A hot, steaming cup of tea on a chilly day or night conjures up thoughts of calm, relaxation, and serenity. There is much more to it, since drinking tea has also proven to be healthy.
Archaeological evidence indicates that leaves steeped in boiling water, has been consumed in India and China for at least 500,000 years. For the last 4,000 of them, the Chinese have been using green tea as medicine, treating ailments that range from a simple headache to severe depression.
Green tea, oolong and black tea are all derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, though they are processed differently. Green tea leaves are steamed, while other teas are made from fermented leaves. The tea that is the most beneficial is though to be green tea.
Green tea contains a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The chemical is said to aid in heart health. Some scientists have begun to speculate that drinking green tea might explain why the French, who consume a diet high in fat, experience less occurrences of heart disease than Americans. Japanese men, who are heavy green tea drinkers, have a low incidence of heart disease despite the high percentage of them that are smokers.
The healthy properties of green tea are attributed to polyphenols, chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. Green tea is said to have a greater concentration than Vitamin C.
Laboratory and population studies, though not conclusive, have begun to show promising results in cancer-fighting properties in green tea. Drinking ten cups of green tea per day has been shown to prevent the development of liver disorders and may protect the liver from the kind of damage caused by toxins such as alcohol.
Studies suggest that green tea may boost metabolism and burn fat. In combination with caffeine, it is said to improve weight loss. Green tea is also thought to be beneficial in its potential to reduce the effects of inflammatory bowel disease, help with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Called the "miracle herb", green tea is also credited with preventing tooth decay, food poisoning, and dental plaque. It is now being used in some skin creams and deodorants.
Green tea should be avoided by patients with ailments related to the heart, kidney, or stomach ulcers, as well as psychological disorders, such as anxiety. It should be avoided by pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as children. Excessive use of caffeine, including that which is derived from green tea, should be avoided. Prolonged caffeine use could case irritability, insomnia, heart palpitation, and dizziness. Caffeine overdose could cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and loss of appetite.
While the greatest benefits from tea were thought to be from green tea, new research into the potential for black tea indicates that may not be the case. Because of the difference in processing, black tea may include some complex properties that green tea does not have.
Black tea, which is said to represent 78-percent of all the world's tea produced, hydrates the body as well as water and with added benefit.
Research by the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment indicated there could be a correlation between black tea and reduced risk of stroke. The study found that men who drank more than four cups of black tea per day had a significantly lower risk of stroke than men who drank only two cups per day.
Dr. Joseph Vita, at the Boston School of Medicine reported that drinking black tea could help reverse abnormal function of the blood vessels which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
A study in Saudi Arabia, where black tea is preferred over the green brew, found that black tea can cut coronary heart disease by half.
Herbal tea, known as tisane is in a category separate from tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, it is made from a variety of parts of plants, such as: dried leaves, bits of fruit, flowers, grasses, barks, seeds, nuts, or other plants that provide taste and health benefits.
Herbal tea is said to be good for nutrition. A warm herbal tea can soothe a sore throat. Chamomile tea helps an upset stomach, especially if it contains ginger. Other ingredients that may be added to herbal tea blends include sage leaves, lemon rind and lemon juice, lemon balm, mint, and lavender flowers.
Tea made from blackberry bushes is used for treatment of diarrhea. Dandelion tea made from the leaves of the dandelion plant is thought to improve liver function, remove gall stones and alleviate skin complaints. Tea made from the root of the ginseng plant is used for stress relief.
The use of herbs is used in holistic medicine for treatment of disease and for healing the body. Herbs can trigger side effects that may also interact with medications. Taking herbs should be done with care, under the supervision of a doctor knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.