Health benefits of green and herbal teas

glass cup of green teaPic: Shutterstock / Svetlana Foote

We Brits are highly attached to a good ole cuppa, but when it comes to good health, research suggests a refreshing green or herbal tea outperforms the standard English breakfast variety.

So what are the health benefits, and how can tea help to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape?

Green tea
The health properties of green tea have been celebrated for centuries, with traditional Chinese medicine believing it can relieve or cure everything from headaches and depression to healing wounds and improving heart health.

The truth is that because green tea is made from un-oxidised leaves and with less processing than the average cuppa, it contains higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, thought to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects. Unsweetened, it is also a zero calorie beverage, and contains less caffeine than its black counterpart.

Health benefits
There have been many studies into the possible health benefits provided by green tea, but the results do vary. It is worth noting though that those countries with the highest green tea consumption also tend to have lower cancer rates, and the National Cancer Institute claims that polyphenols in the drink have been shown to decrease tumour growth in animal and laboratory studies. Researchers believe the high levels of polyphenols help to kill cancerous cells and prevent their growth, though others dispute its effectiveness in the cancer area.

Green tea is also thought to help improve blood flow and lower cholesterol, which could help to prevent cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, while these properties could also be beneficial to type 2 diabetes sufferers.

A Swiss study also suggested that the drink is good for the grey matter, with those who drank green tea found to have greater activity in the working-memory area of their brain. Furthermore, advocates of the health-giving cuppa claim it can also aid weight loss, because the antioxidants and caffeine help the body to burn more calories.

Herbal help
Sitting alongside the 'superfood' green tea are the herbals, which are caffeine free and are said to provide their own health benefits. Ginger tea, for example, is a good choice for those with digestive problems, since it can soothe nausea and an upset tummy, while calming chamomile has long been used to help send us off to sleep with its natural sedative and de-stressing properties.
For those looking to energise and get some verve back, Rooibos is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants that could help to keep the signs of ageing at bay, while dandelion and burdock is rumoured to help cleanse the liver, so could replace a strong coffee the morning after the night before!

So before you brew up your usual morning cup and get out the milk and sugar, think about switching to a herbal alternative and see if you feel the benefit.

Are you a herbal tea fan and why? Leave your comments below...
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