Who doesn’t enjoy a comforting cuppa every now and again? Whether you’re sipping a dried herbal tea, brewing fresh leaves, or trying one of the many healthy tea options from your local health store, there’s nothing quite like a fresh pot to soothe the soul.
Traditional teas – which include green tea , black tea, white tea, and oolong tea – are all brewed from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and vary only in terms of the way they are processed.
Herbal tea, meanwhile, is made from various fruits, flowers, spices and herbs, or a combination of them, so they’re incredibly diverse in flavour. Even though herbal tea has been used as a natural medicine for centuries, the health properties of these teas are only just being established in scientific literature. 18 healthy herbal teas
We asked Dr Tim Bond of the Tea Advisory Panel to talk us through the emerging evidence-backed benefits of a variety of healthy teas. 1. Hibiscus tea
There are several hundred species of hibiscus that vary according to location and climate, but Hibiscus sabdariffa is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea. Known for its tart flavour, hibiscus tea – made from the deep red flower of this tropical plant – is rich in powerful antioxidants and has been shown to be beneficial for heart health.
‘A systematic review of nine randomised controlled trials (RTCs) and six laboratory studies found that hibiscus tea can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health and wellness, particularly blood pressure,’ says Bond. ‘Emerging research also reveals potential benefits in terms of its ability to favourably impact lipid profiles, inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance.’ 2. Echinacea tea
Echinacea – also called coneflower – refers to a group of flowering plants that form part of the daisy family. Packed with beneficial plant compounds, it’s been linked to health benefits that range from fighting inflammation to reducing blood sugar levels. Echinacea tea, which is made from both the upper parts and roots of the plant, is frequently used as a cold and flu remedy.
‘Echinacea is high in antioxidants,’ says Bond. ‘Some research suggests that echinacea may help stimulate immune activity to shorten bacterial infections and viruses. A study in 95 people found that five to six cups of echinacea tea daily at early onset of cold and flu symptoms was effective for reducing symptoms compared with placebo.’ 3. Sage tea
Delicate, sweet and earthy, sage tea is made from the leaves of the common sage plant, a perennial evergreen shrub that forms part of the mint family. This aromatic herb is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, says Bond, including rosmarinic acid and carnosol.
‘Sage tea may help to boost heart health,’ he continues. ‘A small, four-week study in six women, drinking 10 x 300ml mugs of sage tea twice daily resulted in 16 per cent lower total cholesterol, 20 percent lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol , and 38 per cent higher ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.’
Sage tea may also be beneficial for people with diabetes and women experiencing menopause. ‘A two-month study in 105 adults with type 2 diabetes found that sage extract three times daily improved blood sugar and HBA1c – a measure of blood glucose control over the previous three months,’ says Bond. ‘A 2017 review suggested that sage might reduce menopausal symptoms of hot flushes.’ 4. Lemon balm tea
Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb from the mint family. It’s best known for its stress-soothing properties. ‘Lemon balm tea may help you to relax and unwind,’ says Bond. ‘One small pilot human study showed a 42 per cent reduction in insomnia symptoms after participants received 600 mg of lemon balm extract per day for 15 days.
Lemon balm has been shown to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain – an inhibitory neurotransmitter known for reducing overwhelming feelings of anxiety – in laboratory studies , ‘which may explain its sedative effects,’ Bond says. Like sage, lemon balm may also reduce menopausal symptoms of hot flushes. 5. Rose hip tea
Rose hips are small, round ‘fruits’ found just below rose petals. While there are hundreds of species of rose plants, rose hip research has focused mainly on the Rosa canina variety. Rose hip is rich in plant polyphenol antioxidants, and contains antioxidant vitamins C and E, says Bond.
‘Rose hips have the highest vitamin C amongst fruit and vegetables, although amounts vary,’ he says. ‘Vitamin C is an immune function nutrient. There is evidence from laboratory studies that rose hip can benefit immune function parameters though research in humans is so far lacking.’ 6. Passionflower tea
There are about 500 known species of passionflower, known collectively as Passiflora. A natural sleep aid, passionflower – specifically Passiflora incarnata – has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and insomnia by boosting GABA levels in the brain.
‘Traditionally, passionflower has been used to help relieve anxiety and improve sleep ,’ says Bond. ‘One study in 40 healthy adults found that those who drank passionflower tea daily for one week reported significantly better sleep quality compared to participants who did not drink the tea.’ 7. Chamomile tea
An herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family, Chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild sedative, and is often consumed as tea before bed to promote sleep . The plant’s calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea, says Bond – apigenin binds to specific receptors in the brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.
‘A study of 60 nursing home residents found that those who received 400mg of chamomile extract daily had significantly better sleep quality than those who did not receive any,’ he says. ‘Another study involving women who had given birth to a baby and who had poor sleep quality found that those who drank chamomile tea for a two-week period reported overall better sleep quality than those who did not drink chamomile tea.’ 8. Rooibos tea
Also known as red tea […]