12 Teas to Brew Up Better
Health By Joe Wilkes
Herbal teas have
been used for centuries in almost every culture in the world, both as a social
beverage and as a medicinal treatment. We don't recommend tea as a substitute
for prescribed medication or the advice of a doctor, but some teas have been
anecdotally, and in some cases, scientifically proven to have some excellent
health benefits. And with zero calories, and in most cases, zero side effects,
it might be worth checking out some of these herbal wonders. Again, though,
some teas have scientific evidence to support their claims, and some have only
old wives' tales. You should consult with your doctor or a medical professional
before treating any illness or symptom with anything, including tea.
- Chamomile. Its Greek
root and Spanish name, manzanilla, both mean "little apple." And a cup
or two of chamomile a day might keep the doctor away as well. Regarded as
cure-all for centuries, chamomile has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and
antispasmodic properties, and is also a mild sedative. Herbalists recommend it
for treating symptoms of everything from colds, cramps, and digestive, liver,
and gallbladder problems to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
A tasty vegetable in salads and sautés, fennel also
makes a great tea for an upset stomach. It helps protect the liver from toxins
and also helps reduce discomfort from cramps, bloating, and irritable bowel
syndrome. It can also provide upper respiratory relief for bronchitis and
asthma. And, it is gentle enough to be given in small amounts to colicky
infants (although, as always, consult your doctor first).
- Ginger. How many
times have you been shopping with your spouse and one of you has athlete's
foot, the other one has menstrual cramps, and there's only room in the cart for
one more item? Don't call the divorce lawyerget ginger tea! It is
effective for both of those maladies (although you have to soak your athlete's
feet in it for its antifungal properties) and it also can alleviate symptoms of
nausea, morning and motion sickness, headaches, and inflammation from
Ginkgo biloba has been famously associated with increasing
blood flow to the brain, helping memory. It also increases blood flow to other
parts of the body, which can give both partners a little boost in the bedroom.
- Hawthorn. Not only a
beautiful plant to look at, it can also be good for your heart. Hawthorn has
been used for years in Germany to regulate blood pressure, aid in recovery from
heart attacks, and as a treatment from everything from anxiety to hemorrhoids.
- Hibiscus. The herb
that gives Celestial Seasonings' Zinger teas their zing. This tart herb is rich
in vitamin C and is thought to help lower blood pressure and
It freshens your breath, and it can also freshen your
gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint can be used to ease symptoms related to
irritable bowel syndrome, may help dissolve gallstones, and help with
congestion, allergies, and stress.
- Rosehip. Another
tangy tea like hibiscus, and like hibiscus, it's high in vitamin C. It also is
believed to help bladder ailments and may have anti-diarrheal properties.
- Senna. This is the
active ingredient in many over-the-counter drugs used to aid constipation. It
stimulates the colon and as a tea has a gentle laxative effect.
- Slippery Elm. The
thick mucilage from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree has been used by
Native Americans for centuries to help soothe the digestive tract. Opera
singers have also found its coating properties useful in alleviating sore
- St. John's Wort.
In Germany, this herb is prescribed 20 times as often as
Prozac to aid mild depression, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. Its effectiveness
is debated among medical circles, but some people swear by it, and it appears
to have few, if any, side effects.
- Valerian. Referred
to by some as herbal Valium, valerian tea can be drunk to aid insomnia,
nervousness, menopausal symptoms, and menstrual discomfort. A word of warning,
though. Some drinkers say that too much valerian tea can actually make you
more nervous, so use sparingly until you know how it affects