In the past few years, many of my patients have begun adding a variety of teas to their daily routine and I couldn’t be happier. As I tell my patients, various teas have been used in Eastern medicine for the treatment of many illnesses and conditions as well as to just stay healthy! There are a number of health benefits associated with drinking teas of all types that I would like to share that with you as well.
A Tea For All Reasons
As I mentioned above, tea has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. For the last several years, however, Western medicine has finally caught on to the many healthy benefits of drinking tea. Tea contains flavonoids – an antioxidant-like compound that can help fight diseases like cancer and heart disease. They also contain caffeine and theanine – compounds that have positive effects on the brain, creating mental alertness.
The most potent flavonoid, found in green tea, ECGC (epigallacatechin gallate) has been research proven to eradicate H. pyloria bacteria and prevent stomach cancer. In addition, other research studies done on green tea, black tea, white tea, for example, have shown that teas can also help with diabetes, lower cholesterol, kill bacteria and viruses, balance hormones, and aid in sleep, to name a few benefits.
Black, green, white and pu-erh teas are the most commonly used in medical research. They all come from the Camellia sinensis plant – a shrub native to China and India – and are all structurally, benefits-related to each other. Some have weaker and stronger properties that have to do with the age of the plant when harvested. Here are some of the things that research has proven each of these teas to be help:
1. Black tea. Contains the most caffeine. Has been shown to protect lungs from smoke damage and perhaps reduce the risk of stroke. Found in most common “brand” boxed teas and Indian chai.
2. Green tea. A powerhouse variety, contains EGCG a high powered flavonoid and antibacterial that has been research proven to eradicate H. pylori stomach bacteria that causes inflammatory conditions that can lead to ulcer and cancer; kill bacteria associated with periodontal gum disease. It’s high antioxidant properties defend against many cancers like breast, prostate, lung, stomach, pancreatic, colon, and prevent deteriorative brain conditions like Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases. It has also been shown to help de-clog arteries, lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss by burning fat more rapidly.
3. Oolong tea. The typical Chinese restaurant tea has been shown to lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss as it blocks fat molecules from absorption.
4. Pu-Erh tea. Closer to black teas, noted for weight loss and lower cholesterol as well.
5. White tea. This type is considered the “pure” tea, as it is harvested from the youngest plant, and is unfermented and uncured as are black and green teas. It is considered to be stronger in antioxidant properties than other teas as well yet has a much milder taste.
There are also a whole host of herbal teas touted to balance a number of health issues. Herbal teas do not contain any caffeine and are lower in tannins than regular teas. However, if you are taking prescription medications for specific health conditions, please consult your doctor, or pharmacist, before drinking any herbal teas to prevent possible dangerous interactions with your medications. Some commonly used herbal teas are:
1. Dieter’s Tea. This is a blend of many herbs like cascara, senna, buckthorn, fennel and other herbal ingredients to help detox the body before beginning a weight loss program, or to help with constipation. This can be a very strong concoction for some people, so limit to once a day.
2. Licorice and Cinnamon Teas. Licorice and Cinnamon have been proven recently to help lower blood sugar in diabetics. Use cautiously to avoid too-low blood sugar levels.
3. Hibiscus tea. Studies have shown that 3 cups a day have lowered blood pressure in people with moderately elevated levels.
4. Chamomile tea. Traditionally used as a calming tea, research has also shown that it may help prevent vision loss and kidney damage. Other studies show it may stop cancer cell growth.
5. Elderflower and Thyme teas. Helps with colds and flu, as it is an effective decongestant that helps clear mucus from the sinuses. It also promotes sweating which aids in killing viruses by raising body temperature.
6. Ginger and Peppermint teas. Raises body temperature, promotes sweating and aids in bacterial and viral infections. Helps relieve arthritis aches and pains by stimulating circulation. Also helps to relieve nausea and settle an upset stomach by breaking down bile salts and fats in the stomach.
7. St. John’s Wort tea. Contains antidepressant properties that can help seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression by boosting serotonin levels in the brain.
8. Red Rooibos African tea. Helps insomnia, lowers high blood pressure, boosts immunity.
There are many health benefits of tea and I recommend drinking several cups a day of green, white or black teas. For colds, upset stomach, herbal teas can help as much as over-the-counter medications. However, I also caution my patients not to attempt making their own teas from plants without specific instruction from a naturopath or herbalist. There are look-alike plants (like Rehmannia and foxglove) that have very different effects which can be dangerous. An herbalist can teach you more about the safe use of herbal teas to treat specific conditions.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.