There are few pleasures in life more simple yet satisfying than sipping on a nice, hot cup of tea. As well as all the good it does us mentally and spiritually, there are tangible health benefits to it, too. But your choice of tea is really important — if you want to get the specific boost you need. Different teas give us different health benefits. So switch the kettle on and grab your favorite mug: let’s take a look at which tea is best for you.
Different tea varieties
As we know, tea comes in all kinds of varieties. There’s green tea, ginger tea, peppermint, chamomile, oolong, black tea, hibiscus — and don’t forget good old English breakfast tea.
All of these drinks have their own unique properties, which makes them look and taste different. But the specific effects they can have on our health vary quite considerably, too, so doing a little research is really important if you want to reap all the benefits that tea has to offer.
What makes tea good for us?
To get to know the different benefits of drinking tea, it’s good to listen to the experts. Nutrition specialist Vicki Shanta Retelny, who wrote a book called The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods, knows all about the health effects of tea.
She says, “Tea is a plant-based beverage that has been shown to have many nourishing properties. As a soothing warm or cold beverage, tea contains plant compounds called polyphenols, which are antioxidants that give tea its medicinal benefits.”
Tea’s medicinal properties
In general, the potential benefits of drinking tea — whatever the variety — are really quite astounding. According to experts, there’s reason to believe that drinking tea often can actually help to prevent the breakdown of cells in our bodies.
Plus, it’s said to be great for our brains, too, giving us better cognitive function. What’s not to like?
Tea drinkers live longer
And the news just keeps on getting better. On top of all this, there’s also the possibility that drinking tea regularly — and by regularly, we mean three or more times a week — can actually make us live longer.
A study published in a 2020 edition of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology claimed that its participants who drank regular cups of tea had longer life expectancies and were more often free from certain diseases than those who did not.
Tea’s health-boosting properties become even more attractive when you think about just how cheap it is and how easy it is to get our hands on it. It’s no surprise that humans have been drinking it since ancient times.
And today about two in three people on Earth are said to consume tea, which means billions of people are reaping its benefits. So, if you happen to be part of the third of humanity who aren’t tea drinkers, maybe now is the time to change that.
Choosing the right tea
Of course, not every tea is made equal. Some teas are better for us than others.
Certain types of tea are best for our hearts, while others are good for our brains. Then there are the specific tea varieties that may help lower our cholesterol levels and those that can help us sleep better. As dietician Beth Czerwony says, “Different teas offer different benefits. Choose what fits your need.” So, let’s break them down. First up: green tea.
Green tea: best overall health benefits
Health-wise, green tea is right up there with the very best. If you’re looking for an all-rounder tea, look no further.
It’s good for us in so many ways, not least the fact that it’s said to help prevent cancer — that you really can’t go wrong. It’s good for our hearts and can reportedly help reduce cholesterol levels, and it’s an anti-inflammatory, too. Plus, it may even help with weight loss.
Good for the heart
When it comes to our heart health, green tea offers a bunch of benefits. Scientific studies have shown that it can help keep our arteries clear from plaque and lower our blood pressure.
This is important because blocked arteries are a major risk factor for strokes. Simply by drinking green tea, we can help to reduce the chance of strokes and coronary heart disease.
“The Swiss Army Knife of teas”
Registered dietician Beth Czerwony says, “Green tea is the champ when it comes to offering health benefits. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of teas.
It covers a lot of territory.” Humans have long been fans of this type of tea; it’s been revered for its medicinal purposes in China and Japan for millennia. So what actually is green tea? And where does it come from?
Green tea explained
The green tea we drink comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Interestingly, green, black, and oolong teas all derive from this same plant; the differences come in the way that these teas are prepared for drinking.
Expert Vicki Shanta Retelny explains, “Oolong tea is partially fermented, green tea leaves are quickly processed to not allow for fermentation, and black tea leaves are highly fermented and oxidized, which gives them a higher caffeine level.”
On that last point, we should definitely take note of green tea’s caffeine content. In about eight ounces of the stuff, we might expect to find roughly 28 milligrams of caffeine.
While that’s typically less than you’ll find in many black varieties, it’s still worth considering if you’re planning on drinking tea late at night. You don’t want to be kept awake by a caffeine buzz.
Black tea: good for reducing inflammation
Black tea has a lot of the same health benefits as green tea, which isn’t surprising when you remember that they come from the same plant. So, like green tea, it can help reduce inflammation.
And both teas are packed full of things called flavonoids, which are shown to lower the possibility of heart disease and cancer from developing. But on top of this, black tea might also reduce the risk of diabetes. Then there are its positive effects on our brain health.
