What are the Benefits of Herbal Teas?

With such alluring packaging and exotic names, today’s botanical teas are a luxurious and indulgent sip moment. But they are more than that – many herbal teas will give you added health benefits. Some herbals have strong flavors, such as clove and peppermint, while others are milder, such as chamomile.


Overall, one review of herbal tea consumption by types of herbs was pretty favorable. Out of a global search, the authors found 21 viable human studies, which spanned the use of herbal teas in blood sugar, weight loss, women’s health, and cardiovascular health. The authors discussed how the herbal teas were found to be beneficial in some areas of clinical and preventative health. But as always, more studies would be welcome.


The herbs in many popular herbal teas have research to support its use. 


Peppermint:  This distinctive herb in the Mentha species is noted for its content of menthol, a naturally occurring cyclic monoterpene alcohol known and used for its analgesic and inflammation-management properties. Peppermint is popular for resolving colon discomfort and irregularity. 


One meta-analysis concluded that “peppermint oil is a safe and effective short-term” tool for lessening IBS symptoms. Animal studies showed a relaxation effect in the gastrointestinal tract from peppermint oil, suggesting a strong potential mechanism of action.  And a review of peppermint tea noted that in human studies, peppermint reduced abdominal discomfort and dyspepsia. 


Echinacea: Echinacea has long been a go-to herb for winter wellness challenges. According to one review, “Several dozen human experiments--including a number of blind randomized trials--have reported health benefits. The most robust data come from trials testing E. purpurea extracts” for upper respiratory support.


Ginger:  For many people, when their stomachs are unsettled and they feel nauseous, they turn to ginger, as it has a longstanding reputation and solid science to show it does calm the upper digestive region. Ginger, according to one review, “is of immense value in treating various gastric ailments like constipation, dyspepsia, belching, bloating, gastritis, epigastric discomfort, gastric ulcerations, indigestion, nausea and vomiting.  Ginger is also shown to be effective in (protecting against development of) gastric ulcers induced by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”


Ginger tea can also be effective during PSM to help relieve cramping. One study of 122 female students compared the effects if the prescription mefenamic and ginger and found that they performed equally in management of PMS.


Chamomile: When people want to relax, take the edge off, they turn to chamomile tea. It’s the number-one calming tea. One study evaluated the effects of chamomile tea on mood, fatigue, and sleep quality in 80 postnatal women for two weeks; 40 drank the tea and received postnatal care, while a group of 40 women received the postnatal care only. The chamomile tea group had significantly lower scores of physical symptoms of sleep inefficiency, and improved mood. 


And, similar to ginger, chamomile also was challenged against mefenamic acid for PSM symptoms – but in one study, it came out the winner. This study of 90 female students showed that those who consumed chamomile had significantly reduced emotional symptoms than those in the drug group. The authors concluded, “Consumption of Chamomile seems to be more effective than MA in relieving the intensity of PMS associated symptomatic psychological pains.”


One review noted several vitro studies showing that “Chamomile has moderate antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, and significant antiplatelet activity.”


Rosehips:  Rosehips (the fruit of the rose plant) contain abundant amounts of vitamin C as well as fatty acids, and also “have a tangy, fruity flavor.” Rose hips help fight inflammation especially in large joints. One meta-analysis involving a total of 287 participants found that those who consumed rosehips had shown consistently reduced pain scores compared to those taking placebo.


Rosehips are also beneficial in helping weight loss. One 12-week placebo-controlled study of 32 overweight individuals found that those who consumed 100 mg rosehip extract once daily had higher decrease in abdominal total fat area, body weight and BMI than those taking placebo. 


Passionflower:  Its name is evocative and its ability to relax is well known. One study comparing passionflower tea with placebo tea on 41 participants (aged 18 to 35) showed that sleep quality was significantly improved in the passionflower tea group.


For those anxious times, passionflower tea may be much more preferable than a sedative. One double-blind randomized study compared the efficacy of passionflower with oxazepam (a prescription anti-anxiolytic) for four weeks in individuals with mild anxiety in 36 participants. Passionflower was found to help reduce generalized anxiety but did not incur any sedative side effects.


Lemon Balm: Also known as melissa, lemon balm is shown to be cardioprotective. In one study, 28 participants consumed either lemon balm tea or a placebo tea. Researchers looked at glycation end products such as pentosidine (which is involved in the stiffening of tissues) to see if lemon balm could have elasticizing properties. They found that lemon balm had potent inhibitory activity for pentosidine formation. One review found that the herb’s key active component, rosmarinic acid, is likely responsible for several cardiovascular supporting effects such as amelioration of oxidative stress and inflammation control.


What are Tisanes?

You may hear from purists that an herbal tea is a tisane. Tisanes are not technically teas as they lack the key constituent – Camellia sinensis, or, simply, tea leaves. According to one source, tisanes are categorized by the plant part from which they are made – leaf, flower, bark, root, fruit/berry and seed/spice.


Tea Shopping Notes

You can shop for your teas by the wellness goal you want to achieve, from immune-restoring, to anti-stress, to sleep, to energy, to PMS support. You can explore what’s on your local market shelves, but of course, the internet is a bazaar of tea recommendations, such as here, here, and here.  


If you are more into loose-leaf teas, there are tips to store them properly. According to tea experts at www.letsdrinktea.com, loose leaf tea can retain its flavor and potency for up to six months if it’s stored mindfully. For example, keep it cool, under 68 degrees F, as heat accelerates oxygenation. Ensure the container is airtight, keeping that oxygen out and do not store it in clear glass as light can degrade it. Moisture is also an enemy, another reason to ensure airtight containers. Learn all about loose leaf tea here.


Conclusion

Whether it’s a tisane or a tea, herbs steeped in hot water can be soothing, and the simple act of sipping can help provide relaxation, whether in solitude or with someone special.

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