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Benefits of Herbal Teas: The Brew to Better Health
Herbal teas have been gaining popularity as consumers seek the health benefits that come along with it. Unlike “true ...
Herbal teas have been gaining popularity as consumers seek the health benefits that come along with it. Unlike “true tea”, such as black, green or white tea that originate from the camellia sinensis plant, herbal teas offer a huge variety of choice in both taste and function.
With the pandemic increasing the demand for healthier beverages that boost immunity and mental health, the herbal tea market is reported to be worth US$4.22 billion by 2025. Asia Pacific, which accounted for 36.7% of the global herbal tea market in 2018, will likely be responsible for most of this growth.
Common types of herbal tea
Otherwise known as tisanes, herbal teas comprise a mix of spices, herb leaves, wildflowers or grass from edible plants. Most times, these teas provide a health benefit and comprise of the following types:
- Immunity boosting tea: According to proprietary research by Kerry, immunity support is the top consideration factor when consumers purchase food and beverages in Asia. Some of the key ingredients driving this category are ginger, turmeric and peppermint.
- Slimming or detox tea: Most infusions rely on laxatives and diuretics to expel toxins and waste. Some common ingredients include senna, cassia seeds, dandelion and burdock root.
- Women’s tea: Herbal infusions are a popular option for women looking for menstrual cramp relief or preparing for pregnancy. A natural alternative to drugs, these blends usually include ginger, raspberry leaf and chamomile.
- Calming tea: When it comes to relaxing or having a good night’s sleep, caffeine-free blends that include chamomile and lavender are at the top of the list.
- Heart health support: Heart-healthy herbal blends aimed at managing hypertension, diabetes or cholesterol levels may include ingredients such as rooibos, hibiscus and hawthorn.
What are the health benefits of herbal tea?
With the sheer amount of health benefits associated with herbal teas, how much of it is actually real? Let’s take a closer look at some of the key ingredients.
- Ginger and turmeric
Ginger is a multi-functional spice that is full of antioxidants. It fights cancer, improves circulation, relieves chronic pain (particularly for period cramps), and helps with nausea, bloatedness and indigestion. It can even help prevent chronic diseases such as hypertension and heart disease, and reduce cholesterol and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Meanwhile, turmeric is a type of ginger that contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound. Curcumin has been shown to be a promising pain reliever for arthritis; it also facilitates weight loss in people with metabolic disorders.
However, refrain from taking too much ginger or turmeric if you are on anticoagulants as these spices have a blood thinning effect.
Known for its minty, cool taste, peppermint contains menthol and is an effective decongestant. Besides fighting off colds, it is also a muscle relaxant that offers relief from gastrointestinal issues like abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
In addition, peppermint can reduce the bacteria in our mouths and kill foodborne bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. The aroma of peppermint oil may also energise and improve alertness and memory.
While studies on peppermint tea are limited, research has shown that peppermint oil and extracts do provide a variety of benefits that could potentially be carried over.
- Cassia seeds
Otherwise known as Jue Ming Zi, cassia seeds are commonly used in traditional chinese medicine (TCM) to reduce cholesterol, support liver function and aid digestive health.
It is also seen in slimming or detox teas and used to relieve constipation. Despite originating from the same plant, cassia seeds are a gentler alternative to the senna leaf - a strong laxative found in slimming teas.
Used for centuries, the cassia seed is a powerhouse that is high in antioxidants and possesses antibacterial, antidiabetic and cardioprotective qualities.
Both the leaves and roots of this plant are used to make dandelion tea, a brew that helps to shed water weight and reduce bloat. For this reason, it’s often one of the ingredients in slimming tea and its effectiveness is said to be on par with weight loss drug, Orlistat.
It may also support liver health by increasing the flow of bile, while other studies have suggested that it has the potential to fight cancer like melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
- Raspberry leaf
A key ingredient in herbal blends made for women, the raspberry leaf is packed with B and C vitamins, minerals and antioxidant, high in iron and helps with premenstrual symptoms, such as cramping, nausea, and diarrhea.
Interestingly, it may also benefit pregnant women by strengthening uterine walls and reducing labour complications. Nonetheless, pregnant women should consult their doctor for advice before consuming this tea.
Chamomile is a relaxant and contains an antioxidant called apigenin that helps with anxiety, insomnia and depression. But did you know that chamomile also has anticancer and anti-diabetic properties?
One study found that drinking chamomile tea regularly (2 to 6 times a week) could reduce the risk of thyroid cancer, while another suggests that chamomile tea, when taken with meals, can help diabetics control their blood sugar level and cholesterol.
A red bush tea that hails from South Africa, rooibos is a caffeine and tannin free option that is high in polyphenols and potentially reduces your risk of developing cancer and heart disease when consumed over time.
It contains aspalathin, an antioxidant that may have an anti-diabetic effect that is found in unfermented green rooibos, and has the propensity to improve heart health in overweight adults by regulating cholesterol levels. It can also aid weight management by influencing leptin production, which regulates calorie burning and fat storage.
With its anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant effects, hawthorn berries are commonly used in traditional medicine to manage cardiovascular-related conditions such as palpitations, tachycardia and hypertension.
Tart, tangy and containing fibre, the berries aid digestive health and doubles up as a diuretic that helps with diarrhea and intestinal cramps.
So, are herbal teas worth your time?
It’s a resounding yes. While more research is required to determine the effectiveness of herbal teas, anecdotal evidence has shown that certain herbs and botanicals do provide health benefits.
Cost effective and therapeutic, herbal teas can contribute to a healthy lifestyle alongside exercise, a nutritious diet and sufficient sleep. And at the very least, they are a natural and healthier alternative to sugary, carbonated drinks.