A study from 2016 in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging actually claimed that black tea could help to reduce the chances of neurocognitive disorders taking hold. One well-known example of such a condition would be dementia.
Surprisingly, the report implied that black tea might be even more effective in this respect for women compared to men. Why is black tea different from green tea if it comes from the same plant?
Black tea vs. green tea
Though both green and black teas come from the same Camellia sinensis plant, they are made differently. The leaves that are used to make black tea are left to age and oxidize, which makes them go a brown or black color.
This also gives the tea a deeper flavor. Green tea leaves, meanwhile, are unoxidized; they are used earlier while they’re still green. Black tea also usually contains more caffeine than its green counterpart, so we wouldn’t recommend drinking black tea right before bed.
Oolong: in between black and green tea
Now, if neither green nor black tea takes your fancy, maybe try oolong. It might just be the perfect compromise.
As nutrition expert Rahaf Al Bochi told Everyday Health, “Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea, in between black and green tea, and its concentration of polyphenols offers many health benefits.” But what kind of benefits?
Boosts heart health
In broad terms, oolong tea is known to be very good for the heart. According to one study, drinking a fair amount of it each day — we’re talking two-and-a-half cups here — could be good for keeping bad cholesterol in check.
Oolong tea’s polyphenols help to break down fat in our blood, which helps to avoid the thickening of our artery walls, lowering the risk of things like strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Aids weight management
And if you’re keeping an eye on your weight, there are worse things you could do than sip on some oolong tea.
Research indicates that the properties of oolong tea may help to reduce body fat and even boost our metabolism, helping us to lose weight and lowering the risk of obesity.
Chamomile tea: best before bed
If you’re the type of person who likes to have a cup of tea before bed and who perhaps needs a bit of help drifting off to dreamland, chamomile may be the drink for you. While green, black, and oolong teas contain enough caffeine to keep you up at night, chamomile is caffeine-free, so it’s perfect for sipping on before bedtime.
Even better, it can actually help to calm you down.
Chamomile’s calming effect can be attributed to its apigenin content. This clever antioxidant compound sticks to receptors in your brain, putting the brakes on anxiety and paving the way for a serene, drowsy state.
As Dr. Czerwony explains, “Chamomile basically acts as a mild tranquilizer. Those sips really will help you sleep.” And on top of everything, chamomile tea may also help support your immune system.
Immune system booster
Research actually suggests that chamomile tea may help stimulate the immune system. Vicki Shanta Retelny explains, “Chamomile is in the daisy family and is widely used all over the world.
It’s one of the oldest documented medicinal plants with a variety of healing properties... Chamomile tea may support immune health, which we could all use right about now.”
Benefits for women
Chamomile tea may also be helpful for women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome. According to a 2019 review in the Journal of Pharmacopuncture, the tea’s anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties could be helpful in easing the symptoms of PMS.
Amazingly, meanwhile, other studies seem to suggest that older Hispanic women who drink chamomile may actually extend their lifespans.
Ginger tea: great for the stomach
If you’re having issues with your stomach, ginger tea is the stuff you want to sip on. It’s great for helping the digestive process along, it reduces stress in your stomach, and it’s known to help with nausea, too.
“Ginger relaxes things in your gut, which can make you a lot more comfortable if you’re having tummy trouble,” dietician Beth Czerwony says. Pregnant ladies might feel the benefits of drinking ginger tea if they’re experiencing morning sickness.
An ancient remedy
Ginger has been taken for its amazing health benefits since literally ancient times, but nowadays we have scientific research to support what people long ago had managed to figure out for themselves.
It’s a member of the same plant family as turmeric and cardamom, and people in India and China are thought to have been reaping the medicinal benefits of ginger as a tonic root for more than 5000 years.
Compounds known as gingerols, with their disease-fighting abilities, are one of the reasons ginger is so good for us. These compounds are believed to help protect us from things like diabetes and forms of cancer.
They’re also what give ginger its distinctive taste and smell. You’ll find more gingerols in fresh ginger compared to dried ginger, so it’s best to use the fresh stuff in your tea. And it’s so simple to make.
How to make ginger tea
All you need to do is take a knob of fresh ginger and grate it or slice it up yourself. Place the shredded pieces into a cup and add hot water.
Just leave it there to steam for a little while, maybe two minutes or so, and that’s it! You could also buy ginger tea bags, but fresh is always best. You could also try adding some honey, too, for a sweet kick.
