In Part 1 I wrote about why many of the drinks waiting on store shelves really aren’t good for you because of the sugar in them. I didn’t really touch on the chemicals in them that we might be concerned about, but let’s just say most drinks you can buy aren’t good for you. It’s that simple. Even water can be a concern because of the leaching of chemicals from the plastic- in many cases, we don’t know if they are bad but we also can’t say they are good because it simply hasn’t been studied long-term. So what to drink? Many patients fear that giving up sweet drinks means a life of drinking only water. Never fear, there is hope! Welcome to the wonderful world of teas and tisanes.
Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol, and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
There is significant literature on the health benefits of tea that I won’t repeat here, but the short version is for most people teas and tisanes are a healthy beverage choice with many varieties and flavors to choose from.
Let’s start with tisanes since most of you are already familiar with teas. Tisanes have no caffeine and depending on the ingredients you choose can have a wide variety of health benefits. The challenge is finding the ingredients locally because many haven’t made their way mainstream yet. Some Asian or international markets will have some. We carry some of these harder to find tisane ingredients for sale in loose form for our communities. They can be brewed and enjoyed hot or cold. In addition to many varieties made from herbs and fruits, a popular tisane is a rooibos. Rooibos teas are a naturally sweet and sometimes nutty herbal tea made from the South African Red Bush. The rooibos tea processing method involves harvesting the red bush leaves, followed by grinding and bruising of the leaves.
Most grocery stores have a wide selection of tisanes (or herbal teas). I recommend reading the labels and selecting those that are organic and without synthetic ingredients. You can even make your own at home from dried or fresh mint, organic citrus peels, fresh ginger, cinnamon...the options are endless.
Teas come in so many varieties- there is a whole world of flavors to explore. Here’s a quick summary of types, all are made from the Camellia sinensis plant:
● Black tea made by a process of withering then rolling the tea leaves followed by a long period of fermentation. Then the black tea leaves are fired resulting in a loose leaf black tea with a complex yet recognizable smell and full-bodied, strong flavor.
● Oolong tea- A variety of black tea where after the tea leaves are picked, they are intentionally bruised by shaking. While the leaves are drying, the edges of the bruised leaves turn reddish in color and the surface becomes light yellow due to fermentation and oxidation. After some fermentation period, the tea leaves are pan-fried to create a semi-fermented tea.
● Green tea-the tea leaves are picked, dried, and heat-treated to stop fermentation of the leaves. The heat treatment for Chinese green tea consists of roasting the tea leaves in a hot roasting pan whereas Japanese green tea is steamed. After moisture is removed through the heat treatment, the tea leaves are typically rolled and dried again before ready for use. Chinese green tea produces a yellowish green liquor and toasted taste while Japanese green tea is dark green in color and has a grassy taste.
● White tea- made from the tea buds and youngest tea leaves. It is the least processed of all teas—the tea leaves are simply steamed and then dried. White tea has very little caffeine and brews a light color and flavor. White teas can be appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, natural sweetness, and delicacy.
● Purehh tea- in which the tea leaves undergo microbial fermentation and oxidation after they are dried and rolled. Purehh teas have a strong taste and sometimes even a smoky flavor. Traditionally they are believed to help digestion, especially after a heavy meal.
Need some inspiration for your own teas or tisanes? Here are some of my favorites:
● For stress-relief (especially during the summer): Goji Berries & Chrysanthemum Flowers (for variety may be a few rose petals and ginkgo leaves)
● For sugar cravings without the sugar: Licorice root, dried longan fruit & cinnamon
● To cool off on a hot day: Mint & dried longan fruit
● To satisfy that craving for a chai tea without all the sugar: 1 C coconut milk, 1t cinnamon, 1/2t turmeric, dash each of nutmeg and cayenne- bring to a gentle simmer, add a touch of honey if desired.
● To warm the digestion: 1” fresh ginger root thinly sliced, 1 small cinnamon stick or 1t ground cinnamon- simmer for 5-10 min, cool slightly and enjoy! If you add a few goji berries or dried longan fruit you won’t need any sugar at all.
● For a mild headache a combination of gingko leaves, green tea and chrysanthemum flowers.
● For women’s health & fertility: red raspberry leaf, goji berries, nettle leaf, red clover and rosehips
If you need help selecting a tisane specifically designed to support your health needs let us know during your next appointment! Do you regularly drink teas or tisanes? What is your favorite?