What are the healthiest herbal teas?
Although the variety of herbal teas on offer is vast, today I'm focusing on my top 10:
- Lemon and ginger
- Green tea
- Golden Rod
I have picked this lot specifically because they can aid our health in a wide range of ways. Read on to find out how and why this is the case.
1. Lemon and ginger tea – circulation
A recent A.Vogel survey found that participants favoured lemon and ginger tea over any other herbal variety. With its refreshing mix of spice and citrus, it's easy to see why this is the case. What about the health benefits, though? Could these also be enticing people?
Ginger, for one, certainly has lots to offer. It has traditionally been used as a digestive aid and is known to help ease nausea and motion sickness.1 It also contains anti-inflammatory properties which could help with a range of issues, from menstrual cramps to headaches.
Lemon and ginger together could be stimulating for your circulation, plus this combination provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants.
Top tip: If you have a cold or flu, I'd recommend mixing some honey into a lemon and ginger tea as this can help calm symptoms like coughing, a sore throat and congestion.
2. Chamomile tea - sleep
Chamomile is a daisy-like plant that, when dried, produces tea with a subtle taste. In our recent herbal tea survey, chamomile was the second most popular option with 21% of participants saying they favoured this drink.
This particular hot drink is perhaps best known for the relaxing effect it can have on the nervous system. This can aid sleep – studies have found that chamomile can help us get to sleep faster, plus it may also help to improve the quality of our sleep.2 On top of this, chamomile could help to relieve mild stress and anxiety, again due to the relaxing effect it has on the nervous system.
Top tip: Take chamomile tea either an hour or two before bed to help get a better night's sleep.
3. Green tea – immune health
Green tea has seen a boost in popularity in recent years, with many studies hailing its potential health benefits.
Green tea is made using leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub that is native to Asian countries like China, Japan and India. Although black tea is also made from this plant, how the leaves are treated create different end products, with different properties and benefits.
The leaves involved with the preparation of black tea, for example, are rolled and then left out to dry in order to trigger fermentation. To produce green tea, however, the leaves are harvested and then heated. These leaves are not left out to oxidize at any point which keeps them light in colour.
Green tea is thought to be beneficial for our immune health as it contains high levels of catechins which are a type of flavonoid which boast a number of anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties.3 Antioxidants are thought to be an important defence mechanism against illnesses including colds and flu.
Top tip: Green tea has a light and refreshing flavour that should be properly enjoyed, so take some time out of your day, with a good book or simply in a quiet spot, and do just that!
4. Echinacea – colds and flu
Echinacea is part of the daisy family and, arguably its most well-known variety, Echinacea purpurea, is distinguished by its bright colour - it comes in purple, orange, yellow and more. The tea produced by this plant is subtle in flavour, though manufacturers often add other ingredients like blackberry for a little added sweetness.
The Echinacea plant is best known for its ability to support the immune system. Not only does this help to prevent colds and flu,4 it could help speed up recovery, should you come down with an illness.5
Although it's not technically a tea, our Echinacea Hot Drink contains fresh Echinacea extract which makes it ideal if you are in the midst of a cold to help combat symptoms. The fresh extract is known to contain higher levels of antiviral activity than dried extracts, making this a particularly effective remedy.
Top tip: We have a range of Echinacea products in addition to our comforting Echinacea Hot Drink. You can get a bit more information about these remedies in Dr Jen Tan's blog 'Fight colds and flu with Echinacea'.
5. Peppermint tea - digestion
Peppermint plants are native to Europe, Asia and North America but are quite hardy so can easily be grown elsewhere too. The plants produce large leaves that can be dried for use in tea. The flavour is fresh and vibrant which explains why it was historically used as a means of curing bad breath!
This tea has also traditionally been used as a digestive aid because it is thought be gently cleansing and to emit a relaxing effect on the gastrointestinal tissues.6 This is still true today and it is often recommended for conditions like IBS, where symptoms like bloating are problematic.
Another positive effect of peppermint is that it may help ease congestion. The presence of menthol means it acts as a natural decongestant and so it loosens mucus in order for it to flow from the nose.
