It’s International Tea Day, and I thought it would be timely to share some of the best herbal teas I recommend for staying warm, keeping up immunity, and helping to detox from heavier holiday dishes. The best definition of herbal teas comes from Harvard Health’s The Nutrition Source (1):
“Herbal teas are not made from the Camellia plant but from dried herbs, spices, flowers, fruit, seeds, roots, or leaves of other plants; they do not typically contain caffeine as do traditional teas.”
Herbal teas have been used traditionally as medicinal and healing drinks. The most recent research says that while herbal teas need more investigation, they seem to offer marginal benefits in clinical and preventative health (2). Some herbal teas come in one flavor, while others provide a pleasing blend of flavors and help to engage all the senses. These teas are often used in holistic healing approaches as “efficient health boosting functional products” (3).
It is important to beware of herbal teas claiming weight loss. Many teas add extra ingredients in an effort to promote detox. In reality, the resulting shifts in weight will be temporary since the only things the tea really helps with are getting rid of the body waste and some of the water weight. I love what dietitian Anna Taylor from the Cleveland Clinic says about tea and nutrition (4):
7 Herbal Teas for Winter
Beyond tasting like candy canes in a cup, peppermint herbal tea is said to help with the sicknesses of the season. Peppermint leaves contain many essential oils, and have been studied for its effects in easing digestive discomfort, headaches and migraines, relieving clogged sinuses, improving energy, protecting against infections and seasonal allergies, and even more (5). It’s even thought to improve concentration, and with finals week coming up for many, focus is more important than ever.
2. Orange & Spice
This tea reminds many of Christmas/Winter Wassail while it is brewing. Full of citrus and spice, the herbs are said to help boost the immune system, protect from infection, add supplemental vitamins like C and B-complexes to the diet, and it also can provide some minerals as well. Again, these benefits are primarily anecdotal and it is important to check with your healthcare provider if you have questions. However, ingesting herbals teas like orange and spice often pose little risk for the marginal benefits they can offer. Added to a diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals, herbal teas can help to spice things up and add a little nutrients in (6).
The chamomile herb has been used for hundreds of years, and chamomile tea has been a popular beverage for almost as long. Its popularity as a natural remedy can be attributed to several attractive aspects. It’s a caffeine-free alternative to other teas and has an earthy yet slightly sweet taste. It’s a great pick for the winter because with the disruptions of routine and diet it may help beverage drinkers find balance. Like other herbal teas, sleep aid and digestive discomfort relief are among its top health benefits. Nutrient-wise, it contains many antioxidants linked to lowering disease risk, cancer and heart disease included. It is also thought to benefit blood sugar levels by helping to lower them, improve overall heart health through antioxidants, and there is some evidence that anxiety and depression may be less severe in those who take chamomile (7).
This spice is found in both whole and ground form, and it is used to add flavor and festivity to many fall and winter drinks. It’s what brings that spicy warmth to baked goods and beverages during the holiday season. It’s often added to gingerbread and has a sweet aroma, plus it has also been used in traditional medicine for many years since it is antioxidant-rich. This anti-inflammatory spice is usually given to treat gum pain or sore throats. Clove-infused tea is also higher in levels of magnesium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Additionally, cloves are a low-calorie, low-carb option for infusing, and they add a bit of fiber to the diet as well (6,8).
Cinnamon is often recommended to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol (6). It is also reminiscent of holidays, freshly baked cookies, and sweet-scented candles. With its warm smell and amazing flavor, versatility is one of its main superpowers. Cinnamon can be added to almost any dish, from breakfast to dinner, from soups to squash to sweet treats. It’s also broad in terms of its supposed health benefits, including improvement of blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity as well as studies suggesting that it may prevent neurological disorders, inflammation (cell damage), gut health, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), colon cancer, and even tooth decay. A cinnamon-infused tea may end up being just what the doctor ordered (9).
Spiced teas often offer a higher amount of antioxidants, which are vital in strengthening the body against infections. They have also been studied for their effects in helping to relieve nausea and digestive discomfort, which is why ginger is sometimes recommended for women experiencing morning sickness during early pregnancy (6). Ginger-spiced herbal teas can also give a faint flavor and scent of gingerbread -- a staple of the winter season. Said to relieve inflammation and pain, ginger-infused herbal teas
Herbalist experts recommend taking turmeric spiced teas because they contain antioxidants that tend to help the liver and kidneys function more effectively. Holistic healers and conventional physicians alike are aware of turmeric’s well-known anti-inflammatory effects, which are thought to help reduce the risk of many common chronic diseases through the compound curcumin (10).
The Nutrition Source. Tea. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. Accessed at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/tea/
Poswal, F.S., Russell, G., Mackonochie, M. et al. Herbal Teas and their Health Benefits: A Scoping Review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 74, 266–276 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-019-00750-w
Fu Y, Yang JC, Cunningham AB, Towns AM, Zhang Y, et al. A billion cups: The diversity, traditional uses, safety issues and potential of Chinese herbal teas. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2018;222:217-228. ISSN 0378-8741. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2018.04.026.
Cleveland Clinic Staff. What Can Tea Really Do for Your Health? 3 Myths, Debunked. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/detoxifying-teas-how-do-you-tell-whats-hype-and-whats-healthy/
Groves M. 12 Science-Backed Benefits of Peppermint Tea and Extracts. Healthline. 2018. Accessed at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/peppermint-tea
Sheridan K. What are the health benefits of spiced tea. Livestrong. 2020. Accessed at https://www.livestrong.com/article/276825-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-spiced-tea/
Elliot B. 5 Ways Chamomile Tea Benefits Your Health. Healthline. 2017. Accessed at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-benefits-of-chamomile-tea
Link R. 8 Surprising Health Benefits of Cloves. Healthline. 2020. Accessed at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-cloves
Shiffer E. 10 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Cinnamon. Eat This. 2019. Accessed at https://www.eatthis.com/cinnamon-health-benefits/
Kooienga M. Turmeric Tea. Nutrition Stripped. 2014. Accessed at https://nutritionstripped.com/turmeric-tea/
McCulloch M. Medicinal Herbal Teas. Today’s Dietitian. 2016;18(12):36. Accessed at https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1216p36.shtml