Hot Cups o’ Love: Top 10 Herbal Teas to Warm You Up All Year Round

By Sarah Stevenson

Winter may be winding down, but that that doesn’t mean we’re done with chilly weather for the year. Some days, the only thing that can warm me up is a hot bath, but when that isn’t an option, I go for plan B—a nice, hot cup of herbal tea. It warms me up in no time at all.

Assorted Herbal Teas

Herbal teas have long been popular in the East as homeopathic natural remedies. Here in the West, they’ve generally been considered either “alternative” medicine or just caffeine-free alternatives to coffee and traditional tea. Now, they’re beginning to grow in mainstream popularity thanks to a growing body of research telling us that a hot cup of herbal tea can support liver function, help speed weight loss, help enhance/stabilize moods, help lower blood pressure, and a host of other great things, including keeping me warm when my mother is visiting and won’t get out of the bathroom.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Chamomile tea. Chamomile is an ingredient in all my favorite sleepy-time teas. It’s known for its calming, anxiety-reducing effects. In January 2005, the American Chemical Society conducted a study in which participants were required to drink 5 cups of chamomile tea for a period of 2 weeks. Research found an increase in chemicals responsible for immune system functioning, reduced menstrual cramping and muscles spasms, and mild sedation/calming effects. The researchers reported, “Levels of both hippurate and glycine (the chemicals responsible for the positive effects from drinking the tea) remained elevated for up to two weeks after the study participants stopped drinking the tea, indicating that the compounds may remain active for quite some time.” As of February 2011, chamomile is approved by the German regulatory agency for herbs for treating various health conditions and for use in medicinal baths for alleviating skin irritations.
Oolong teaOolong tea. Oolong tea is one of the healthiest teas you can ingest. It contains antioxidant properties that help fight against the production of free radicals in our systems. Free radicals are found everywhere in the foods we eat and even in the air we breathe and the sun that warms us. Kenichi Yanagimoto conducted a comparative study in 2003 in which he compared antioxidant activities of green tea, oolong tea, and black tea. He found green tea to be the most potent antioxidant (100 percent blocker of oxidants when drank for 40 days), followed by oolong tea (50 percent blocker of oxidants when drank for only 15 days), and black tea showing very low levels of antioxidant properties. It’s also been reported to help with weight loss by increasing your metabolism, burning fat, and blocking fat absorption. In a 2004 study posted in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Yang found that drinking green and oolong tea for at least a year reduces high blood pressure. Regular drinkers are 46 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure if they drink one to two half cups a day. They are 65 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure if they drink more than 2 cups a day.
Green teaGreen tea. Nothing gives me a clean boost of energy like green tea. Have a hot cup in the winter or have it over ice to cool you down in the summertime. As mentioned above, it’s a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests green tea can aid in cancer prevention and decrease blood clotting, strokes, heart attacks, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other aging-related disorders. The health benefits related with consuming green tea have also been validated in animal studies.
Lemon grass tea. This herbal tea has a very fresh, citrus taste to it. It is known in some Eastern medicines for removing toxins, bacteria, and fungi from your liver, kidneys, pancreas, bladder, and digestive system. With a clean system, your skin will improve, indigestion will decrease, and your immune system will be oh-so-happy. Just talking about this tea makes me want to brew a cup. It’s easy to make. If you have fresh leaves, you just pour 2 cups of water over 1/4 cup of lemon grass leaves, bring to a boil, and let it simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. If you have dried leaves, pour boiling water over about 2 teaspoons of leaves, and let it steep for 5 minutes.
Ginger root teaGinger root tea. This sassy, spicy tea has been passed down through the ages to cure conditions such as arthritis, diarrhea, and nausea. Ginger root tea does an amazing job at getting rid of nausea. Vomiting and nausea are symptoms of indigestion, and this tea is responsible for aiding in the secretion of digestive juices that help control stomach acid and relax your abdominal muscles. Because of its spicy properties, this is a great tea for colds. It causes you to sweat, which helps break a fever, and it also helps you detoxify pathogens. Spicy tea also helps clear out your sinuses so you can breathe easy. Ginger tea also aids with digestion by helping break down proteins in foods that may cause gas.
Passion flower teaPassion flower tea. For generations, Native American tribes have used this tea for its sedating effect to calm the nerves. Traditional medical practitioners are also admitting this tea’s powers to lower blood pressure and act as a natural pain killer. Passion flower tea calms muscle tension and twitching without affecting your heart or clouding your mind like pharmaceutical drugs. Both the dried leaves and stems of the flower contain the health benefits. Infuse 1 tablespoon of dried herbs in 1 cup of boiling water. Let the mixture steep for about 10 minutes. Rely on this tea anytime you need a restful sleep or relief from pain.
Peppermint tea. This tea can be made from dried or fresh peppermint leaves, which are very simple to grow organically in your own backyard. Peppermint tea is known for its healing properties with your digestive system. It is a carminativean agent that dispels gas and bloating in the digestive system, and an antispasmodic, which means it helps relieve intestinal cramps related to an upset stomach. Its expectorant properties help your body clear mucus when you have a head cold. It also has the aromatherapy benefit of helping to relieve headaches and induce a restful sleep.
Rooibos teaRooibos tea (red bush tea). Pronounced roy-boss, this tea got its name for its green leaves that turn red when oxidized. It contains polyphenols that serve as anti-inflammatory and anti-viral agents. It also has sedative effects similar to chamomile, so it is very helpful for those who suffer from insomnia. It contains calcium, manganese, and fluoride to help build strong teeth and bones. Current research suggests that the tea has anti-aging qualities. At Japan’s Iwate University, researchers looked at rooibos’ ability to protect against damage to the central nervous system caused by aging. Young female rats were allowed to drink their fill of rooibos tea for 21 months. They were then compared to rats that drank only water. The scientists searched for signs of lipid peroxidation—cell damage caused by free radicals—in the two groups. There was indeed a sign in the water-fed, but not the rooibos-fed rats.
Mulberry tea. This tea has a really delicious, fruity taste. Mulberry tea is filled with nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. It aids in weight loss because it’s a diuretic, so it helps cleanse your body of toxins, and it also has the ability to block sugars from entering the blood stream. In a study published in the May 2007 issue of Diabetes Care journal, mulberry leaf was found to reduce glucose levels in rats and subjects with type 2 diabetes. The tea contains antioxidants that help build the immune system and reduce bad cholesterol.
Licorice teaLicorice tea. Licorice is a perennial herb indigenous to Greece, Italy, Spain, Syria, Iraq, and southern China. It is one of my very favorite teas, especially when I’m not feeling well. It has a very sweet, almost syrupy taste to it. It can be used as a cough syrup, just add a little honey to thicken it and it coats your throat just like an over-the-counter cold remedy. It can also be used to sooth ulcers and stomachaches due to digestive problems. In one study, licorice root extract was used to treat 100 patients with stomach ulcers (of which 86 had not improved from conventional medication) for 6 weeks. Ninety percent of patients improved; ulcers totally disappeared in 22 of these patients.

