A Journey Through the World of Tea

Health Benefits

Five Herbs to Keep Around

Whether you call them teas, infusions, or tistanes; herbs (along with flowers and fruit) steeped in hot water have become part of tea cultures around the world. There are even records that show almost every world civilization using herbal teas for medicinal uses.

I don’t often drink herbal tea, but I enjoy it from time to time. Lately, as I dive more into my major (nursing), I have become intrigued with herbal remedies. Here are some herbs that I think are good for everyone to keep around, just in case.

Cinnamon– The inner bark of a tree commonly found in South East Asia, has been found to help to relieve pain caused by headaches, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. Other studies have shown also that cinnamon can help lower cholesterol, help with the management of type 2 diabetes, and help fight leukemia.

Ginseng– This root commonly from Korea or China has been used for it’s engery boosting properites for over 5,000 years. Other uses are as an anti-aging supplement, improving athletic endurance, and helps with the prevention of some forms of cancer.

Peppermint– This hybrid of spearmint and water-mint is from most commonly from Europe. A traditional use for peppermint in the herbalist world is for soothing effects on the digestive tract. It also can limit indigestion and aid in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Ginger– Another root from Asia, ginger is from the same plant family as cardamom, which is a spice often used in masala chai. Ginger has been known to be a pain reliever and also effective in reducing inflammation. It has been proven to be very powerful against Ovarian cancer, as well as help in the prevention of Colon cancer.

Licorice Root– Licorice root originates in southern Europe. It may not be everyone’s favorite flavor, but licorice can be called somewhat of wonder drug, as it has been found to aid in multiple health areas. Commonly used for sore throats by actors and singers, it can also help with chronic fatigue, viral infections, canker sores, gingivitis, and ulcers.


Ancient Medical Advice

For centuries Pu-erh tea was given as a tribute to the Emperor and high ranking officials in Imperial China. Throughout Chinese history, accounts of it’s many health and medical uses range from prevention and treatment of: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, as well as aiding in digestion.

Pu-erh tea like all teas is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The tea has a very distinct flavor which have been described as earthy, chocolate-y, and also “dirt.” The unique flavor comes from the way in which the tea is handled, and later aged.

Pu-erh can take one of two paths after the leaves have been picked, they can undergo a ripening process or it can be immediately compressed. When ripened before compression, the tea is considered to be “cooked,” alternately, tea that does not go through the process is called “raw” pu-erh. The compacted tea takes shape as a cake, a brick, a mushroom, a nest, or a melon shape. The tea is then traditionally dried, with each shape taking on different characteristics as it dries. Finally the tea is then aged as little as a few months, but some have been aged as much as 80 years. The finished product is then flaked apart and brewed as the tea is needed.

The traditional use for Pu-erh tea was medicine. It was used as a cure for “internal dampness” or the build up of negative energy from the spleen’s inability to utilize chi (energy) from the stomach. It was also used in China for the removal of toxins from the blood, and reduce toxins in alcohol.

Through medical studies, we have reason to believe that Pu-erh helps in three specific areas:

Weight Loss– Rich in antioxidants and other minerals, Pu-erh is found to help suppress fatty acids. This is all due to the unique “fermentation” process to create enzymes that produce micro-nutrients essential to help create a more functional metabolism.

Lowers Bad Cholesterol and Raises Good Cholesterol – Pu-erh helps in lowering of bad cholesterol and the increasing in good cholesterol. This is good as it can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease.

Fight against Gold Staph – Staphylococcus aureus or gold staph is a bacteria that usually causes rapid food poisoning symptoms, including nausea, and vomitting.

I personally am very fond of Pu-erh and claim it to be my favorite type of tea. My favoritism towards this tea I guess is two fold: I have come to like the earthy taste of most Pu-erhs, and I feel like I am sipping on ancient wisdom because I have read all about the medical history involved in it’s past. It takes a lot to get used to drinking it, but once you have learned to enjoy the taste, it becomes something you may become very fond of.

A Cup A Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

“Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), or simply, diabetes, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin” – The American Diabetes Association (ADA)

Now, to help that make sense for anyone that isn’t either a patient, a chemistry lover, or a biology freak, I will offer a brief summary.

Diabetes is a disease that affects 8% of the US’s population, and it can be caused by genetic factors or lifestyle habits.

Glucose is a simple sugar that is present in your blood. Normal levels for humans (before the first meal of the day, the “fasting” period) are less than 6.1 mM (mM is a fancy chemistry abbreviation, but relativity is more important). People with untreated diabetes on the other hand, have much higher blood sugar levels, and are found to be over 7.0 mM (more than 14% extra sugar in the blood).

Just like everything else in the body, more is not usually good. Non-diabetic people regulate these levels with a hormone called insulin. Insulin tells cells to absorb the glucose, and tells the liver to stop giving out glucose. Type 2 diabetics have become immune to their own insulin production, so cells don’t get the message to absorb the glucose, while the liver continues to produce more glucose, causing higher blood sugar levels.

Patients suffering from diabetes may deal with complications such as blindness, cataracts, heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage. While there is no cure for the disease, diabetes can be controlled. Diabetics are encouraged to keep blood pressure and blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Management of diabetes is kept by having strict control over diet, exercise, and proper use of medications.

Now, I am no mind reader, but I can assume that you might be confused as to why you just read about diabetes on a tea blog. After all, diabetes ≠ tea. Well, a study done by the Institute of Food Technologists has shown evidence that a substance in black tea can help in preventing or fighting diabetes.

“There is a potential for exploitation of black tea polysaccharide in managing diabetes.”

Haixia Chen (Lead researcher of the study)

The substance found in tea that can help with diabetic control is polysaccharide. Instead of being a simple sugar like glucose, it is a chain of many glucose linked together. This substance helps by slowing down the absorption of glucose and reduces sugar in the blood. The study also found that black tea can mimic Precose and Glyset, two commonly prescribed medications that help patients with type 2 diabetes.

I was 14 years old when I learned that my father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Not knowing anything about it, I did a little research on the disease and came up with all this information. Through this experience though, I’ve learned that preventive medicine is important, and can be as powerful as prescribed medicine. If you are like me, you may not be a big fan of black teas, but learning this information may make you take a second look at black teas.