Hello, is it tea you’re looking for?
Chicken noodle soup for a cold, a frosty pint on a hot day, Gatorade for a hangover; these are just some of the creature comforts we seek out for sweet relief from that which ails us.
But can anything quite compare to a cup of tea?
For countless centuries, all manner of healers from around the world have used teas to promote health and wellness. But are there any actual benefits to partaking in a steaming cuppa—or is it all in our head?
Jessa Landmann, a naturopathic doctor at the Centre of Natural Medicine in Calgary, believes that botanical medicines, many of which are best administered through teas, are a great option for those who are weary of taking prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Landmann believes that tea is an ideal remedy because so many people already drink it regularly.
“Someone may not even be thinking of the benefits they are picking up from drinking it,” said Landmann.
Devan McKay, a medical herbalist at the Finlandia Pharmacy and Natural Health Centre in Vancouver, agreed.
“The water alone can help to clear the lymphatic system, but also just the act of taking the time for themselves and making a cup of tea can be healing,” said McKay.
Wayne Ha, a SAIT culinary grad and owner of The Tea Factory in Mission, said that the increased popularity of tea is largely due to its versatility.
Ha said that he opts for quality ingredients, single origin teas and rare essential oils when creating his tea blends.
“Tea offers many health benefits, so it’s a natural fit to source out the best ingredients,” said Ha.
A selection of Ha’s teas are now served at the Odyssey Coffeehouse at SAIT, but you’ll have to visit The Tea Factory in person to try the kombucha, a fermented green or black tea that is served cold.
Because of its fermentation process, kombucha is a natural probiotic that is also known to boost metabolism.
Ha recommended kombucha to build immunity, promote mental wellbeing, and to help with concentration, making it an ideal remedy for students.
Both McKay and Landmann said the healing properties of tea aren’t just limited to physical complaints: there are numerous teas that can support mental health as well.
McKay said the link between physical and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety is becoming more prevalent.
Ginseng, ashwaganda, shatavari, rhodiola and astragalus are all herbs used in teas that can offer immune, digestive and endocrine system support, but are also used for stress and anxiety, according to Mckay.
Recent studies have found that lavender and chamomile can be as effective as lorazepam, a prescription anti-anxiety medication, said Landmann.
The emerging popularity of teas for healing is now becoming big business. New diet and detox teas are flooding the market daily.
Landmann said these fad teas are likely to be safe overall, but their efficacy is questionable.
“There is no regulation, so it’s important to question whether the herbal ingredients are even helpful in a tea format,” he said.
Landmann recommended seeing an accredited herbalist or naturopathic doctor who can create a personalized compound of herbs.
These professionals can ensure the tea will not cause an adverse interaction with over-the-counter or prescription medications.
A professional can educate their patients on the correct way to properly prepare prescribed teas. They can also ensure the quality of the herbs, and that the right part of the plant is being used.
“Different parts of different plants do different things,” said Landmann.
“Leaves, stems, roots, and bark, they all need to be broken down a certain way. They may need to be boiled anywhere from two minutes to several hours,” said McKay.
Landmann and McKay both have seen an increase in patients looking for alternatives to conventional medication.
Landmann said tea is a great starting point for someone interested in trying naturopathic medicine.
“From a patient’s standpoint, tea is a gentle type of treatment. It’s safe, easy to prepare, easy to take anywhere,” said Landmann.
“At the end of the day, who doesn’t like a cup of tea?”