We always knew tea had health benefits, but it may come as a surprise to learn how a couple daily cups of tea can help manage blood sugar, promote weight loss, and more. Learn the benefits of tea for health and home—and the best way to brew tea.
The Benefits of Tea
After water, tea is the world’s most popular beverage. Whether you drink black, green, or oolong tea, they’re all produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush.
You’ve no doubt seen references to the research suggesting that tea, especially unfermented (green) tea, may deliver many health benefits.
Drinking black tea may lower the risk of heart attack and atherosclerosis (build-up in your arteries). Drinking green or black tea may reduce the risk of developing several cancers, including bladder, esophageal and pancreatic cancers. Drinking black, oolong or green tea appears to lower the risk of ovarian cancer.
Applied topically, tea can relieve the discomfort of rashes, stings, and hemorrhoids, and may help to reduce acne flareups.
The Best Tea for Health
The best tea for health is green tea because it’s linked to so many health benefits from cancer prevention mentioned above but is also helps control weight loss, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
The “fermentation” (actually oxidation) processes that yield the many other forms of tea deepen and alter the flavors of the leaves, but they also remove some of the plant compounds (“phytocompounds”) that deliver tea’s health benefits. Green teas undergo very minimal oxidation, so the best choice if you like its flavoring.
Of course, many teas are healthy. Ginger tea helps with nausea and digestion. Herbal teas help with inflammation, clear airwaves, and relieve asthma and allergy symptoms. Peppermint tea has menthol and is helpful when you have a cold with congestion.
Once you begin delving into the subject of tea, it’s easy to get confused. Will it be loose, bagged, powdered, brewed, and/or bottled? Chai, citrus, or jasmine? A green-tea extract? A tincture, a pill, a syrup, or a soda? What about a snack?
Why not start by brewing some loose green tea leaves from a specialty or health-food store near you? If you live near an Asian market, you’ll have a much larger choice. Buy small quantities and store them in airtight containers in the freezer to maintain their flavor and potency.
By the way, if you want to maximize the health benefits of tea, drink it without milk. Proteins in the milk decrease the concentration of many of tea’s beneficial phytocompounds.
Photo by Barol16/Getty Images
How to Brew Tea
Before you start brewing tea, we recommend a tea ball (usually a metal basket to steep and then remove your tea leaves). However, you could also simply add tea leaves to a cup of how water and strain them after they’ve steeped. Some people even leave the tea leaves in and consume a few along with the liquid.
Add 1 teaspoon of tea leaves to your tea ball or cup. Then boil the water. The hotter the water (closer to boiling) and the longer the steeping, the more healthful will be the plant compounds that the water will extract. However, since some of these compounds are bitter, many tea lovers prefer a briefer steeping time for their sipping teas.
Using Tea in Cooking
What about liberating tea from the beverage category and using the leaves themselves in cooking? Many books on the market delve into the science and art of cooking with tea.
Try adding strong tea as an ingredient in meat or poultry marinades, soups, stocks, and gravies. Or try adding the reconstituted leaves themselves to omelets, soups, or stir fries. Think of them as a leafy vegetable. Eating them adds nutrients and fiber to the medicinal punch this plant delivers.
Home Remedies Using Tea
The astringent properties in tea called tannins make it a natural skin toner. Helps acne, too.
Used as a final rinse, tea conditions and restores shine to hair.
Dry tea leaves absorb odors as well as baking soda. Leave a few bags in the fridge, or drop some into shoes, pocketbooks, and cars.
Strong tea left in cooking pots overnight will remove burned-on food and stains.
Cool tea sponged onto skin offers relief from poison ivy, hives, or insect bites.
For centuries, Asian cultures have used the gentle rituals of tea ceremonies for social, religious, and spiritual purposes. Here’s a description of how a modern physician adapts the ancient ceremony to his daily life.