Does a tea a day keep the doctor away?
With a latte in one hand and a Coke in the other, it might be a little tough to go herbal.
Coffee and soda might be the non-alcoholic beverages of choice in the States, but tea stands as number two only to water in the rest of the world. But the facts are in: Thirsty folks everywhere are finding big reasons to trade in their Mr. Coffees for teapots.
The convincing factor for most seems to be health. Tea is said to prevent cancer growth, lower cholesterol, improve complexion, increase metabolism and improve digestion. When Mom told you to eat your vegetables, apparently she should have been funneling you tea.
According to Dr. Michael Nichols, a chiropractor at the alternative health provider Gateways to Healing, there are countless papers confirming and disputing the health benefits of tea without strong scientific support in either camp. Tea is not a highly funded study in the drug research community, but Nichols promotes a tea-enriched lifestyle.
“I think tea is not a miracle elixir to cure all ills, but something a person can do as a healthy substitute for other kinds of beverages,” Nichols says.
He encourages his patients who drink coffee to switch to organic, water-processed decaf or tea, but he’s not blind to the proposed downsides to drinking tea, either.
Oxalates, found in tea and vegetables, are said to cause kidney stones when taken in high doses on a daily basis. And while tea contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee, it’s still not great to consume high doses. Tea enthusiasts should also be careful where they get their decaf from—chemical processes can contaminate the leaves. Nichols advises buying organic—only to avoid chemicals and harsh pesticides.
Research does show, however, that tea is full of nutrients like polyphenols and other types of antioxidants.
The amino acid L-Theanine is also naturally occurring in tea and can promote relaxation without drowsiness and strengthen the immune system.
“It makes you more mentally aware, but also makes you sort of mellow,” John Stafford Hogan, manager of Essencha Teahouse and passionate tea drinker, says of the amino acid.
Tea’s reemergence on the American scene became evident to Hogan when a rush of customers came in one morning, stammering as they tried to order matcha, a previously rarely tried green tea. Talk show queen Oprah turned out to be the culprit after featuring the antioxidant-rich drink on her show, and her fans flocked to teahouses to try it for themselves.
“All teas have antioxidants,” Hogan says. “That’s one thing that’s kind of a misconception.” He notes that most customers who drink tea for health go for the green, but he stresses that all types of teas contain plenty of healthy attributes.
“I don’t think you should drink tea just for the health benefits,” Hogan says. “You should enjoy it, too.”
If a cup a day (or one to six, according to Dr. Nichols) might be able to keep the doctor away, why not give it a shot? If you’re interested in making the switch everyone’s been talking about for centuries, take your pick from the variety of teahouse tastes available all over the city.
“Tea originated in China and was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks,” Kathleen Kern, owner of Churchill’s Fine Teas in Findlay Market, says. Each culture has its own brewing and preparation techniques. Here’s a compilation from our experts on the health benefits of different types of tea.
This strong, sometimes bitter brew is said to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and promote healthy teeth and bones.
May boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, aid the digestive system, regulate blood sugar. Contains proposed cancer-fighting polyphenols.
Along with its reputably delicate flavor, oolong tea can increase metabolism and improve digestion and complexion.
This sweet, light flavor will taste even better when considering its low caffeine content, complexion enhancing qualities and the possible prevention of cancer growth.
It’s not really tea, but brewed from a type of bush found in South Africa. Aside from including all the regular nutrients of the real thing, one of the coveted perks of this tea imitation is that it’s caffeine free.
Despite the name, herbal tea is not actually a member of the tea family, either. More like a distant cousin. But there are still plenty of antioxidants to go around.