Time to Spill the Tea – Medicinal Benefits of Tea
Every culture around the world has their own local tea. Something they have daily or that their region is known for.
In Japan, it’s green tea, matcha (concentrated form of green tea) and genmaicha (roasted rice tea), just to name a few. It is used in all forms for skin care and anti-aging due to it’s high antioxidant compacity. It helps burn fat throughout the day and improves metabolism, digestion and cognitive function.
In the UK, it’s black tea, which is also high in antioxidants, great for overall health, lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It can help improve GI/gut health and it’s a great energy boost due to its higher caffeine content.
In Peru, it’s coca tea, which is made from the leaves of the cocaine plant. Here, it is used to treat altitude sickness and has been used historically to suppress appetite and increase strength and stamina during famine, to treat asthma and during long treks/hikes or voyages.
In China, you will find a variety of teas and this is where so much of the world learned about tea and all of its uses. They’ve been utilizing teas/herbs for thousands of years and it’s where most of today’s plants for tea are still grown. Some of the more popular ones are:
White tea– great for disease prevention and cardiovascular disorders (especially by lowering LDL. It is typically less processed than other teas.
Green (many different types), oolong, black, and yellow tea.
Thailand has a butterfly pea tea, that locals use specifically for its anti-aging properties. This beautiful blue beverage helps improve circulation, which in turn improves hair growth and skin, it’s an aphrodisiac as well as a diuretic and nootropic.
Moving India and the Middle East, you’ll start to find their teas and beverages tend to have more than one component. For instance, Indian chai tea is typically composed of black tea, cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and sometime turmeric and black pepper. These ingredients, especially when combined, are stimulating for the body and digestive system, helping regulate blood sugar levels and cardiac health. This makes it a great tea to have during or after a meal. Adding a little raw honey (once it has cooled so you don’t burn the natural enzymes and change its molecular structure) can make it a sweet treat and further add to it’s medicinal value.
Egypt is known for their mint tea, which usually is accompanied by citrus, usually lemon, and honey. Mint is a soothing herb that helps aid digestion and calm the GI tract. It’s also used to suppress sweet cravings, treat nausea and help with focus and memory.
In Iraq, you might find locals drinking chamomile with dried lime or lemon or fresh cardamom tea. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and calming, while fresh cardamom is high in anti-oxidants and helps protect the body from cancer, ulcers and hypertension.
The list goes on and on and there is no shortage of tea combinations that can be made from different herbs and plants. However, one topic I wanted to discuss is utilizing tea for different GI ailments, particularly SIBO and IBS/IBD because this is where tea gets tricky.
While almost all teas have some sort of incredible health benefits (when properly sourced and prepared and without adding refined sugar and conventional dairy), some can be triggering for those with sensitive guts. A single cup of tea or even just a couple of sips can trigger a GI flare-up resulting in distension, bloating, cramping, constipation, etc.
So what is it about tea that’s so harmful for those with a compromised gut?
The answer here varies from person to person. I’m sure you wanted a specific answer, but our guts are never that simple. It’s like probiotics, some are helpful and some are more harmful for GI health, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.
Apart from the type of tea, the time you drink it is important to. For instance, lets say one of your SIBO triggers is stress. Then drinking a cup of black or green tea first thing in the morning on an empty stomach when your cortisol levels are highest might not be such a good idea. Teas higher in caffeine tend to be triggering for some people. Floral and mixed herbal teas can also cause bloating and elicit a painful response.
Generally speaking, it’s better to stick to a single tea at a time. As delicious as Yogi Tea is, their tea tends to have many different herbs in one, which can be overwhelming for the gut to process. Many store-bought teas also tend to have artificial or “natural” flavorings added, further contributing to GI symptoms.
So what tea should I drink?
There are no “bad” teas, but some could contribute to bacterial growth depending on the type and ingredients. Try to source pure, organically growth teas without artificial flavors, even “natural” flavors, or added sweeteners. Feel free to get creative and make your own using ground powders, such as ashwaganda, maca, kava, etc.
Is there a certain way I should prepare it?
Despite popular practice, it’s actually not very beneficial to use boiling water when preparing most teas. Boiling water can kill the natural enzymes, burn the leaves or alter/destroy the flavor. Bringing water to a boil and letting it cool for a minute or two is usually a safer option. You don’t want the water too cool or it might not activate all of the properties of the tea/plant leaves.
If you’re going to add anything else like lemon or honey, wait until the tea has cooled a little more. These are even more sensitive to heat than the tea leaves and you want to make sure you benefit from all of the nutritional value of your add-ins! You can even “bullet-proof” it with a little ghee or coconut oil or turn it into a latte with some creamy coconut milk or alternative, warmed milk, which also might improve the absorption of the herb by acting as a fat carrier.