As the cold winter months approach, we tend to crave warming foods and liquids. Unfortunately, as a nation, we tend to satisfy those cravings on a habitual basis with the consumption of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, green, black and red tea. Although green, black and red teas are wonderful for health and contain cancer-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols, there is another group of teas, herbal teas, which also contain enormous health benefits.
Unlike green, red or black teas that are made from the leaf of an evergreen known as Camellia sinesis, herbal tea is derived from infusions of herbs, flowers, roots, spices or other parts of plants. Herbal teas hold different health benefits in comparison to the antioxidant qualities of green, red or black teas, but they can also be equally beneficial for health. Although there are numerous types and combinations of herbal teas, the top five include:
Peppermint Tea – Peppermint tea is wonderful for digestion and nausea. It is also a strong muscle relaxant and is useful to drink after a meal. If you find the taste of peppermint tea too strong, simply steep the tea for longer than 30 seconds.
Chamomile Tea – Chamomile tea is also known to soothe digestion and relax the gastro-intestinal tract. This tea also helps to relax and soothe an anxious mood and is a good stress-relieving tea to drink prior to bedtime. Chamomile also contains several flavonoids, plant chemicals, that have anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties. If you suffer from ragweed allergies, it is best to avoid chamomile tea.
Licorice Tea – Licorice tea is excellent for soothing and healing the lining of the stomach and intestines. Many healthcare practitioners use licorice tea as part of their treatment approach for ulcers. Licorice tea has a very sweet and distinctive taste that is wonderful to drink on its own to curb sugar cravings. Licorice tea is also very beneficial for sore throats and coughs. For winter coughs and congestion, drink one cup of licorice tea three times a day.
Ginger Tea – In Asia, ginger and ginger tea is highly used for its healing abilities. Ginger tea has a wonderful aromatic taste that is sweet and warming. This type of tea is beneficial for stomach upset, indigestion and nausea. Ginger has also been shown to block the effect of prostaglandins, inflammatory chemicals, produced in the body. This effect makes ginger tea excellent for helping with migraines or arthritis aches and pains. Ginger tea is available in tea bags, however, grating ginger or using a garlic press and adding it to boiling water will give you the best effect.
Berry Teas – Lemon, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry teas are a wonderful way to help lose weight and to kick carbohydrate cravings. These sweet teas are excellent to drink at nighttime when temptations for cookies, candies and comfort foods kick in. They are also hydrating and cleansing to the system which can help decrease bloating and optimize digestion.
Remember, when making herbal, tea it is important to use a glass, porcelain or glazed earth ware pot as the metals can react with some of the herbs. In the summer months, herbal iced teas can be made by steeping the tea in hot water for five minutes and then chilling the tea for 30 minutes over a glass of ice. Although berry herbal teas are naturally sweet, honey or a little brown sugar can be added to the tea for additional sweetness.
In a nutshell, herbal teas are wonderful for digestion and overall health. This winter, stock your kitchen with five to six selections of your favorite blends and drink up!
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Dr. Joey Shulman