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?