Take Time for Tea
This fall, use your tea breaks to bolster immunity!
Modern medicine is reinforcing what our ancestors knew: Herbal teas can have a beneficial impact on both acute and chronic health problems. Over the past decade, scientific studies have highlighted the various ways that tea benefits the mind and body.
The second most widely consumed beverage in the world, tea as medicine was first brewed in China thousands of years ago. Single herbs are usually used for acute health conditions, while chronic problems are typically treated with a mixture of herbs, such as those used in traditional Chinese medicine. Tea can be prepared using loose herbs or tea bags with an average steep time of five to ten minutes. Loose herbs are widely available, offer great variety, and give the tea drinker more control over strength and proportion, especially when used in combination. Tea bags, on the other hand, are already measured or mixed. The herbs in bagged teas are also finely ground, making them—and their associated healing properties—more water-soluble.
Loose or bagged, herbal teas are safe and have gentle and subtle healing effects on the body. They are packed with antioxidants, specifically a powerful class of phytochemicals known as polyphenols. Polyphenols fight free radicals, which damage and eventually destroy cells in the body. Studies indicate drinking tea may have a profound effect on free-radical activity that may contribute to the prevention of heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, teas can be used for general wellness—supporting immunity, digestion, and energy level.
A variety of herbal teas have been shown to support immune function, including echinacea, elderberry, and goldenseal. Both echinacea and elderberry have anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects, making them popular for strengthening the immune system. Native Americans first used echinacea externally to treat wounds and bites; they also ingested it to fight everything from sore throat to rabies. Today echinacea, frequently found in combination with elderberry, is used primarily to treat the symptoms of colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections. Research has found that echinacea increases interferon production, which is one way that the body fights viral infections. Moreover, clinical trials of elderberry have shown that it cures 90 percent of flu infections in a 72-hour period, while patients receiving a placebo took twice as long to recover from their symptoms.