Lifestyle

Why You Should Always Make Time For Tea

White teapot pouring our dry tea ingredients into white cup on pink background

Forget therapy, think thera-tea. It might be very British to offer a friend a cup of tea when they’re feeling down, stressed or upset, but it goes beyond our colloquial habits. A poll by TAP (Tea Advisory Panel) found that 32% of people believe having a cuppa made them feel less stressed or anxious while recent studies reported a 37% reduced risk of depression when three cups of tea a day were consumed. In fact, in the Netherlands dietary guidelines include three cups of tea per day as part of their recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.

We should be on track – as a nation we drink 165 million cups of tea a day but more and more we’re tailoring our teas to our mood and linking them to sensory experiences. Just like you’d choose essential oils on the premise of whether you wanted to feel uplifted, relaxed or calm, we’re investing in a wardrobe of warm drinks to boost our wellness from the inside out. “There are several teas and herbal infusions that are linked to our emotions due to their differing plant bioactive compounds (also known as polyphenols),” says Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel. “Studies have shown that 50% of people say their mood changes after they’ve had a cup of their favourite tea,”

How To Choose Your Brew:

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like fancy teas and you pride yourself on a builder’s brew, you’re still ingesting plenty of the good stuff as black tea is essentially just fermented green tea, which is what gives it the stronger flavour that’s sweetened by milk. As well as caffeine to give you that immediate pick up, it also contains theanine, an amino acid which focuses the brain and has been found to increase alpha waves – the brain signalling patterns that are also seen after meditation or yoga. Continuing with the wardrobe analogy, think of black tea as your staple item and then it’s up to you if you want to branch out and add different varieties. Of course, there are now hundreds of different options so if it’s proving tricky to choose via taste, engage your mood and emotions instead…

To feel relaxed…:

Dr Ruxton recommends Rooibos (red bush) tea and chamomile. “Chamomile flower is a general panacea containing relaxing essential oils that affect nerve transmitters linked with anxiety which is why traditionally it’s used to calm restlessness,” says Marion Mackonochie, medical herbalist at Pukka. Those essential oils also help with reducing inflammation and relieving tension which in turn can aid bloating and digestion as an extra bonus.

You might be surprised to learn that Earl Grey is another good go-to for helping to nip stressful situations in the bud. Essentially just black tea with bergamot, the citrus plant is known for it’s uplifting scent and relaxing properties – when teachers used it in an essential oil format it was found to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety.

To feel energised…:

You need motivation to work out or you’re exhausted at the end of the day but have dinner and drinks to go to. Reach for some green tea. It not only contains everything black tea does but it has a hefty portion of antioxidants too. “These molecules, known as catechins reduce inflammation in the body as well as increasing the brain alertness from caffeine without increasing jitteriness,” continues Marion. “Regular green tea consumption has been found to lower heart disease, improve blood sugar levels and cholesterol and reduce the risk of dementia.”

Following on with the leafy greens theme, holy basil (or Tulsi) is another good mood booster as it’s a plant with adaptogenic properties that help to calm any tension and bring about mental clarity. Down a mug before big meetings or potentially stressful situations

To feel well…:

Often people turn to teas to help with digestion, and why wouldn’t you when ingredients like peppermint have been found to relax the muscles in the gut and help get rid of cramping, pain and bloating. When inhaled those same muscle relaxing properties have been found to work on muscles in the brain too and is why if you feel the signs of a headache coming on, it might be worth trying peppermint over paracetamol first.

Aniseed, fennel and cardamom are other hard-working digestives that can reduce gas while lemon is known to slow down starch digestion when taken with a meal. Research has also found that just looking or smelling lemons can increase salivation too so if you’re sitting at your desk eating lunch which could impact how well your digestive system is functioning, have a side of lemon tea to wash it down.

Stomach-aside, if you’re coming down with the sniffles or generally feel a bit fluey, elderberry tea could be your saviour. “Elderberries contain vitamins A and C, anthocyanins and flavonoids which are antioxidants that protect your body from damage caused by free radicals and will keep you feeling well and support immunity,” says medical nutritionist, Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart. Or if it’s skin issues that are causing you concern, she flags up nettle tea – it contains vitamins A and C and minerals including iron, calcium and magnesium to boost skin health and leave your complexion looking radiant.

To feel comforted…:

Everyone knows tea is a big hug in a mug and as well as black tea, ginger is a fantastic soother. “It has been found to impact the metabolism, slowing the pulse and create a warming feeling,” says Dr Carrie. The aromatic spice is also a stimulant to the circulation to get blood flowing and is why it can be worthwhile sipping after a gym session or long walk as it reduces pain and muscle tension.

There are also many special blends like Pukka’s Night Time Tea which contains chamomile, oat flower, lavender and valerian root along with some liquorice for a hint of sweetness to send you off to slumber. It clearly works as it’s the brands number one bestseller globally.

