By Tiffany Rowe
For nearly 5,000 years, tea has been a source of refreshment, comfort, medication, and both refined social order and strident political upheaval. Its origin dates so far back in China and India that legends and folklore are all we have to explain how mankind came to find the tea plant and its uses.
Over time, tea came to be made not only from the leaves of tea plants, but from a wide variety of roots, seeds, barks, grasses, flowers, berries, and herbs, sometimes in combination, and sometimes blended with spices.
A cup of Darjeeling or Earl Grey is just the thing to accompany scones at an afternoon tea party, and a tall glass of iced black tea with lots of sugar is a staple of the American South. But while any kind of tea has its good points, it’s the more exotic and specialty teas that provide these fabulous benefits for overall health and fitness:
1. For Better Nutrition and Weight Control
The first good thing that comes to mind about tea is that it generally contains no fat, no carbs, and no calories. Those qualities alone make it a great choice over almost anything else you can drink for quenching your thirst, accompanying a meal, enjoying on a break, or for the general hydration that keeps your body working properly.
Special nutritional and weight control benefits can be found in some teas like these:
- Alfalfa Leaf Tea offers vitamins A, D, E, and K, and includes minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.
- Corn Silk Tea contains B-complex vitamins as well as calcium, zinc and potassium.
- Oat Straw Tea contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids for promoting healthy skin and hair.
- Gymnema Tea, from a plant native to India and Africa, contains substances that actually reduce the body’s absorption of sugar. (Its Hindi name, gurmar, means “destroyer of sugar.”) Gymnema also temporarily blocks the ability to taste sweetness, which, over time, helps reduce a craving for those sugary indulgences that can kill a diet.
- Hibiscus Tea contains polyphenols that regulate metabolism, as well as highly bioavailable antioxidants that defend against cell damage.
- Some blended teas have a base of green tea, with hibiscus, cranberry, lemongrass, and other herbs known to aid weight loss. Looking for organic teas like this online can put the power of tea into your 2016 New Year's resolution.
2. For Fitness and Building Muscles
If improving your workout or athletic performance is your prime objective, try one of these:
- Green Tea is high in antioxidants that increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, giving a boost to muscle endurance.
- Flax Seed Tea contains omega-3 fatty acids to promote stronger muscles, as well as natural properties that counter inflammation and help stressed muscles heal and repair more quickly.
- Turmeric Ginger Tea has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce soreness and swelling that accompany a tough workout.
- Fenugreek Seed Tea is laden with nutrients that can help build up muscles. Choline, niacin, potassium, and ascorbic acid, to name a few, plus the amino acids tryptophan and 4-hydroxyisoleucine.
3. For Better Focus
Working out takes focus, and a cup of one of the following teas can help sharpen yours:
- Sage Leaf Tea supports neural and nervous system function and boosts circulation to the brain.
- Rosemary Tea promotes memory so you can keep track of your reps.
- Buddha Teas’ Pure Mind Blend combines a variety of herbs into one savory, brain-boosting punch with holy basil, rosemary, sage, gotu kola, and oregano.
4. For Relaxation and Stress Relief
Even the most extreme athlete needs some down time. It’s calming just to take a few minutes to brew a pot of tea and carve out the time to sit quietly and sip it. Choose one of these teas to make your time-out extra special:
- Lavender Tea relieves stress with its delicate scent and floral taste. Just taking in its aroma is relaxing.
- Ashwagandha Tea, made from the root of an Indian herb, works to limit the negative effects of stress and may even block the release of stress hormones.
- Kava Kava Root Tea has antispasmodic qualities to release muscle tension, and a peppery taste to tingle your tongue.
- Skullcap Tea has mild sedative qualities that relax you and ease the stress of exercise or an on-the-go daily life.
- Chamomile Flower Tea has long been a favorite for bedtime. A warm cup of this flavorful tea is just the thing to soothe you to sleep after an active day.
You don’t even have to drink tea to reap all it has to offer. Used externally, some teas are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal to promote healing of all kinds of skin irritations. Some have qualities that enhance respiratory and oral health, and some are natural astringents and swelling reducers. Not only that, but a pot of fragrant, steaming tea can also be a delightful source of aromatherapy.
For more information about the health benefits of tea, check out this WebMD article.