The health benefits of tea (Camellia Sinensis) are touted everywhere you look. But what about those other brews made of various herbs and other plant parts that some people call “teas” (and that those of us who know better call “herbal infusions” or just “herbals”)?
These herbals through the centuries have been used to address a host of ills, in the absence of well-researched, man-made medicines. They are still very useful even with a drugstore full of products. Personally, I’d rather have a cup of chamomile to help me sleep instead of popping a pill. Chamomile also aids digestion and can be a soothing cupful if you are pregnant and avoiding caffeine.
Chamomile is just one of many herbals that are popular and healthful. Rooibos (red bush) has become increasingly well known among people who want a caffeine-free and beneficial beverage. The list doesn’t stop there, and as more research is done to confirm age-old folklore, more herbals get added every day.
Some of the more well-known herbals and health benefits they are supposed to have:
- a natural sedative (if you have trouble sleeping)
- anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic (to ease your cramps)
- calming and often used to relieve anxiety
- rich in essential oils and helps your digestive system function better
- all the beneficial antioxidant properties of green tea
- relaxing, warming, and soothing to your digestion
- according to recent studies, may also help lower cholesterol and increase longevity
- powerful medicinal properties and a breath freshener
- helps soothe stomach upset (neutralizes acids and aids digestion) and respiratory problems
- relieves motion sickness, dizziness, flatulence, and muscle pain
- from the South African highlands
- contains antioxidants, including some not found in any other plants
- contains a host of minerals, including zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium
- relieves stomach cramps and colic in infants
- eases headaches, irritability, insomnias and nervous tension
- boosts the immune system
- treats hay fever, asthma, and eczema
- slows the aging process when applied directly on the skin
- a sweet, smooth tisane grown in Africa
- high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- aids in digestion
- eases coughs
- regulates blood sugar
- reduces menopausal symptoms
- prevents cancer and osteoporosis
- stimulates milk production in lactating mothers
Some more exotic herbals:
Tulsi (also called “Holy Basil”)
- from India
- reduces stress and promotes mental clarity
- lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure, promoting heart health
- contains antioxidants that promote wellness and longevity by building the body’s immune system
- improves strength, stamina, and endurance by promoting respiratory health
- helps with digestion and gastrointestinal problems while facilitating healthy liver function, and more
- from Japan
- made from roasted barley
- drunk cold in Summer
Additional plants used are chrysanthemum (popular in China), hibiscus (popular in the Middle East), ginseng, nettle, sage, thyme, strawberry leaf, lemon grass leaf, alfalfa, fennel seed, rosehips, and lemon verbena.
Last but not least is essiac “tea” made from a variety of plants and blended differently according to the effect desired. Several of the herbs used have cancer-fighting properties: blessed thistle, burdock root, kelp (also a great source of iron), red clover, wild sheep sorrel (stronger than the kind you put in salads), slippery elm bark, Turkish rhubarb root, and watercress (loaded with vitamin C and other goodies).
Note: Like the commercials for alcoholic beverages say, drink responsibly. With herbals, that means always checking with an herbalist and your physician before consuming them. Overindulging in some herbals can be dangerous, and allergic reactions could result, especially if you aren’t getting what you think you are (for example, pineapple weed is sometimes sold as chamomile and can cause a reaction in hay fever sufferers).
Feel a sniffle coming on? Choose an appropriate herbal infusion. To your health!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Consult your physician before beginning an herbal regimen.
Learn more about the wide world of tea over on A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!