If you’re a committed coffee drinker, you might thumb your nose at the idea of drinking tea under any circumstances. But you may want to reconsider that stance, given that certain teas have a lot more to offer than caffeine to keep you clear-eyed at work. Some teas have properties that can help you reduce the risk of having a stroke, boost your metabolism, make your hair healthier, or even ward off cancer.
Of course, drinking tea can also alleviate flu and cold symptoms. Part of that is probably in your head, since tea is comforting. But a variety of teas have also been shown to reduce inflammation and therefore these teas can serve as sore throat remedies.
As anyone who’s been in a health food store knows, the tea landscape is vast and probably overwhelming for a novice. Ultimately, your decision about which tea to drink regularly will largely come down to taste, but below is some guidance on the health benefits of teas.
Black: Accounting for about 75 percent of global tea consumption, some of the best-known varieties are Darjeeling, Ceylon and Keemun. Black tea is also blended to form the basis of Earl Grey and Chai, as well as Irish breakfast and English afternoon teas.
Its popularity probably derives from the fact that it’s the most highly caffeinated tea, so it gives drinkers their morning jolt while still containing less caffeine than coffee. Studies have also shown that regular black-tea drinkers can significantly reduce their likelihood of having a stroke — by 21 percent for those who drink four cups a day when compared to non-tea drinkers.
Green: Made by either steaming or pan-firing tea leaves, green teas are probably en vogue among your health-conscious yogi friends and for good reason. They have a high concentration of EGCG, an antioxidant that’s been shown to inhibit the growth of bladder, breast, lung, pancreatic, colorectal and stomach cancers. If that weren’t enough, green tea has also been shown to improve memory, burn fat, fend off the onset of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and reduce the risk of stroke.
White: Typically produced with minimal processing and harvested before the tea plant’s leaves are fully open, white teas are also rich in antioxidants, giving them anti-cancer properties and cardiovascular benefits. A 2000 study conducted with rats indicated that white teas offer more colon cancer protection than green teas, though the researchers gave the disclaimer that other studies should be undertaken to gauge the level of human benefit.
Oolong: Made from partially fermented leaves (oxidized more than green tea and less than black tea), it’s especially popular in China. It’s often thought to be more flavorful than green tea, though the latter has more documented health benefits. Those include boosting your metabolism, lowering cholesterol and promoting healthy hair. Though oolong has fewer antioxidants than green tea, it still may have anti-cancer properties.
Herbal: Technically not tea at all, herbal teas are made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots steeped in hot water. Some provide virtually no benefit, aside from being tasty and hydrating, while others do have a salutary effect. For example, peppermint tea is said to relieve bloating symptoms, chamomile can ease insomnia, and ginger tea is commonly used as a digestive aid. Here’s a helpful rundown. There’s also evidence that Echinacea can modestly reduce the severity of common cold symptoms, though there’s still no proof that taking it when you’re well can block you from getting sick altogether.
Do you drink a particular tea for its health benefits? Or do you notice other healthful effects of the teas we’ve mentioned?