Herbal Teas - A Healthier Alternative

I made the switch from coffee to tea almost 2 years ago, but I always preferred tea to coffee. I believe that herbal teas do have powerful healing factors to help us stay healthy.  

Herbal teas are specially blended teas that have medicinal properties to maintain health and help prevent illness. In addition, herbal teas are caffeine free. I read several journal articles and studies that support research that the flavonoids are the key health-promoting ingredient in tea. These polyphenol antioxidants are present in many foods and plants, including tealeaves, and have been found to help prevent cell damage. Recent research suggests that teas may protect against heart disease and many types of cancer.

I have three favorite herbal teas that I want to share with you today.

Green Tea

2013-08-05_greentea _100Green tea's antioxidants, called catechins, scavenge for free radicals that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer, blood clots, and atherosclerosis. There is a lot of research about green tea, mostly more lab studies and epidemiological studies. The tea is "green" because of its minimal processing--its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented like black and oolong teas--and its unique catechins, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), are more concentrated. I personally drink green tea at least 3-4x a week.

Black Tea

2013-08-05_blackteaBlack tea is a product made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The aged leaves and stems are used to make medicine. Green tea, which is made from fresh leaves of the same plant, has some different properties. According to my research, black tea is used for improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills. I came across some interesting studies that say black tea has been used to help treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and it also contains antioxidants and other substances that might help protect the heart and blood vessels. I usually drink black tea 1-2x a week.

White Tea

2013-08-05_whiteteaLike black and green tea, white tea is also derived from Camellia Sinensis. Thus, white tea shares many of the same chemical properties and health effects of tea. However, white tea contains the most antioxidants. The catechins, a group of polyphenol antioxidants found in white tea, have been found to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and improve the function of blood vessels, thereby decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. I also read a study that mentioned that white tea has been shown to help antibacterial and antiviral action, but also help with anti-inflammatory properties to help potentially reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. I drink white tea 2x a week as well.

Overall, I enjoy all the three teas. I also drink chamomile and ginger teas. Instead of Starbucks, there are some great alternative teashops like Bello Teas in Downers Grove and Adagio Teas in Naperville. I highly recommend them both.

Brewing Tips: Tap water affects the taste of tea. It is best to use fresh filtered water. To extract the most beneficial compounds from the tealeaves or bags, let them steep for three to five minutes. It is best to drink tea unsweetened and without milk, which can minimize some of the health benefits. Forgo the sugar and try instead honey, stevia products, or a stick of cinnamon.

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