessantly. People who need Lachesis often find drinking doesn’t help but eating my provide relief. Lycopodium tends to start on the right side or is worse on the right side and the pain is usually better for warm drinks.

Hepar Sulph is often useful where the pain extends to the ears and the sore throat comes on after a cold or after getting chilled.

Where the throat is more infected and glands are swollen you should consider Mercurius Solubulus (Merc Sol). When this remedy is indicated there may be excessive saliva such that the pillow is drenched in the morning as well as bad breath. The sensation in the throat could be dry or burning pain. This remedy can be of significant benefit in the acute phases of glandular fever.

For more information on managing the symptoms of acute illnesses see the recent blogs Treating colds and flus naturally , Stomach Aches and Pains and Natural Medicine First Aid .

Christine is a practicing Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives and can be contacted on 02 8084 0081.

A tea lovers guide to the Blue Mountains

Whilst the options for holidays restricted to NSW at the moment it seemed timely to put together an update on tea friendly venues in the Blue Mountains (that also provide gluten free options). It is very disappointing to go to a cafe or restaurant that offers expresso coffee from freshly ground beans and then be offered hot water with a tea bag rather than leaf tea, so here are the best options for the tea lovers!!

One of my favourite spots is the Megalong Valley Tearooms. It’s fairly easy to access from Blackheath and it’s a lovely drive down into the valley. Better still you can do sections of the Six Foot Track to build an appetite or walk off an excess of scones!!

Megalong Valley Tearooms have a wide range of traditional and herbal leaf teas as well as good gluten free options and a veggie hash which is usually served with an egg but without it makes a good vegan meal too. They had expanded the farmers platter to include their homemade soups and the Cauliflower leek and fennel was excellent. The accompanying vintage cheddar pickles and corned beef made for a hearty lunch. My top tea pick is the Billy Tea which includes eucalyptus leaf.

Medlow Bath has two options now. The high tea at the Hydro Majestic is well worth a trip particularly if you order the white tea with rolled pearls which unfold in the glass teapot. Bookings can be made online and they can accommodate gluten and dairy free requests.

Another option is a cafe called Tournament which has a range of options for gluten free and vegetarians. The menu includes an Ethiopian spiced bean stew as well as daily specials like the lentil pie with polenta pictured above. Impressively they also made their own gluten free bread with spiced loaf. My daughter was still in the mood for breakfast and had the poached eggs with sides of roasted potatoes and bacon. Teas included a lovely refreshing berry mix as well as the usual options.

On the other side of the mountains we also found a little gem called The Lithgow Tin Shed . At the top of Lithgow near the train station it offered a full range of teas including chamomile, lemongrass and ginger as well as green and peppermint teas. The menu incorporated a lot of fresh local produce which is also sold in the cafe. The three salads on offer were noodle, root vegetables with goat curd and rocket and pear. The options included adding poached chicken, confit duck or local cured salmon. Both the salads we tried were delicious and the noodle salad with chicken was very filling.

One note for anyone travelling at the moment is that if you really want to eat somewhere make sure you book in advance. Currently with COVID-19 restrictions many cafe’s are limited to the number of people they can accommodate, often at half their pre COVID capacity.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives and is looking forward to finding good tea options around NSW in the coming months. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online.