More Research On It’s Way:

Not just an emotional crutch, there is an increasing number of studies on how drinking tea can also increase your bifidobacteria – the ‘friendly’ gut bacteria that assists your immune system and nukes potentially harmful pathogens that attack the body. And studies have found adults who consume more caffeine on a daily basis tend to have a higher pain threshold and can be less sensitive to soreness and discomfort. As if we needed another excuse to put the kettle on?

How ‘Well’ Is Your Hair?

hair-article

According to 2020 trend reports, hair ‘wellness’ is the next big thing we need to be aware of. Just like skin can reflect how healthy your insides are, so too can hair and is why more and more supplements and personalised haircare routines that focus specifically on hair nutrition are popping up. “Brands and indeed consumers are making the connection between digestive health, stress, hormonal balance and nutrition and health and beauty,” explains Lucie Greene, founder of trends agency, Light Years. “Beyond loss, hair health in general is something consumers will invest in correcting.”

What’s impacting your hair?

When it comes to how ‘well’ your hair is, it’s not as clear cut as one might hope. Heat styling, colouring and pulling or yanking hair are the more obvious culprits but sun, minerals from hard water and increasingly, pollution are the latest saboteurs. In fact, if you are an urban dweller, take heed because recent studies show that pollution can cause hair loss as it kills the protein cells needed for healthy hair growth.

Stress and diet will also impact how swishy and strong your hair is and is why brands are looking to supplements as your hair’s saving grace. That’s because if your gut is off kilter (whether it’s down to poor diet or stress) your body – including your hair – won’t be able to absorb the nutrients it needs to produce thicker, stronger and more resilient hair.

How to give your hair a health check

“If the outer cuticle layer becomes damaged or raised, the strand will become porous, allowing natural moisture to leach out which leaves hair dehydrated and brittle,” explains Dr Joe Cincotta, Product Development and Formulator at Color Wow. “This means there will be a visible, unhealthy appearance and the surface texture will look rough, dull, dry and get frizzy easily.”

As well as eyeballing your hair, there are two tests Cincotta recommends. The Porosity test where you take two inches of hair and drop them in a glass of warm water. After a couple of minutes, if any of the hair fibres sink, your hair is porous. If the fibres remain on your hair, the cuticle layer is sealed and in tip top condition. There’s also the elasticity test. Take a strand, soak it in warm water for ten minutes and then slowly stretch the hair. You should be able to stretch the hair 40-50% before it snaps he says. If it falls short, you’re in the danger zone.

Rectify and rehabilitate

Topical products like Ameliorate’s Scalp Care Regime Kit is a great way to boost scalp health as they not only contain ingredients that improve circulation and stimulate hair growth, they get rid of build up from pollution and product that suffocate the follicles. Moisture treatments and masks are another sure-fire way to strengthen the outside layers and ensure your locks remain hydrated, fluid and easy-on-the-eye.

However, it’s the new breed of supplements that will really make a difference to how our hair looks, feels and acts according to the pro’s. “Most hair is protein so a diet that incorporates this is essential,” explains Dr Megan Ross who specialises in gut health. “Iron, vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins are all essential to stop hair fall out and omega 3’s provide healthy fats that keep hair healthy and well hydrated.”

Of course, you can find these essential vitamins and minerals from food – a Mediterranean diet with plenty of fish, seeds and nuts is a great place to start but that’s where brands like Hairgain, Nutrafol, Better Not Younger and Superior Hair are here to help. Cocktailing a specific blend of essential nutrients to feed your hair and help the gut, hair follicles get a fighting chance of staying intact and remaining healthy.

If you feel like you pop enough pills already, brands like Fulvic Acid have even produced an Elixir that can be glugged straight down or mixed with juice or water. Containing Ioniplex, a scientifically sound complex that improves cellular energy and neutralises toxins, it also increases collagen production – another essential protein needed for fabulous hair.

Other top tips to keep your ‘do en pointe? Tread carefully with finishing products like hairspray or dry shampoo as pollution sticks to them like glue. Don’t go overboard on protein shampoos and conditioners as they can make your locks feel brittle, try moisturising products instead. And always use a thermal protectant like Color Wow’s Speed Blow Dry Spray before styling your hair.

You never know, a re-think from the inside out might just be the tweak you need to take your hair from limp to lustrous.

Do You Need A Super Serum?

