Many of you know how passionate I am about Herbal Medicine. It is something I was instantly attracted to about Chinese Medicine from the very beginning and Herbal Medicine is what inspires me to practice every day! But we should not forget that Herbs are Medicine too; they can be very powerful and should not be overused. That is why I turn to tea. Tea can be applied to our daily lives whether we need a little corrective care, as a health preservation routine or just for pleasure. I always advise my patients to avoid empty calories, chemicals and toxins in their diets, particularly in liquid form. For example, when you drink a sugary beverage with a bunch of food coloring you do not feel full and therefore the satisfaction span is very short. Instead, you just insulted your entire body with toxins that have 0 nutrients. Even plain coffee should be drunk in moderation as it can be dehydrating and burdening to the kidneys.Tea is a great alternative to quench thirst, entertain taste buds and get you healthier at the same time.
Now let’s talk about the benefits of tea! Any tea, whether black, pu-erh, green, oolong or white comes from the same plant – Camellia Sinensis. The variety of teas is created by different processing methods that involve oxidation, fermentation, frying, steaming, etc. The flavor of teas is also affected by the terroir – the environment in which the tea tree grows (i.e. elevation, humidity, temperatures, soil.) Therefore, depending on the factors mentioned above the nutritional compositions will vary as well. Most of the health benefits from teas come from its antioxidants, caffeine and amino-acids.
5 health benefits of tea:
Any article you come across on teas will have a long list of health benefits, but the reality is most of those benefits come from their high content of antioxidants. However, do not get confused, there are different types of polyphenols (anti-oxidants) in different teas and the concentration varies greatly as well. For example, when you drink matcha tea you ingest the entire tealeaf that is ground into powder; therefore matcha has the highest content of antioxidants of all teas. It has 10x the antioxidants of goji berries. White tea has also one of the highest numbers of antioxidants. It is referred to as “raw” tea for being minimally processed. Black teas are more oxidized and therefore have slightly less antioxidants; nevertheless they are just as healthy for you as green teas despite the common misconception. Green teas are famous for their EGCG antioxidants while black teas are rich in theaflavins and thearubigins. Depending on the type of antioxidant, the health benefit or the organs affected will be different, therefore it is recommended to rotate your teas not just for flavor but to maximize their benefits.
Oxidation is what happens to an apple when you take a bite and that part turns brown after a period of time. It is a chemical reaction between tissue and an oxygen molecule that in turn creates free radicals. Free radicals then initiate the dying process of any tissue. Antioxidants are substances that help prevent production of free radicals and tissue aging.
Caffeine is a by-product of tea metabolites. Its bitter nature works as a pesticide to warn off bugs. Being a stimulant to the central nervous system caffeine gives us energy and is believed to prevent Alzheimer’s. There is actually more caffeine in tea than in coffee per weight of dry raw material. However, since less tea is used per cup, even at the strongest concentrations a cup of tea has half the caffeine content of a cup of coffee. Caffeine amount also depends on the strength and the time of infusion of tea. Another interesting fact is that the energy you get from drinking tea is different from the one from coffee because the caffeine in tea is combined with amino acid l-theanine that helps promote a sense of relaxation and improves focus.
L-theanine is an amino-acid almost exclusively found in tea. It has an impact on an alpha brain rhythm that promotes focus and alertness along with a calming effect. L-theanine and caffeine have a synergistic effect and enhance each other’s properties. The effect from both typically lasts around 3-4 hours.
One of the side effects of caffeine is dehydrating properties. According to Chinese medicine coffee in general and caffeine in particular depletes kidney Yin and kidney essence. This is mainly due to the diuretic effect of caffeine. Nevertheless, the ratio between caffeine concentration and water content in tea makes it a hydrating beverage. Tea is a low-caffeine drink and therefore you retain a lot more fluids when you drink tea than you lose by urinating.
5. Meditation and focus
Last but not least, for me the biggest health benefit in drinking tea lies not in its nutritional value but in the process itself. It has a very calming and grounding effect on me. It is a tangible form of meditation that allows for “me time” to gather my thoughts and focus on the task that I am working on. Tea also makes me feel very appreciative of things that surround me. I remember one of my professors in the University of Chinese Medicine was discussing the problem of overabundance of things in our lives and how when you live a simple lifestyle you start noticing nuances. It is just like when you are used to drinking pure water and one day a tealeaf falls in your cup; you appreciate a touch of flavor that’s being created. I liked that analogy. I believe bold flavors of “Frappuccinos” can clog our senses and stagnate energy when all we need is a drop of flavor in our life to help distress, center and focus, leaving room for creativity.
Fortunately at Mulberry Leaf Acupuncture & Herbs, we carry only the finest organic hand picked artisan teas. It is the highest 2% of all the tea on the market. If you happen to have any tea related questions or would like to purchase one of our extensive selection of teas, we are always happy to chat, as our passion for botanicals is a never-ending journey.