Herbal teas have long been associated with good health. Drinking such teas offers curative and preventive properties, with the practice now common worldwide after being limited initially to the orient. Herb-based teas are now being recommended by medical practitioners as an integral part of a daily health regimen. Another indication of how popular the beverage has become is that it is currently the second most-consumed drink in the world after water.
1. Camellia Sinensis
An evergreen that works as the basic source, producing green, black and oolong teas depending on the processing approach. Oolong teas are semi-fermented, while the popular black tea uses fermented leaves and the green tea uses unfermented leaves. Teas made from the plant contain polyphenols – a bioflavonoid type that have anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties.
The main positive association linking health and teas is that infusions from the herbal drink offer high antioxidant content – the key factor in eliminating or preventing toxins from building up in the body. This detoxifying effect is needed, as toxins cause physical or mental diseases. Toxin accumulation can damage human cells and lead to cancers, and induce various forms of stress as the body is weakened. Tea has also been found to lower the incidence of stroke and heart disease, and surpasses many fruits and vegetables in terms of the antioxidant effect. In addition, the antioxidants in herbal tea work on particular body parts. This focused cleansing effect is not achieved through other methods – some need a specific and additional action to flush out body toxins.
3. It Works!
Thus, the health effect is based on science and not on any mysterious or magical theory. This scientific basis has also spurred research laboratories to pursue efforts in discovering a herbal remedy for life-threatening conditions and diseases. Despite this optimism, consumers must note that herbal teas remain primarily a supporting solution to traditional drugs and treatment for various ailments. Since the benefits cover all age brackets, a good number of herbal teas have become established for both common conditions and serious or chronic cases. The common cold or a congested chest can be treated with cinnamon, rosehip or hyssop-based blends. Stomach ailments can be relieved using ginger, cardamom and chamomile. Damiana, licorice, and motherwort have been effective for menstrual-related problems in women, while rice and raspberry are diarrhea solutions.
4. Health Benefits
Burdock, hawthorn, and nettle are used for blood- and blood pressure-related cases. Herbals such as valerian and St John’s Wort help relieve individuals suffering from stress or some other mental or emotional problem. Yarrow and lemon balm help strengthen the digestive system. An individual with altitude sickness will feel better after a blend with mate de coca. Okinawa natives believe that longevity is improved by drinking hibiscus, which is often mixed with rosehip. It should be noted that herbal teas actually use ingredients such as seeds or roots, fresh or dried flowers and leaves. These plant parts are either placed in boiling water, or allowed to steep after the water is poured over them. The tea can then be served after remnants are strained and the flavor is adjusted to taste.
Despite these extensive health benefits from consumption, care should still be taken before any individual drinks herbal tea, which is also referred to as herbal infusion, ptisan or tisane. The basic tea combination involves dried herb, flower or fruit and boiling water. Of these ingredients, consumers must remember that not all herbs can be used to make tea. This means finding out to ensure that the herb to be mixed into the drink is safe for consumption.
5. Take Caution
This cautious stance is one supported by the US Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition toxicologist Sara Henry noted that the impact of different concentrations of the drink in consumers could not be accurately predicted. The agency has given its approval only for a few herbs and spices as part of flavorings due to limited data on other herbs. Natural products chemist Sam Page adds that a high number of toxicity cases reported to the FDA unit involved individuals who brewed home-grown herbs and had limited experience and knowledge on the subject. In addition, research indicates that the anti-oxidant and other health benefits from drinking tea can be achieved only if an individual consumes several cups on a daily basis – a practice that ironically may actually be detrimental to health due to the beverage’s caffeine content.
By: John Morris
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