Peppermint tea: good for sickness
Some people absolutely love the sharp, distinctive taste of ginger, but that definitely isn’t the case for everyone. So if it’s not for you, don’t worry: you can get many of the same benefits of ginger from peppermint.
Like ginger tea, peppermint tea is also known to be pretty good for keeping our digestive systems in good working order. “Peppermint herbal tea can be a great option to help support digestion,” explains nutrition expert Rahaf Al Bochi. “Peppermint contains a compound called menthol that can help relax the intestinal tract and help relieve bloating.”
Helps with irritable bowel syndrome
These benefits make peppermint tea a great choice if you’re someone who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. IBS affects many of us, particularly women, and peppermint’s ability to help relax the tissues in our gastrointestinal systems could help combat some of the symptoms.
Basically, like ginger tea, it’s great for our guts.
Supports the immune system
Peppermint tea may also help when it comes to keeping a cold at bay. It’s full of menthol, which is great for boosting our immune systems.
It’s also said to soothe sore throat muscles, help with nasal congestion, and even lower fevers. Plus, it’s packed full of antibacterial and antiviral properties, which help with a ton of stuff. It also doesn’t have any caffeine in it, which makes it ideal to drink when you’ve got a cold and need to get those ZZZs.
Eases chest pain
If you’re someone who suffers from chest pain or has a disorder that makes it difficult to swallow food, peppermint tea might be helpful. A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences suggests taking peppermint — albeit in the form of a pill, in this case — may relax muscles in your lower esophagus.
It’s definitely worth sipping on some tea to see if it helps.
Hibiscus tea: full of antioxidants
Hibiscus tea isn’t just a sharp and refreshing treat for your taste buds or a colorful flower for your garden; it’s also really good for you. Humans have been using the seeds, flowers, leaves, and stems of hibiscus plants for centuries for their medicinal properties, and modern science supports this thinking.
For one thing, hibiscus is loaded with antioxidants. Research suggests that hibiscus is good at keeping specific types of bacteria at bay. More studies are needed here, but the signs are promising.
Lowers blood pressure
Not only is hibiscus delicious and full of antioxidants, but it’s also thought to be great for our hearts. Adults who have high blood pressure might want to consider making hibiscus tea a regular part of their lives.
Studies have suggested that drinking the stuff can help to reduce high blood pressure, which affects almost 50 percent of American adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This can help to prevent serious problems like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.
Aids weight loss
Meanwhile, hibiscus tea could be helpful for people trying to lose weight. Several studies suggest that hibiscus extract aids weight loss, thus helping to prevent obesity, but as with so many of these claims, we need to be cautious: further research is needed.
According to other studies, hibiscus may also help keep our livers healthy.
Fennel tea: good for menopause
In medieval times, people used to hang fennel over their doors on a Midsummer’s night, as it was said to ward off evil spirits. Though it’s no longer used for protection from demons, people still use it today to protect themselves from a variety of ailments.
Women going through menopause might want to consider adding fennel tea to their diets. It’s said to be great for easing some of the harsher symptoms in postmenopausal women. It’s definitely worth a go, as the clinical research into the matter is promising, as published in the journal Menopause.
Fennel tea is also good for digestion more broadly. People with IBS could certainly consider drinking fennel tea to help with the symptoms.
Expert Rahaf Al Bochi explains, “Fennel also relaxes digestive muscles to help with bowel regularity.” Maybe this is why it’s been utilized as a medicine for as long a time as it has.
A versatile remedy
Actually, humans have fennel tea to treat many ailments for hundreds of years, even if Western science doesn’t back up all of them. People have consumed the stuff to help with flatulence, boost metabolism, improve their eyesight, reduce stress, and stabilize their appetite.
But did you know that fennel tea isn’t just for drinking? It’s great for cooking with, too. Yes, people often cook with fennel, but you can actually use your tea to cook grains like quinoa, rice, and couscous, and they’ll absorb the plant compounds from the fennel and give you all that goodness.
How to consume fennel
Every part of a fennel plant is used in cooking and medicine, including the bulbs, flowers, and seeds. However, it’s the seeds that we crush and brew to make fennel tea.
You can buy bags or sachets of fennel tea, or you can make it yourself at home, which we think is always better. First, grind up some fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar. You can add in a bit of ginger, too, if you like the flavor. Then, put some water in a pan and add your crushed fennel seeds; give the mixture a stir and bring it to a rolling boil. Take it off the heat and pour the liquid through a strainer before serving. We suggest stirring in a bit of honey, too. Et voila!