Healthy Living

Tea time 101: A simple guide to herbal teas

Written by Patsy Davis

America is a nation of coffee drinkers. For many of us, the thought of drinking tea may seem somewhat foreign. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to your normal cup of joe, or if you just want to add some variety to your morning routine, consider giving herbal teas a try.

In cultures throughout the world, people have been brewing leaves, fruits, flowers, roots, bark and berries for centuries. Obviously, for good reason.

  • Research suggests the antioxidants in tea help protect against cancer.
  • Tea is high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), which means it helps destroy free radicals that can damage DNA.
  • Tea is primarily water and, therefore, naturally hydrating.

Some herbal teas are soothing when you are suffering from minor symptoms, but they are primarily formulated for taste enjoyment and general health enhancement.

So what are the 7 different types of herbal teas, and what are their benefits?

  • Immune-Stimulating Blend Teas: These contain tonic herbs known as adaptogens. These herbs help strengthen or enhance the immune system, nervous system and/or glandular system while they help the body cope with stress.

Look for: Siberian ginseng, panax ginseng, astragalus, schisandra, echinacea, ashwagandha, reishi mushrooms and licorice.

  • Digestive Aid Blend Teas: Many herbs have digestion stimulating properties. They can help relieve gas and heartburn, stimulate the flow of gastric juices, relax spasms and cramps, and dispel nausea or queasiness.

Look for: ginger, anise seeds, thyme, chamomile, hyssop, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, fennel, coriander, chicory, catnip and cardamom.

  • Calming and Sedative Blend Teas:

After a tough day filled with stress (and usually caffeine), many people have a tough time settling down enough to fall asleep. Sedative teas are mild in action, due to dose.

Look for: chamomile, hops, linden flowers, lavender, passionflower, skullcap, valerian, tilia buds and white sapote.

  • Stress-Relief Blend Teas: These teas differ from sedative teas, because they are designed to help you cope with stress but not cause drowsiness. Two herbs stand out in this arena but have completely different actions:
    • Siberian ginseng helps the body cope with stress. Kava, a muscle relaxant with a long tradition of use in the South Pacific, can actually help relieve tense muscles.
    • You may drink Siberian ginseng tea frequently, but kava should be saved for those times when you really need help relaxing and letting go.

Look for: Siberian ginseng or kava

  • Stimulating Spice Blend Teas: Spicy teas will warm you internally and stimulate your digestion and elimination. They need longer brewing times and are best simmered for ten minutes to bring out their spicy flavor.

Look for: cinnamon, cardamom, chai spice

  • Cold-Fighting Vitamin C Fruit Blend Teas: These teas can contribute significant amounts of vitamin C to your diet and are delicious iced. Because they have a strong citrus accent, they are refreshing and thirst-quenching and will keep you hydrated just as well as water.

Look for: orange, lemon, berry

  • Antioxidant-Rich Rooibos Teas:

This caffeine-free tea is unique in the herbal tea world. Rooibos, which means “red bush” and is pronounced “roy-­boss,” is grown only in the tip of South Africa in Cape Town.

It is the only herbal tea that is fermented like black tea, producing a deep red color and body similar to black tea but without black tea’s astringency.

Rooibos is rich in vitamin C, minerals, quercetin, luteolin, rutin and numerous other flavonoids that contribute to its antispasmodic, hypoallergenic and antioxidant properties.

Have your taste buds been “TEAsed” enough with these mouthwatering teas? Tea is a delicious and refreshing way to reduce the amount of coffee you consume each week. It is also an approved substitute for water when you prefer a flavored drink. Brew a batch at home, and bring it to work over ice for a delicious “go-to” drink at your desk.

Happy Brewing!

About the author

Patsy Davis

Patsy Davis is the associate director of campus recreation at Augusta University and a certified health coach. She serves as the principal point of contact for coordination of wellness activities for students and also as a key leader and advocate for comprehensive attention to student wellness. Patsy proudly promotes student development and learning though supervising a student staff that provides operational and administrative support for the Augusta University Jaguar Wellness Center.

Patsy strongly believes in serving as an advocate for healthy choices. Her emphasis on mindfulness-based stress reduction is a cornerstone of her programming and the basis for her supervision style. Her professional experience as a certified health coach provides opportunities to positively influence the overall wellness of students, faculty and staff.

Patsy has been employed by the university since 2008. She received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the College of Charleston. She enjoys practicing yoga and playing tennis. She lives in Aiken, South Carolina with her husband, Mike and their two dogs, Pearl and Hazel.