By Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D.
Tea goes back to China almost 5,000 years ago. Herbal teas were specially blended
from plants that exhibited medicinal properties to maintain health and prevent illness. Find out
what makes tea so beneficial and how you can craft your own custom blend to stay healthy!
What is tea?
Technically speaking, tea is the dried and processed leaves of Camellia sinensis, and includes four main
varieties: black, oolong, green, and white tea.
Black tea, produced when tea leaves undergo an oxidizing process that turns the leaves black, has the
strongest flavor and the highest content of caffeine — about one third the caffeine you would get from the
same cup of coffee. Oolong tea is slightly less oxidized and has less caffeine. Green tea is steamed,
rolled and dried immediately after harvest, which halts the oxidation process, allowing the leaves to
retain their green color. White tea undergoes the least processing — the young tea buds are picked and then
air-dried. All of these varieties have different health benefits, with green tea and white tea leading the
Experts believe that flavonoids are the key health-promoting ingredient in tea. These polyphenol
antioxidants are present in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been found to help
prevent cell damage. Recent research suggests that tea may protect against heart disease and many types of
What about herbal tea?
Well, herbal tea is not really tea at all, but actually an infusion or tisane made from various leaves,
flowers, fruit, or herbs. Herbal tea is sometimes enjoyed for its delicious taste and many times enjoyed
for its medicinal properties.
While real "tea" boasts many healthy benefits, a major pro to herbal tea is that it is caffeine-free. Also,
you can tailor your tea to your needs by selecting herbs and plants that address the health issue you want
The list of tea recipes that follow are just a few combinations to help you heal.
1. Warming tea for cold hands and feet
For a warming tea from head to toe, make cinnamon and clove tea by putting 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon
of cloves in 3 cups of water and boil for 15 minutes. Strain and drink 3 cups each day. Drink one cup in
the evenings to warm your insides, which encourages a good night's sleep.
2. Pore-opening tea for combating a cold
This is a traditional Chinese remedy for a "wind cold," which usually occurs during seasonal changes and is
often a result of exposure to drafts. At this early stage, Chinese medicine suggests that perspiration is
helpful in removing the pathogens from the skin.
Boil one chopped garlic clove, three slices of ginger, one chopped scallion, some basil, and a pinch of
cinnamon in 24 ounces of water for five minutes. Drink the tea hot and go to bed. Cover up and prepare to
sweat. Sweating opens the pores, releasing trapped pathogens from the skin. Drink at least 3 cups of tea
daily until symptoms subside.
For "wind heat" type of cold, which is characterized by high fever, sweating, sore throat, cough,
headaches, and a yellow nasal discharge, you would see a Chinese medical practitioner for an herbal blend
that is individualized for your needs.
3. Alertness-Enhancing Tea
The next time you need to spice up your concentration, instead of reaching for harsh stimulants like
coffee, try the potent yet gentle energizers in your spice rack. Studies have found that compounds in
everyday herbs and spices can increase mental function and physical
Vitality. All these herbs and spices
contain volatile oils that stimulate your senses and increase alertness: dill, oregano, cilantro,
rosemary, sage, bay, peppermint, ginger, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, onion, chives, garlic and leek.
Make a tea from any combination and drink whenever you need a pick-me-up.
4. Herbal Hearing Aid Tea
The traditional Chinese remedy for diminished hearing is to make a tea from herbs that gently restore the
ear. Make a hearing aid tea by boiling together for 15 minutes: 4 cups of water, 1 heaping tablespoon each
of oregano, cilantro, rosemary, and sage, combined with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 3 slices of fresh
ginger. Drink three cups a day for three weeks and hear the difference.
5. Stomach-Settling Tea
Ginger has been shown to soothe the digestive lining and balance gastric juices. Make ginger tea by slicing
fresh ginger root into 2 inch long slices and boiling in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Strain out the
ginger and sip the tea slowly. Drink ginger tea as often as you need to settle your stomach and keep nausea
Or steep 1 teaspoon each of mint, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, sage, and basil in a cup of hot water. Drink
after each meal to soothe and prevent bloating.
Follow these tips for best benefits:
- Tap water affects the taste of tea. It is best to use fresh filtered water.
- To extract the most beneficial compounds from the tea leaves or bags, let them steep for three to
- It is best to drink tea unsweetened and without milk, which can minimize some of the health benefits. Forgo the sugar and try instead honey, stevia products, or a stick of cinnamon.
- For maximum health benefits, I suggest you work with a licensed acupuncturist or traditional Chinese
medicine practitioner to find an herbal blend tailored specifically to your needs.