By Dr Vivian Oputa
Tea has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer benefits. An antioxidant works against â€œfree radicalsâ€ which are unbalanced molecules that oxidize skin and body cells leading to aging. The plant leaf known as Camellia sinensis is where black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white tea are derived. Drinking tea contributes to beautiful skin and a healthy body with additional benefits such as reducing the risk of heart attack and preventing osteoporosis.
The teas derived from this plant differ in the way they are dried and fermented. They are rich sources of Vitamin C and E and contain Tannic acid. Tannic acid helps clean the skin and eliminate odour causing bacteria. Green Tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine which has a calming effect against the caffeine found in tea. There are also herbal teas made from dried plants, flowers and leaves such as hibiscus, chamomile, mint, rose petals and rosehips.
Black Tea is fully fermented during processing and has the antioxidant benefits found in green and white tea but to a lesser extent. It doesnâ€™t taste as grassy as green tea because it is fermented. The fermentation process reduces the antioxidant effect.
Green Tea is not fermented at all and Oolong Tea is in between black and green tea in processing. Green Tea probably is the most beneficial of all teas owing to its properties and availability. Its proven anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial to the skin. It is also known to help strengthen teeth (due to the fluoride content), inhibit breast and ovarian cancer, burn fat, reduce insulin resistance and promote a healthy heart to mention a few. Research has shown that the breast cancer risk in Japanese women is significantly reduced in those who drink 6-10 small cups of green tea per day.
White Tea is the least processed of all teas and is similar to green tea. It tastes light and sweet and does not have the grassy taste of green tea. The white tea leaves are picked and harvested before the leaves fully open and the buds are covered with white hair hence the name. It has the most benefits of all the teas as it contains the most cancer fighting antioxidants and its scarcity makes it more expensive. There is considerably less caffeine in white tea (15mg per serving) than the other varieties with Black Tea containing 40mg per serving and Green Tea 30mg per serving. White Teas are produced mostly in China and Japan . The Darjeeling region of India also produces some fine white teas.
Health Benefits of Herbal Teas
There are several plants used for herbal teas and the health benefits are varied. The following are some commonly consumed herbal teas
Â·Chamomile Tea calms the nerves, induces sleep, eases cold symptoms and soothes the stomach. The flowers are used.
Â·Ginger Root Tea improves circulation, relieves cold and flu symptoms, eases stomach cramps and nausea, eases menstrual cramps and regulates blood sugar.
Â·Rooibos Tea is an herbal tea from South Africa . Itâ€™s distinctively red in colour, and has a strong sweet taste, with a nutty aftertaste. Itâ€™s rich in antioxidants and has relaxing properties.
Â·Fennel Tea from its seeds, improves appetite, aids the digestive process, relieves stomach cramps, eliminates flatulence and soothes sore throat and cough.
Â·Kava Kava Tea promotes sleep, is a muscle relaxant, eases anxiety, is a diuretic and it promotes urinary tract health. The roots are used.
Â·Mint Tea from its leaves eases stomach and digestive problems, helps relieve headaches and is relaxing.
Â·Rosehip Tea from its seed pods or â€œhipsâ€ has antioxidant properties, is a good source of Vitamin C, eases headaches and prevents bladder infections.
Â·St. Johnâ€™s Wort Tea from its leaves relieves anxiety and irritability, is a relaxant, lifts the spirit and improves mood.
Â·Thyme Tea from its leaves boosts the immune system, promotes perspiration, is antiseptic and it eases sore throat and cough.
Â·Yarrow Tea from its flowers reduces cold symptoms and chest congestion and improves digestion and appetite.
Â·Valerian Tea from its roots is a relaxant, promotes sleep, eases nerves and relieves stomach cramps.
Â·Licorice Root Tea relieves cough and sore throat, improves digestion, eases menstrual cramps, reduces seasonal allergies and is believed to increase libido.
Â·Burdock Root Tea stimulates the liver, cleanses the blood, is anti-inflammatory, helps regulate blood sugar and has antioxidant properties.
Â·Cinnamon Tea from its bark improves circulation, eases cold and flu symptoms, relieves stomach upsets and menstrual cramps and helps regulate blood sugar and insulin.
Â·Strawberry Leaf Tea from its leaves and not the fruit soothes the stomach, relieves diarrhoea, and helps ease arthritis and rheumatism.
Â·Nettle Tea from its leaves is rich in Vitamins A and C, cleanses the blood, improves liver and kidney function, eases cough and other respiratory problems, and relieves diarrhoea and constipation.
Â·Sage Tea from its leaves calms nerves, improves digestion and eases lung congestion and cough.
Â·Fruit Teas Various fruits have also been used as infusions for tea.
Tea Beauty Tips
Â·Eye puffiness can be treated by applying cool moistened tea bags over them for about 10minutes.
Â·Soaking feet in black tea helps reduces odour because of its astringent and antibacterial properties
Â·Placing a moistened green tea bag over an insect bite or wound helps soothe the area and reduce itching and swelling.
Â·A cooled strong cup of green tea may be used as an astringent for acne prone skin.
Â·Herbal Tea could add colour to hair. Sage will darken hair, Chamomile lightens blonde hair and Hibiscus tea gives red hair highlights.
Â·Using black or Ceylon tea for mixing henna hair colour instead of water improves the intensity.
Â·Sunburned skin may be soothed by having a tea bath. Run a tap over 4 to 5 teabags of Green, Jasmine or Oolong tea to fill bathtub and soak in warm water. Gently pat body dry and apply a soothing moisturiser.