So, now you know. Tea has many healing properties: the ability to wake you up, calm you down, warm you up, and thin you out. Why wouldn’t you drink it? Now you have 10 great herbal teas to choose from.

Resources:

Matsuyama T, Tanaka Y, Kamimaki I, Nagao T, Tokimitsu I. Catechin safely improved higher levels of fatness, blood pressure, and cholesterol in children. Obesity 2008; 16(6):1338–1348.
Zaveri NT. Green tea and its polyphenolic catechins: Medicinal uses in cancer and noncancer applications. Life Sciences 2006; 78(18):2073–2080.
Leite JR, Seabra Mde L, Maluf E, et al. (July 1986). “Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans”.
American Chemical Society (2005, January 4). Chamomile Tea: New Evidence Supports Health.
German chamomile. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed at http://www.naturaldatabase.com on May 8, 2009.
Kenichi Yanagimoto, Hirotomo Ochi, Kwang-Geun Lee, and Takayuki Shibamoto (2003). Antioxidative Activities of Volatile Extracts from Green Tea, Oolong Tea, and Black Tea. J. Agric. Food Chem., 51 (25), 7396 -7401.
Yang YC et all (2004). The protective effect of habitual tea consumption on hypertension. Archives of Internal Medicine 164:1534-1540.
Inanami O, Asanuma T, Inukai N, Jin T, Shimokawa S, Kasai N, Nakano M, Sato F, Kuwabara M. The suppression of age-related accumulation of lipid peroxides in rat brain by administration of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis). Neurosci Lett. 1995 Aug 18;196(1-2):85-8.
GENG Yanyan,WANG Yuefei (Department of Tea Science,Zhejiang University,Hangzhou 310029,China); Review on anti-diabetic effect and its mechanisms of tea polyphenols(TP)[J];Journal of Tea;2007-01
Tominaga Y, Nakagawa K, Mae T, et al. Licorice flavonoid oil reduces total body fat an visceral fat in overweight subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 2009;3(3).
Borrelli F, Izzo AA. The plant kingdom as a source of anti-ulcer remedies. [Review]. Phytother Res. 2000;14(8):581-591.

Related Articles
“Leaf Relief: 8 Awesome Herbs for Your Kitchen”
“Sleep and Muscle Growth”
“9 Appetite-Suppressing Foods”

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