By Tanya Pearey
There’s nothing quite like a good brew. Whether it’s part of your morning ritual, keeps you going through the mid-afternoon slump or it's something you look forward to sharing over gossip with friends (once the pandemic has passed) or alone with a great magazine and slice of cake.
But your cup of tea could be more than a quick pick me up. Putting the kettle on could be working wonders for your health.
‘The “secret ingredient” in tea is the flavonoids,’ explains Bristol GP Dr Gill Jenkins, an advisor to the Tea Advisory Panel. ‘Flavonoids – part of the polyphenol family – are natural compounds made by the tea plant as it grows.’ They’re the anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting antioxidants also found in fruit and veg.
Tea contains a rich tapestry of plant compounds, says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton. ‘Flavonoids open up the blood vessels, helping oxygen and nutrientsto energise our brains, caffeine creates alertness and focus, while theanine – an amino acid – provides comfort and relaxation.’
Globally, tea is the most consumed beverage after water and it’s drunk in a variety of ways – whether it’s Stateside iced, green as in Japan or the British way with a splash of milk.
So we take a look at the main benefits of tea...
The benefits of tea
People who drink tea three or more times a week may live longer and have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than their non-tea drinking counterparts, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (Jan 2020).
And worldwide research suggests benefits of tea might include:
- enhance cognition and memory, and cut your risk of dementia, according to studies from America and Singapore.
- reduce depression and anxiety say researchers from the same Singapore study.
- reduce blood pressure - one Taiwanese study found drinking black tea could have a 10% effect, while green tea might reduce hypertension risk by 46%.
- protect eyesight, reducing your risk of glaucoma and cataracts according to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
- protect your bones, reducing your risk of bone-thinning osteoporosis say US and Chinese researchers.
The link between tea and weight loss
Some American research suggests one of the benefits of tea could be weight loss. Studies have found that tea’s catechin content helps you feel full and triggers positive changes in the gut bacteria. Studies from China and Thailand suggest it can help cut the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of herbal teas
Herbal teas, too, are surging in popularity. They date back thousands of years and were used for medicinal purposes in ancient China and Egypt. But which ones are best for what? Medical Nutritionist, Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart, explains:
Best herbal tea for lifting energy and mood
Try: Tulsi tea
Tulsi, also commonly known as holy basil (a plant with adaptogenic properties), is thought to work by relaxing the central nervous system, thus calming nervous tension whilst also helping mental clarity. This means that Tulsi tea can be great option if you feel like you need a boost in mood and energy, but without adding to your daily caffeine intake.
Best herbal tea for calming a busy mind
Try: Chamomile tea
It’s no surprise that chamomile tea is on my list to boost health. This popular wonder-tea is known for its relaxing qualities and many of us have tried and tested it with great results. In fact, authors of a recent book discussing research on the chamomile plant found that over one million cups of chamomile tea are consumed worldwide every day. As well as relaxing the nervous system and relieving tension, chamomile tea has also been found to relieve bloating and indigestion - ideal if you have overindulged a little too much on rich and fatty foods
Best herbal tea for great skin
Try: Nettle tea
The constant changes in temperature during winter can wreak havoc on your skin, especially if you already suffer from issues, such as, dryness or oiliness. Nettle is one of my favourite ‘nutritional’ herbs for the skin as it contains vitamins A and C and minerals, including iron, calcium and magnesium. Not only that, but nettle is said to be anti-inflammatory and is also a natural diuretic, making it a great tea to help beautify your skin and bring out that inner radiance.
Best herbal tea for a sluggish digestion
Try: Aniseed and Fennel tea
Bloating is the main symptom of sluggish digestion. In this modern age, we are all faced with many social events that tend to include delicious meals and lots of alcohol. Try Pukka’s organic Feel New tea, £2.80 for 20 teabags available from Tesco and other leading supermarkets. It’s a naturally supportive digestive tea that contains aniseed, fennel, and cardamom which help to reduce gas and bloating and relieve other digestive discomforts. They’re wrapped individually so pop a few in your bag to drink before and after a meal when you are out”.
Best herbal tea for immunity
Try: Elderberry tea
Elderberries contain vitamins A and C, anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are antioxidants that protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. This wonder-berry has been shown to reduce the symptoms and length of a cold, so it’s well worth taking in its many forms.
Tanya Pearey has been a writer and editor in the health, fitness and lifestyle field for the past 25 years. She writes regularly for women’s lifestyle titles including woman&home, Woman’s Weekly, Woman and Woman’s Own. She has also written for newspapers including The Daily Mail and Daily Express, and women’s magazines in Australia, where she spent a year working.
Tanya is an avid runner and is lover of Parkruns and half marathons. She completed the London Marathon in under four hours – but that was 20 years ago and she hasn’t been brave enough to run that far again since! She’s a keen tennis player and walker, having climbed Kilimanjaro and the UK’s three highest peaks - Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike.
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