From reducing anxiety to preventing diseases and curing your stomach ache, tea and tisanes can have many benefits for your health. Although frequently referred to as tea, tisanes actually include herbal or medicinal plants brewed in hot water whilst actual tea only comes from the ‘tea plant’, known as camelia sinensis.
The type of process the tea plant receives is what determines the type of tea it will be. The tea plant leaves are rich in polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants and are part of the reason of why teas can be so good for you. Tea contains four types of stimulants that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier:
- 3-4 % of caffeine, commonly found in fizzy drinks and coffee
- Theobromine, also found in chocolate
- Theophylline a stimulant compound
- Theanine, an amino acid
Compared to coffee, tea provides a soother level of stimulation which could actually contribute with a more stable level of energy and productivity. Every tea and tisane has its own particular way of production and potential benefits for your health. Here are ten of the most beneficial teas and tisanes that you can drink for your health.
1. Black Tea
How it’s Processed: Black tea is produced by first withering the leaves, removing the water content and breaking down the protein content allowing the tea leaves to completely oxidize.
Benefits: Black tea contains theanine, an amino acid also found in green tea, which is capable of increasing the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects. It also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain.
Drinking black tea can also be helpful with providing a sensation of satiety, weight control and digestion — all thanks to its tannin content, which has a therapeutic effect on gastric and intestinal illnesses.
2. Green Tea
First used in 2000BCE China, green tea was originally used for medicinal purposes. This type of tea is made from the top two leaves and buds of the camellia sinensis shrub. The three main varieties of this plant are from China, Assam and Cambodia although hybrids between these can now be obtained.
How it’s Processed: After the tea leaves are plucked, they are dried to prevent fermentation, which stops enzymes from oxidizing the leaves. To help in the drying process they might be pan-fired or withered. Green tea produced in Japan is usually cleaned and steamed in a bamboo tray or other special machines followed by cooling. After comes the shaping of the leaves, final drying and packing.
Benefits: A high intake of green tea has been associated with increased fat oxidation. A study showed that healthy young men who drank green tea and did a moderate-intensity exercise found their insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance was improved. Benefits have also been found for women. Many studies have shown that women who regularly drink green tea are less likely to develop breast cancer.
Several studies have also found that tea drinking can aid with the prevention of other cancers such as prostate and colorectal cancer. A study found that men who drank green tea had a 48% lower risk of prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer in men while another study found women who drank green tea had a 57% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
3. Oolong Tea
How it’s Processed: Oolong tea is partially fermented and characterized by having a shorter period of leaf oxidation when compared to black tea.
Benefits: Oolong tea is used to sharpen thinking skills and improve mental alertness. It is also used to prevent cancer, tooth decay, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
4. White Tea
How it’s Processed: White tea is usually not rolled nor fired, so it is essentially non-oxidized and it is the least processed of teas. Instead of being exposed to an artificial heat, the leaves are simply allowed to wither and dry in a carefully controlled environment, which results in a delicate, fresh-from-the-garden tasting tea.
Benefits: White tea contains the same types of antioxidants as green tea, but in greater quantity. These antioxidants are found to have many health promoting properties including boosting cardiovascular health, helping to lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of cancer and enhancing weight loss.
5. Pu-erh Tea
How it’s Processed: Pu-erh tea is made from fermented and aged leaves. It can be classified as a black tea when its leaves are pressed into cakes.
Benefits: Research in regard to pu-erh tea has been associated with controlling weight gain helping to reduce bad cholesterol.
6. Yerba Mate
How it’s processed: This beverage is made with the leaves of a subtropical evergreen tree native from South America. Typical in Argentina and Uruguay, yerba mate is usually drunk to socialize in a calabash gourd where hot water is poured over the dried leaves and is enjoyed by drinking it with a ‘bombilla’ or straw.
Benefits: Although few clinical trials have been published in regard to mate consumption, studies have shown that its antioxidant level has been associated with LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and weight control.
How it’s Processed: Chamomile flowers are dried and are ready to add hot water were the chemical compounds of the dried flowers will dissolve.
Benefits: Chamomile was approved by the German Commission for gastrointestinal spasms and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s recommended 3-4 times a day when suffering from gastrointestinal complaints. Its use can also be beneficial for the inflammation of the mucosal membranes in the mouth and throat by using it as a mouthwash.
How it’s Processed: Hibiscus, also known as Jamaica, roselle, red sorrel and sour tea, is one of the most common plants used for commercial herbal tea blends. Just like many tisanes, the flowers are dried and only hot water is necessary to release its colour and flavour into your cup.
Benefits: Its use has been associated with reducing LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and controlling hypertension.
How it’s Processed: Native to South Africa, this tisane is obtained by drying, bruising and fermenting the needle-like leaves. Once fermented, the leaves turn into the characteristic red colour we often associate with rooibos.
Benefits: In folk medicine, rooibos tea has found helpful to control indigestion, to help with good night sleep and anxiety.
10. Arnica Infusion
How it’s Processed: Arnica is a woodland plant native to Central Europe and Siberia. In the Northern hemisphere it is found in meadows in high altitudes. This perennial herb belongs to the sunflower family and it can reach 30-50 cm in height, offering solitary yellow or orange flowers that are 7cm wide.
Benefits: Arnica infusion is known for reducing inflammation, alleviating pain and killing germs due to two important compounds: sesquiterpene and dihydrohelenalin. Precautions should be taken when ingested due to its possible toxicity if taken without control or medical observation.
Final Notes on Tea
Although tea can have many benefits over your health some considerations should be taken. Because of the high tannin content in tea, it can affect the absorption of some minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium. It’s best to leave a 30-minute gap between eating a meal and drinking tea to make sure you have the best chance to absorb these minerals.
Tea drinking can contribute to your health not only because of its chemical components and the benefits they possess but also because of the time that you dedicate to drink it, providing you either with a time of reflection with yourself, socialization with others or simple mindfulness.