Other potential benefits of peppermint tea include relief from headaches and menstrual cramps. Again, this is thought to be because the tea acts as a muscle relaxant.
Top tip: I'd recommend drinking peppermint tea 30 minutes after eating to help aid digestion.
6. Nettle tea - allergies
Although the nettle plant often gets a bad reputation due to the nasty sting it can induce, nettle tea is altogether different. This has a crisp and refreshing taste and offers benefits that are wide-ranging.
First of all, nettle tea is often recommended for anyone suffering from hayfever, or other allergies to the likes of animal dander and dust. Here, the body over-reacts to contact with these things and so releases histamine in an attempt to fend them off. This can cause inflammatory symptoms like itchy skin, congestion and more.
Nettle tea can be beneficial as it is thought to act as a natural antihistamine. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and, therefore, could in turn reduce the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms such as those just mentioned.7
The anti-inflammatory properties of nettle tea may also be beneficial for anyone experiencing mild pain or stiffness in the joints – that's why our Menopause expert Eileen often recommends nettle tea for women going through the menopause when these symptoms are likely to develop.
Top tip: Try making your own nettle tea. Simply boil a cup of leaves and then leave to rest for 5 minutes. Push the boiled leaves through a sieve and then place in a mug. Fill the mug with hot water, diffuse for a few minutes and then add a dash of honey for sweetness if you like. Mix one cup of fresh leaves per every two cups of water. Be careful not to sting yourself, though, and ensure the plants have been thoroughly washed beforehand.
7. Golden Rod tea – urinary problems
Golden Rod, or Solidago, plants are perennial meaning they live for several years. They are native to North America but are now found widely in Europe in fields and meadows.
This tea supports the urinary tract and is useful for keeping urinary infections at bay. In addition, it is gently cleansing and can help to remove impurities from the body.
8. Turmeric tea – muscles and joints
Unlike most of the teas on this list which are derived from plants, turmeric tea is produced from a colourful spice. This gives it a uniquely aromatic, warming and altogether very colourful taste.
Research has shown that turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids which are thought to be anti-inflammatory.8 Inflammation can contribute to a whole host of problems including arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease so, in these instances, turmeric could prove useful.
On top of this, circulation and immune health are just some of the other areas that turmeric is thought to benefit. You can read this blog '6 fantastic uses for turmeric' for more information.
Top tip: As well as drinking turmeric tea to gain the benefits of this great spice, it can also be worth trying a sensibly-dosed supplement. Remember, though, that liquid supplements are generally better absorbed by the body than tablets.
9. Rooibos tea – caffeine-free
For all the breakfast tea lovers out there, Rooibos tea is a good option as the two have quite similar tastes. The difference with Rooibos, however, is that it doesn't contain any caffeine. This makes it good for people who may be new to herbal teas and want to reduce their caffeine intake.
Caffeine is problematic in a number of ways. It can promote inflammation in the body, for example, and can upset digestion. Therefore, it can prove beneficial to reduce the amount you consume.
Rooibos tea is also thought to contain a number of additional antioxidants when compared to black tea, plus it is lower in tannins. Tannins, which occur naturally in many varieties of tea, are compounds which are thought to risk interfering with the absorption of essential nutrients from our diet, including iron.
Top tip: With the absence of caffeine, this tea won't keep you awake at night so feel free to have a cup after dinner to help you unwind.
10. Dandelion tea – detox
Dandelion, with its familiar yellow petals, makes another impressive tea. It has quite a mild taste so is another good option for anyone that's new to herbal tea.
Dandelion tea can be included as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to help aid digestion. It's also been recommended as a detox tea because of the presence of antioxidants and flavonoids.
On top of all this, it also contains those all-important anti-inflammatory properties that we now know can help with issues like stiffness and joint pain.
So, dandelion tea is definitely a bit of all-rounder!
Top tip: When shopping for herbal teas, look at the labels. You want to find one that contains a high quantity of the specified plant, rather than there being additional ingredients in there too.