Naturopathic Kitchen: The Health Benefits of Tea

Tea being poured out of a teapot into a glass cup.

Sipping a cup of tea can be a soothing way to begin the morning or a refreshing pick-me-up in the afternoon. Many people use the word “tea” to refer to tisanes made with peppermint, chamomile, or other herbs, but true teas are actually only those from the plant Camellia Sinensis–black or green tea. Sipping tea on a regular basis has a number of healthy benefits.

Green Tea

Green tea has an earthy, bittersweet, somewhat herbaceous flavor. Depending on the variety, it may taste more mild or have a distinctly grassy flavor. Popular varieties include Sencha, Matcha, and Genmaicha. Green tea contains bioactive compounds that protect the body by reducing the formation of free radicals, helping to prevent a number of diseases, including inflammation and cancer. 1  

Green tea can also improve brain function. This is because it contains both caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine. 2 3 Caffeine increases the firing of neurons, resulting in improved concentration, memory, and mood. 4 L-theanine boosts activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which increases alpha-wave production in the brain, as well as stimulates dopamine production and reduces feelings of anxiety. 5 Keep in mind that tea also contains caffeine, which can increase feelings of anxiety. Monitor how you feel when consuming caffeinated beverages in order to find the right balance for you.

Black Tea

Black tea has a deep, bold flavor with slightly malty, earthy tones. Popular varieties include English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, Assam, and Darjeeling.  Black tea contains antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic inflammation. 6 

Black tea is also a good source of flavonoids, which help improve heart health. 7 In fact, one study found that consuming three cups of black tea per day reduced the risk of developing heart disease by 11%. 8 

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

The most important step to brewing the perfect cup of tea is starting with high quality tea. Choose a loose-leaf organic tea that has a fresh, aromatic scent. 

Scoop your loose-leaf tea into a tea ball, diffuser, or unbleached tea bag sachet. Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every cup of tea that you will be making. For black tea, you should bring water to a full, rolling boil. For green tea, heat your water to just before a full boil, so that the kettle is steaming but the water is not bubbling. Pour heated water over the tea and let it steep for 3-4 minutes, then remove the tea bag or diffuser.

Let the tea cool enough to sip and you are ready to enjoy!

For iced tea, follow the above instructions, then pour hot tea over ice and refrigerate until cold.

Make Your Own Tea Blends

Get creative with your tea by creating your own flavorful blends by combining loose-leaf tea, herbs, and dried fruit. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Classic Chai (You’ll never want to have store bought again)

  • 4-5 teaspoons of your favorite black tea
  • 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger

 

Green Tea Refresher

  • 4-5 teaspoons of your favorite green tea
  • 2 teaspoons dried lemongrass
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint leaves

 

Chocolate Vanilla Dessert Tea

  • 4-5 teaspoons of your favorite organic black tea
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa nibs

 

Tropical Green Tea

  • 4-5 teaspoons of your favorite green tea
  • 2 teaspoons shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons dried mango
  • 2 teaspoons dried pineapple

 

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the healing capacity of food and other natural health practices, naturopathic medicine may be a good fit for you.

 

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