Tea for What Ails You

Tea for What Ails You

How to use herbal teas to treat common health maladies and get back on the path to wellness. (An S&H classic)

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How to use herbal teas to treat common health maladies and get back on the path to wellness. (An S&H classic)

Tea is more than a beverage; herbal teas contain many medicinal properties. The next time you’re in need of health and healing, head to the pantry—or even your yard—for a cup of tea. Here, a go-to guide for nature’s remedies.

Relieve Inflammation

Are you bothered by sore joints? Do as the Okinawans do and drink turmeric tea. The orange-yellow spice, used in Indian curry and to color mustard, contains curcumin, which has a multifaceted, anti-inflammatory agent shown to provide relief from stiffness and arthritis pain. For a sweet, soothing concoction, consider adding coconut milk and honey.

Fight Allergies

Allergy sufferers should reach for green tea. The brew contains a natural compound that may block the production of histamine—a chemical your body releases during allergic reactions, triggering sneezing or a runny nose. Steep the leaves for three minutes and sip in the morning, before symptoms begin.

Soothe Insomnia

Frustrated by counting sheep? There might be a better way to get your Z’s. Studies have shown that valerian can help you fall asleep faster and even improve the quality of your sleep. Before you try it, the Mayo Clinic wants you to consider everything from the possible side effects to the underlying cause of your wakeful nights, such as a medical condition or stress. Fun fact: Though the root stinks, the plant’s flower extracts were used as perfume in the 16th century.

Boost Memory

Good news. In a recent study, participants who drank green tea extract tested significantly better on short-term memory tasks. The reason? MRIs revealed that the age-old brew increased the brain’s ability to connect one area (frontal lobe) to another (parietal lobe). Though you’d have to drink several cups to mimic the study, this is yet another reason to believe a few cups of green tea a day is good for your health—and head.

Improve Digestion

Dandelion is much more than a pesky weed. The root has been used to soothe an aching belly, excrete toxins from the liver and gallbladder, and relieve constipation. If you’re bloated, opt for the leaves, which are touted as a diuretic, increasing urine output. Buy it in a tea bag, or find it in the yard—just make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides.

Relieve Stress

Arabs, Greeks, Romans. For centuries, various cultures have used lemon balm—a member of the mint family—for a variety of ailments and annoyances, from depression to insect bites. To relieve stress and anxiety, pour one cup of boiling water over a handful of fresh leaves and steep for 5 to 7 minutes before straining. For easy access, add the plant to your herb garden.

Reduce Blood Pressure

It’s official. Studies have confirmed that hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) can lower blood pressure. The reason? The plant appears to have a diuretic effect and can inhibit a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which helps relax blood vessels. For a refreshing, tropical drink make it cold and consider adding pineapple slices and cane sugar.

Gynecological Concerns

Native Americans used black cohosh to address everything from kidney disorders to colds and coughs. In recent years, the root has gained popularity for treating premenstrual discomfort, menstrual cramps, and menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. For the latter, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends limiting its use to six months or less.

Boost Immunity

Want to stave off a cold? Brew a cup of chamomile tea. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that volunteers who drank German chamomile tea—five cups per day for two consecutive weeks—had increased levels of hippurate, which has been linked to antibacterial activity. Sniffles be gone.

Increase Energy—and Then Some

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, during the predawn hours, the Kichwa people gather around a communal fire and boil the leaves of the guayusa (gwhy-you-sa) tree, creating a drink central to their culture. Now, the traditional drink is gaining popularity in the U.S. since it has twice the antioxidants of green tea, 15 essential amino acids, and as much caffeine as coffee, among other traits.

* All teas aren’t right for all bodies, so check with your health care practitioner.

Sheila Sarhangi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer specializing in social and environmental change. She sips rooibos tea, which is grown in South Africa.

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