Serum Bottles with a dropper lid on pink background

Applying a serum has become a regular protocol in most people’s beauty routines and while stats show that many of us are eschewing multi-step routines, serums are sticking. “A need for simplicity has pushed UK women towards minimalist skincare products with more intense active ingredients, such as serums,” explains Alex Fisher, Global Skincare Analyst at Mintel. “Serums are also a well-liked format, perceived as brightening and nourishing and often include ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants that are said to illuminate skin.” Read More…

Yoga: What’s Your Style?

yoga outline

In the age of the Insta yogi the ancient Indian art of practicing of postures to enhance our health and wellbeing seems to be ever more accessible. Yet there remains a mystical air about it and the Sanskrit names of the different styles can be baffling – the yoga schedule at one of London’s popular studios has a roster of around 300 teachers and roughly 30 styles of yoga to scroll through. On offer are tongue twisting classics such as Kundalini, Iyengar, and Astanga, as well as Westernised modern hybrids Forrest, Acro, Jivamukti, which, even as as a teacher with 500 hours of training under my belt, feels overwhelming when it comes to choosing which class to go to for myself. Read More…

Addicted To Stress? That Could Be A Good Thing

Glass with die drop in water

Not everything about stress is bad – it’s basically a state of arousal which can give us the drive, focus and energy to get things done. The butterfly stomach we feel on a first date, the nervous excitement of the first day of a new job or the tight muscular tension before public speaking are all signs of stress, but these are positive life events and challenges we actively seek. Yet, according to a YouGove study* 74% of people in the UK have felt so overwhelmed with stress in the past year that they’re unable to cope. And it is a fact that many on-the-rise modern malaises from IBS and eczema to diabetes, obesity and heart disease are related to the pressure cooker of 24/7 life.

So what turns good stress into bad? First, it helps to understand a little bit about the cascade of chemicals and hormones involved in the stress response and their effects on our minds and bodies. It starts in a part of the brain called the amygdala which regulates the autonomic nervous system and controls the automatic responses in the body including breathing, heart rate, digestion and sleep. There are two sides to the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic or ‘fight or flight’ which effectively revs us up and the para sympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ which slows us back down.

When we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, our adrenal glands release adrenaline into the bloodstream which causes heart rate, blood pressure and pulse to quicken. Breathing gets faster, increasing oxygen in the brain for higher alertness, also, adrenaline triggers the release of blood sugar and fats to increase energy levels. Because it’s an automatic response, these physiological changes happen before we’re even aware. A second stage kicks in where cortisol, another stress hormone, is released to keep us revved up until the ‘threat’ passes and the ‘rest and digest’ phase comes in to dampen the stress response.

The trouble is, things which trigger the stress response are rarely life threatening situations – it could be the ping of an email, opening a bank statement, or the train being late. Even so, we are wired to have that bodily response and because we so often override the ‘rest and digest’ response we end up accumulating stress. We’re on the go all day, pushing through fuelled with stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, subtly self-medicating to unwind whether that’s with a glass of wine in front of the TV, or pounding out tension on the running machine or at a sweat inducing yoga class. This can seem normal until we start to realise these tactics don’t work any more; it’s increasingly difficult to slow down and relax; our minds full of thoughts making it harder to sleep, which can become a vicious circle leading to feelings of anxiety, worry and even depression. We literally become adrenaline junkies – hooked on the highs of stress.

This can manifest in so many ways that it’s not necessarily easy to identify in our own lives. For me, I hadn’t realised that this continual hyper stimulation of the nervous system was the energy I was feeding off. Now looking back at my 20s and 30s I can see that I was running on adrenaline. I was enjoying the highs of what scientists call eustress or the good ‘seize the day’ motivational stress. I loved my job and so it felt good to enjoy every moment of it – and even on holiday I would like to keep active – rarely did I stop and just do nothing. And I got away with it until my late thirties when gradually it seemed I couldn’t bounce back from late nights, I’d have niggling health issues – poor digestion, reactive skin, inflexible body. I instinctively knew I needed to slow down somehow and took up yoga. But in the beginning, I was taking the ‘push through’ mentality into my practice – I would rush from work to push myself through extreme hot yoga classes, which would relax me in the moment, but never completely.

It took years to gradually realise that I was living off the highs of stress fuelled energy because it was a subtle form of enjoyable drive which gradually threw my body and brain chemistry out of kilter over the years. What did surprise me was how, once I’d accepted I needed to slow down, it was a relief and I began to feel the benefits straight away. For me, the big catalyst was discovering meditation which allowed me to ‘not do’, although it’s not a magic bullet. Good support from friends, family, a nourishing work network, doing something creative, and to feel that we’re contributing something all matter. What’s great to know is that given the chance, our nervous system will naturally re-balance itself, and when that happens we’re no longer fire fighting through, and that impacts positively on our health all round: physically, mentally and emotionally.

Simple ways to break the stress cycle:

  • Ask yourself why you can’t allow yourself a lunch break/holiday/yoga class/massage when prioritising your own health and wellbeing will impact positively at work, and at home.
  • Think of not doing as making a choice to just be – it is an action.
  • Avoid multi-tasking as it has been proven to stimulate cortisol.
  • Know that sitting with your eyes closed is meditation and that cutting out visual stimulation will help bring about calm fast.
  • The out breath is associated with the para sympathetic nervous system, so whenever you feel anxious or stressed try to lengthen your out breath.
  • Spend quality time with like minded people – we are hard wired to release happy chemicals such as oxytocin when are face to face with those who support us.