Drink tea for better health

Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung was resting under a wild tea tree when a few tea leaves fell into his cup of boiling water, imbuing it with a delightful scent and flavour. The art of tea drinking also caught on in Japan, where green tea is considered an essential part of everyday life. 

All varieties of black and green teas come from the plant Camellia sinensis. The difference between black and green tea is simply that black tea is produced from fermented leaves, whereas green tea retains its colour from unfermented leaves. Green tea contains a very high concentration of powerful anti-oxidants called polyphenols. It has been extensively studied and reportedly lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar control, boosts metabolism and burns fat. The predominant amino acid in green tea leaves, L-theanine, when consumed regularly, helps to promote a state of relaxation and mental alertness. There is continuing interest in the potential health benefits of green tea for serious conditions including dementia, cancer, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease. 

Tea arrived in Britain just after the Middle Ages, and by the mid-18th century had become its most popular beverage – replacing ale for breakfast and gin at other times. However, a cup of tea infused for five minutes contains around 40mg of caffeine (half the amount found in a cup of coffee). Although caffeine does offer some health benefits, it is a mildly addictive stimulant which acts on the central nervous system affecting heart, muscles and digestive juices. This can promote restlessness or anxiety in some people and stress the adrenal glands. Another downside is that drinking tea with a meal reduces the absorption of iron and zinc by up to 50%. This might pose a risk if already low in these minerals. 

Rooibos (Redbush) tea is an excellent caffeine- free alternative and has a pleasantly aromatic, nutty flavour. The rooibos plant can only be cultivated naturally on the arid slopes of the Cedarberg mountain range in South Africa. It is particularly rich in flavonoids and minerals, and advocates claim it has anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. 

Herbal teas were possibly the first medicines ever invented and are still popular because they are effective and easy to use. Chamomile is one of my favourites. When Culpeper’s famous ‘Complete Herbal’ was published in 1653, he stated that ‘A decoction made of camomile taketh away all pains and stiches in the side... the bathing with a decoction of camomile taketh away weariness’.

Traditionally, chamomile tea has been used to relieve indigestion and can be used to stimulate the appetite when taken before mealtimes, especially in the aged. Diluted, it is said to ease wind and colic in infants. Chamomile also acts as a gentle sedative to soothe frazzled nerves and, at bedtime, may help those suffering with insomnia. 

Tip: Chamomile tea, when brewed strongly, can be used as a compress for treating skin conditions and to relieve itching. Reduce under-eye puffiness by soaking two chamomile tea bags in cool water and placing them over each eye. 

Are you a tea connoisseur? Share your favourite ways to indulge here…

For more inspiration about staying in fantastic health read this article.

For a great healthy read, see the book: 49 Ways to Eat Yourself Well, available here - $19.99. It is packed full of motivational and practical ideas, the book offers handy tips on how to incorporate the 49 foods into your diet, as well as easy, tasty recipes so that you can put what you’ve learned into practice the same day!