As the second most highly consumed beverage in the world (water is number one), the qualities aligned with tea-drinking are undeniably positive; a relaxing, comforting, and even healing beverage, tea has an incredible amount to offer. And though the most common teas are traditional black teas and green teas, there are an infinite number of variations using herbs, spices, and medicinal plants, as well. Regardless of the type you choose, there's so much to love about this warm ritual. Read on for some of the benefits you'll enjoy the next time you grab a mug.
Most tea contains caffeine, in a good way. Both black and green teas contain caffeine, but far less than that which is found in coffee: black tea contains 50-80mg/cup, and green tea contains about 30-35mg/cup, compared to coffee which contains 110-135mg/cup. Research shows that the caffeine found in tea – especially green tea – can act as a synergistic delivery system for other therapeutic compounds that help fight cancer and aging. These lower levels of caffeine are enough to produce a noticeable biological response, without eliciting the energy swings of over-stimulation.
Tea is a natural antibiotic. Green and white teas contain very strong anti-bacterial activity. Once used by the Chinese to purify water, green tea polyphenols offer antimicrobial action against food poisoning, mouth bacteria, and can even be used topically: acne, cuts and wounds, and bacteria-prone skin conditions all benefit from a green tea soak. (Pro tip: Add a little matcha powder to your next face mask to up the cleansing effects!)
Tea really can help keep weight balanced. There's a lot of half-truths regarding foods that burn fat or promote weight loss. But multiple clinical studies suggest that in the case of tea – green tea in particular – the boost in metabolism is a real, marked effect. Tea leaves promote an uptick in thermogenesis, which allows your body to burn calories more quickly. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Obesity in 2000 showed green tea increased thermogenesis by 28%-77% in lab animals. This burning capability, combined with the elimination of harmful blood lipids and toxins, means a healthy and balanced weight is easier than ever using tea-drinking as a part of your core strategy.
Tea can improve brain function. Black tea may still be the most popular in the world, but green tea has the honor of being the most widely studied tea for its health benefits. Confirmed as a champion for its antioxidant activity, green tea is also an excellent source of the amino acid L-theanine. Combined with the tea's naturally-occurring caffeine, the duo helps keep the brain both alert as well as calm synergistically. (The highest concentration of L-theanine is found in matcha: a form of green tea that is grown in the shade and consumed as a whole leaf powder, containing higher concentrations of nutrients overall.) And while anyone can benefit from these “smart benefits” of green tea, it's also excitingly preventative against mental decline: one recent study by the National University of Singapore showed daily consumption of tea reduced the risk of cognitive impairment between 50%-86% for those older individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Even tea not made from tea contains benefits. All true tea – which includes black, white, green, and Oolong varieties – comes from the same plant: camellia sinensis. The way in which the leaves are processed from this prolific shrub defines the type of tea that is created. But not all teas use these leaves. Other varieties, known as herbal teas, use dried roots, bark, berries, or spices, to create flavor or offer alternative health benefits. Ginger tea soaked with lemon is a classic aid for a sore throat. Steeped goji berries produce a sweet tea that has long been used in Chinese medicine for longevity. And pure licorice root is known to dramatically help relax a sore stomach. It's exciting to know there are thousands of herbal tea varieties, helpful for just about any ailment.