Herbal teas: a way to health

Tea is the second most consumed potable liquid in the world, playing second fiddle only to water. It is in almost every culture, and there are more than thousands of varieties

TeaTea is a beverage that is enjoyed in the morning, afternoon or evening, whether feeling ill or good, and can be consumed hot or cold. Herbal teas, which are also called "tisanes", are a different lot, loaded with many health benefits. Below, we'll take a look at four herbal types that you may want to consider brewing.

There are four main types of herbal teas - white, green, oolong and black. One of the most interesting and surprising facts about herbal teas for newcomers is that all types of tea, white, green, oolong, and black, come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. What determines a type of tea is colour, taste and the processing the newly-picked leaves will undergo before they reach your cup. Camellia is native to most of Southeast Asia, but is cultivated throughout the world.

There are four main types of herbal teas - white, green, oolong and black. One of the most interesting and surprising facts about herbal teas for newcomers is that all types of tea, white, green, oolong, and black, come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. What determines a type of tea is colour, taste and the processing the newly-picked leaves will undergo before they reach your cup. Camellia is native to most of Southeast Asia, but is cultivated throughout the world.

White tea

White tea is the "youngest" and most delicate of all teas. In fact, many people were clueless that this kind of tea existed. It comes from the buds and young tea leaves, shortly before the buds have fully opened. The leaves are then steamed and dried with the minimum amount of processing. Because of this, white tea retains the greatest levels of antioxidants and the lowest levels of caffeine than any other tea from the Camellia sinensis.

The taste of white tea is somewhat sweet, and not as "vegetal" as the taste of some green teas. It is very effective in ridding the body of free radicals, so, it is known for its anti-aging and skin-protecting properties. Several cosmetic companies are taking notice and including this expensive white tea in their skin creams. It helps prevent certain cancers with its high levels of antioxidants and powerful catechins. Some studies indicate that white tea may be five times more effective than green tea in combating cancer. Drinking just 2-3 cups of this white tea a day can strongly increase your immunity and help reduce the risk of many health ailments. The next time you have company, introduce them to a cup along with your newly-found knowledge.

Green tea

When you think about this tea, you think health benefits. This tea is loaded with them. Hundreds of studies have been done revealing that green tea is good for us. Green tea is a natural source of antioxidants and it is mainly produced in China, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam. The green teas of China offer a wide range of flavours and varieties. Green tea is made by steaming, rather than fermenting the tea leaves; therefore, it is able to retain its colour, delicate flavour and powerful antioxidant properties.

When brewing tea, remember that each type of tea is brewed slightly differently, and green teas are heat and time sensitive. An anti-oxidant present in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate [EGCG] has been proven to inhibit cancer cell growth as well as kill active cancer cells without harming the healthy tissue. It is also effective in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. There is also evidence that green tea increases metabolism that can promote weight loss, combined with exercise and a healthy diet. Green tea contains fluoride; it helps prevent tooth decay by killing the bacteria that causes plaque. It is also a great source of Vitamin C, thus increasing immunity. There is also strong evidence that it helps to increase bone density in women, helping them overcome arthritis. Green tea is the perfect addition to any diet.

Oolong tea

Semi-oxidised Oolong tea which is also known as "wu long" tea or brown tea is a cross between green and black tea. Oolong tea is mainly grown in China and Taiwan, where it is known as Formosa Oolong, giving a flowery, amber brew. It contains a high number of antioxidants, which work to protect healthy skin cells and slow down aging. It has been said that drinking oolong tea is one of the best ways to fight the effects of aging on the skin. It also aids digestion and gives an increased feeling of energy and vitality. Like green tea, oolong has the same calorie-burning catechin polyphenols that along with proper diet and exercise, can help in shedding some extra pounds.

Black tea

The most popular type of tea is black tea. About 80 per cent of the world's tea consumption is black tea. There is good reason the black type is numero uno over its three cousins. It offers the most varieties and is the cheapest despite being the most processed. Most black tea is produced in Kenya, India [Assam and Darjeeling] and Sri Lanka. This tea easily blends with other flavours. It has a rich, full flavour. Whether you like it plain or with milk, this black tea satisfies any palate.

Black teas are fully-fermented teas and have the highest amounts of caffeine among the different varieties. Black tea also has the least amount of antioxidants and essential nutrients. Like all tea, the health benefits of black tea focus on the same areas. However, since more research on health benefits is done on green tea, it is believed that green is the only tea that offers most of them.

But this simply isn't true. Black tea does retain a high number of polyphenol and flavonoid antioxidants. These anti-oxidants help rid the body of harmful toxins and help prevent cancer, reduce the risk of strokes and lowers cholesterol.

There are several other varieties of herbal teas such as Pu'erh tea, Roobios or "Red" tea that are known to have the best cholesterol-lowering effect and protect the body from tumors. Others such as peppermint, spearmint, lemon grass and even fruit teas are available for you to choose from.

Did you know that a cup of tea could do so much for us? Though it may take time to get used to the taste, once it becomes familiar, you'll have a whole world of varieties to explore, as well as develop a new healthy habit.

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