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.