The benefits of drinking tea
After a stressful day, drinking a cup of tea to help you unwind may be just what the doctor ordered. But herbal teas can do more than just help you relax. Whether you're looking for a way to clear up your skin or trying to ease the discomfort of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
, stocking your own herbal tea chest can provide you with the right remedy at the right time. back to top
Why herbal teas?
Herbs in tea form—most of which are naturally caffeine-free—have been used for centuries to help manage and cure a variety of ailments. Herbal experts agree that drinking tea is one of the safest and easiest ways to enjoy the health benefits of herbs. Even so, try any new herbal tea slowly and with caution: if you notice any unusual symptoms after drinking an herbal tea—such as stomach upset, rash, itching, headache, scratchy throat, runny nose, or sneezing—stop drinking it. Make a mental note of what kind of herb tea caused your reaction—or write it down—so you'll be sure not to use it again. back to top
How to brew a cup of tea
To enjoy a cup of tea, the general rule of thumb is to combine one teaspoon of the herb with one cup boiling water, and let steep for 10 minutes. This is called an "infusion." When using loose tea, you can put the herb into a metal tea diffuser or spoon it directly into your cup and strain the tea after it has steeped. If using premade teabags, pour one cup of boiling water over a teabag and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink two to three cups daily to relieve symptoms.
Below are some conditions for which herbal tea may be helpful, along with a list of herbs to keep on hand. All these teas are available in health-food stores, and several can be found in supermarkets as well. back to top
Teas that improve skin health
Teas that improve overall health
- Burdock root. Some people use this herb to treat skin disorders from psoriasis to dandruff. Others try it to help improve acne and skin blemishes. Don't expect overnight results, though. It may take six to eight weeks before you notice any effect. If you are allergic to ragweed, you should avoid burdock because it is from the same plant family.
- Dandelion. One of the world's most widely used herbs, dandelion has long been used as a treatment for acne. By improving your liver function, dandelion helps eliminate toxins from your body, which in turn may help improve skin. Allergy alert: Dandelion allergy is rare, but it can cause allergy symptoms in people who are sensitive to plants in the aster family. If you have plant allergies, especially to ragweed, talk with your health care provider before drinking dandelion tea. back to top
Teas that help regulate periods and relieve cramps
- Green tea. This tea has been used as a drink and an herbal medicine for thousands of years in Asia. It has been shown to be 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than vitamin E at protecting your cells from damage linked to cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Recent studies show that green tea may also help people burn fat.
If you normally drink coffee, latte, or cappuccino, switching to green tea can also help you reduce your intake of daily caffeine, while still offering a mild energy boost. A cup of green tea has less than 25 percent of the caffeine contained in a cup of coffee. back to top
Teas that help you relax
- Chasteberry. If you have irregular periods, this tea may help you get your cycle back on track. Women have used the small fruits of this Mediterranean tree for hundreds of years to help regulate their periods and treat other hormonal disorders. Chasteberry may also help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including sensitive breasts and period cramps. Chasteberry may affect the hormones in your body, so it's a good idea to talk with your health care provider before you start using it for a long period of time.
It's worth noting that you have to use chasteberry regularly for a long time before you see a hormonal effect—some experts think as long as a year. It may also cause stomach upset, itching, rash, and headache, although these effects are rare. If you have these symptoms when you drink chasteberry tea, stop taking it.
- Raspberry leaf. This herbal remedy is a popular choice for many women during their periods because it is said to regulate blood flow and reduce the pain of period cramps. back to top
- Chamomile. Used as a soothing aid for anxiety and stress, this gentle herb relaxes muscle tissues, eases digestion, and can help relieve period cramps. It also contains high amounts of calcium and magnesium as well as iron and zinc, making it one of the most popular herbal teas. If you are allergic to ragweed, chamomile tea may cause you to have an allergic reaction because it is from the same plant family.
- Peppermint. This refreshing tea has a calming effect on your body, especially on the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. If you are under 10, talk with a parent or a health care provider before drinking peppermint tea because in rare cases this herb has caused choking in children.
Be sure to tell your doctor or health professional if you are taking any herb or supplement. back to top