Let’s talk about your health over a cup of tea.
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Study after study shows the benefits of drinking tea, essentially verifying what your ancestors believed back in ancient times. The humble tea plant — a shrub known as Camellia sinensis — has long supplied an answer to ailments.
But what tea is best? There isn’t just one option, after all. Just look at your local grocery store. Dozens upon dozens of options sit on the shelf waiting to be tossed into your cart. It can be a little overwhelming.
To make sense of it, we turn to dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD. “Different teas offer different benefits,” she says. “Choose what fits your need.”
Read on to find which will suit you to a… well, T.
When it comes to tea, green tea gets the gold. “Green tea is the champ when it comes to offering health benefits,” says Czerwony. “It’s the Swiss Army knife of teas. It covers a lot of territory.”
A medical literature review offers a snapshot of those benefits, linking the consumption of green tea to:
The healing power of green tea is linked to catechin, an antioxidant compound found in tea leaves. It helps protect your cells from damage caused by out-of-hand free radicals reacting with other molecules in your body.
All that, plus green tea tastes pretty darn good, too. (That could also explain why worldwide green tea production is expected to hit nearly 3 million tons by 2023.)
Is your stomach feeling a bit topsy-turvy, like you just wobbled off a swooping and looping rollercoaster? The solution is a tea made from ginger, a time-tested spice that has been calming bellies since ancient times.
Ginger also offers proven digestive benefits by helping your body move food from your stomach to continue its digestive tract journey. Speeding up that process works to calm indigestion and ease stomach distress.
“Ginger relaxes things in your gut, which can make you a lot more comfortable if you’re having tummy trouble,” Czerwony said.
If ginger isn’t to your liking, peppermint tea also can serve as an aid against indigestion. Peppermint, however, is best for issues lower in your gut. It can actually aggravate higher-up issues such as acid reflux.
If you’re worried about your lungs, here’s how to breathe easier: Drink herbal tea.
Anti-inflammatory powers in herbal teas can help loosen airways tightened by conditions such as asthma, says Czerwony. She recommends herbal teas featuring turmeric, cinnamon or ginger as a way to keep the air flowing.
As an added benefit, drinking a hot cup of herbal tea can also help clear congestion by loosening mucus. “It’ll clean out the gunk,” says Czerwony.
Menthol packs quite the punch when it comes to fighting a cold — and peppermint tea is packed with menthol. “It really kicks up your immune system,” says Czerwony.
Peppermint tea works well to relax sore throat muscles, relieve nasal congestion and even reduce a fever. It’s also loaded with antibacterial and antiviral properties to give you a healthy boost.
Other teas to try when you’re not feeling 100% include:
If you’re looking to catch some ZZZs, brew a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime.
The reason? The daisy-like chamomile plant contains apigenin, an antioxidant compound and snooze inducer. Apigenin attaches itself to receptors in your brain and works to reduce anxiety, building a peaceful calm that leads to drowsiness.
“Chamomile basically acts as a mild tranquilizer,” says Czerwony. “Those sips really will help you sleep.”
Valerian root tea also is a good option if you’re tired of counting sheep to get some shut-eye.
Black tea offers many of the same benefits as green tea, which makes sense when you consider they’re made from the same plant leaves.
So why are they different? Leaves used to make black tea are allowed to age and oxidize, turning them brown or black. Green tea leaves are processed earlier when they’re still green. Hence, the name.
Black tea generally has more caffeine than green tea, too — a key selection factor if you’re concerned about limiting your caffeine intake, notes Czerwony.
So what tea should you choose for best results? Sorry… there’s no single answer for that question. “There are so many teas out there,” says Czerwony. “Try different varieties and see what works best for you.”