A Cup of Tea a Day Keeps the Doctor AwayFeb 27, 2021 03:59PM ● By Brian Scott Lipton
A businessman and philanthropist recently died in the UK at age 100. It may be that one of Great Britain’s greatest and most beloved rituals, “tea time”, with scones with clotted cream aside, could be responsible for such longevity.
For years, various studies have shown the numerous health benefits of drinking tea instead of coffee. That’s one reason why, according to Statistica, tea is now the second most widely consumed beverage worldwide, following only water. Moreover, wholesale tea sales in the U.S. alone have skyrocketed to nearly $13 billion this year with much more growth expected in the next decade.
Still, as TeaDrunk founder Shunan Teng points out, tea isn’t exactly penicillin; it’s much more like chicken soup. “In China, we don’t always drink tea when you’re sick. It’s not medicine and we know it can’t actually cure anything,” she says, “It’s more a preventive measure in that in does things like improve our immune system, lower diabetes and high blood pressure, and makes us feel more relaxed.”
While all teas are not equal (and herbal teas, like chamomile, are not really teas at all), Teng recommends that drinkers stick to high-quality, loose-leafed variety of yellow, white, green and oolong types to maximize both effectiveness and oral pleasure.
“Real tea has three main compounds,” notes Teng. “There’s catechin, which is where tea gets both most of its antioxidants and its taste. Then there’s L-Theanine, an amino acid that is otherwise rare in nature, which is particularly good for one’s neurological health and is often used as a supplement in Asian countries to help reduce anxiety and depression. And finally, of course, tea does have caffeine, which in the right amounts has long been recognized as something that can be brain healthy and is often good for things like curing minor headaches. So, the trick is finding the right tea where these elements work together to give you both an alert mind and a relaxed body, along with great taste.”
Teng adds that she’s aware that many people seeking this particular combination head straight for green tea. On whether it’s the right choice, “It can be, since green has higher ratio of catechin than many other teas,” says Teng, adding that she recommends her customers now try Gua Pian (aka melon-seed tea), a rare loose-leafed green variety that rivals the taste and health benefits of the now-popular matcha.
“But no matter what you choose,” she concludes, “a high-quality tea should be part of anyone’s overall healthy diet.”
The Pros and Cons of Kava
These days, a specific type of tea called kava—made from a member of the nightshade family of plants native to the South Pacific islands—has become extremely popular due to the belief that it relieves stress. In large cities, including New York and Miami, entire “bars” are devoted to drinking kava. Experts wonder whether this is really a wise move.
“While we don’t fully know how they work, the kavalactones are the superstars of this plant and are said to leave the body in a relaxed state of euphoria after drinking the tea,” says noted cookbook author and TV host Christina Pirello. “Further, there are definitely studies that suggest that kava tea can help to reduce and treat anxiety, protect neurons from damage related to stress and can help manage pain by reducing the pain sensation, all with no evidence of addiction. Kava is also credited with aiding sleep and can be effective as an alternative to traditional sleep aids because of its calming effects on the brain. It also seems to work without the subsequent drowsiness that can be a side effect of those various sleep aids.”
Yet, there’s more that needs to be considered. “Even in liquid form, kava has been known to have some side effects. It can interfere with various medications, so it’s advised not to take kava with anti-depressants or with alcohol,” adds Pirello. “Other studies show it can have an adverse effect on the liver, which can be very dangerous. In fact, this research shows that staying under 250 milligrams of kava a day is the safest way to enjoy its benefits while minimizing any risks to your precious liver. In short, while Kava may be quite good for you, it’s not all euphoria.”