It’s been used for millennia, but how healthy is herbal tea, and what benefits should you expect to see?

Made from infusing herbs and spices, or other plant materials, herbal teas have been used for millennia. Documents have been recovered dating back to Ancient Eygpt and Ancient China that discuss herbal tea, and their medicinal qualities have been known for just as long. Known for thousands of years to be good for health, happiness and wisdom in the East, some can help ease digestion while others fight infection.

One of the best-known blends is green tea. Made from steamed tea leaves, its antioxidants may stunt the growth of breast, stomach, lung, bladder, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Drinking it regularly can help your body burn fat and improve cholesterol levels, as well as strengthen tissue cells. Green tea is particularly high in antioxidants, making it one of the best teas to drink for health benefits.

A popular choice is chamomile tea, which has antioxidants that can help prevent complications from diabetes, such as loss of vision and kidney damage. There is also evidence which suggests it can stunt the growth of cancer cells. There is even research that suggests it can give people relief from mild insomnia, as it contains tryptophan (known for its tranquilizing properties). It’s a principal ingredient in many ‘sleep time’ themed teas.

When choosing herbal tea for its health benefits, why not try and include thyme, peppermint and ginger? They are known to have greater therapeutic qualities than those that are fruitier, such as rosehip and orange. These may appeal more to those with a sweet tooth, but they are blended for their flavours more than anything else.

Elderflower tea is a traditional cure for colds and is an effective decongestant, meaning it can clear the nasal passages. Ginger is excellent in the early stages of infection (and is commonly mixed with real lemon as a hot drink for colds). As a tea, the warming effects can also relieve rheumatic aches and pains, as well as stimulate circulation.

Similarly to elderflower and ginger, thyme tea is also an effective treatment for colds. This is because the Mediterranean plant contains properties that protect it from viruses and infections. As a tea, it’s particularly good as a decongestant. Another Mediterranean herb that has health benefits is fennel. Drinking it in tea can help relax the intestinal muscles and relieve constipation. It’s a natural detox, meaning it helps clean the kidneys and rid the body of impurities (also encouraging clearer skin).

One of the most popular blends of tea is peppermint, with is traditionally used for treating upset stomachs and nausea. Drinking the tea can stimulate the production of bile in the gall bladder, therefore relieving that sick feeling.

You may find yourself overwhelmed by the herbal teas on offer, and not sure which ones to pick, but just make sure you go for a well-sourced product with high-quality ingredients. If you’re drinking tea for the medicinal benefits, steep the loose tea or tea bags for long enough – even 15 minutes – to really bring out the healthy properties.

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