Herbal Teas

Christina Carreau BA, ND

Herbal teas are often overlooked for the incredible health benefits that they have to offer because many of us are looking for a ‘caffeine fix’ with our warm drinks. While I am not against drinking coffee or black tea (in moderation), I would love to see more people drinking herbal teas. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, they are alkalinizing to the body, tasty (for the most part), warming, and restorative.

Here is a list of 10 common herbal teas to keep you warm this holiday season.

Chamomile –  has a very mild, flowery flavour and is one of the most widely used relaxing herbal teas. It is great for calming nerves, reducing anxiety and soothing an upset stomach.  It is also used for alleviating menstrual cramps, and treating skin conditions such as eczema.

Dandelion Leaf – is rich in vitamins A, C, D, and B, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon. It is a powerful diuretic (meaning it increases the production and elimination of urine). Often diuretics result in loss of potassium, however dandelion leaf is a rich source of potassium and is therefore a very effective and safe diuretic. This is a great tea for water retention, high blood pressure and to nourish the kidneys.

Dandelion Root – this tea has a bitter taste but it is very nourishing to the liver and gallbladder. It is helpful for stimulating secretion of bile thereby improving digestive function. It is also helpful for treating inflammation and congestion of the liver and gall bladder. This is a great tea for cleansing/purifying the blood.

Fennel – is a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, folate, iron, copper and B3. It is useful for treating indigestion (gas and bloating in particular) colic, upper respiratory infections and menstrual cramps. It is best to avoid fennel if you have gastro-esophageal reflex as it may worsen symptoms.

Ginger – is a spicy and pungent tea that has a very warming effect on the body and therefore a great tea to drink in the winter months. It’s used as a home remedy for indigestion, nausea, morning sickness, motion sickness and to ward off colds, flus, and sore throats. Ginger tea should be avoided if you are on blood thinners and should not be consumed in large amounts if you are pregnant.

Lemon Balm – has a lemony flavour (surprise, surprise) and is known for its relaxing properties. It is often used to treat anxiety, irritability, stress, insomnia, and ‘nervous stomach’. It shares many of the same health benefits as chamomile.

Milk Thistle – is well known for its liver nourishing properties. It helps lower fatty deposits in the liver, increases the flow of bile, and improves cholesterol management. It is also a powerful antioxidant and is protective against cancer. It has quite a bland flavor and is best when added to another herbal tea.

Nettle Leaf – possesses a rich green color revealing its high iron and chlorophyll content. It is also very high in the minerals calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, copper, chromium, zinc, cobalt, potassium and phosphorus and contains high amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B1 and B2. Nettle leaf tea helps expel toxins from the kidneys and bladder. It is a powerful blood cleanser, helps reduce severity of seasonal allergies and can improve joint pain by removing excess fluid from the system.

Peppermint – we are all familiar with its refreshing and minty flavor. Peppermint has a cooling effect on the body and is therefore a great tea for the summer months. It helps soothe an upset stomach, relieves gas and bloating, fights bad breath and can improve mental focus and alertness. While it can alleviate symptoms of heartburn it should be avoided if you have gastro-esophageal reflux as it may worsen symptoms.

Rosehip – has a slightly tart flavor although it is quite refreshing. It is a great source of vitamins C, D, E and K. It is used as a home remedy to boost the immune system, improve digestion (particularly diarrhea and constipation), it is detoxifying for both the bladder and kidneys and is calming to the nervous system.

Rosemary – is a powerful antioxidant and is rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. It is used as a home remedy to help improve memory and concentration, to enhance liver detoxification, increase circulation and soothe aching muscles. It also has antimicrobial properties and is therefore useful for helping fight infections and is an excellent remedy for relieving headaches.

It is important to steep your herbal tea for 10-15 minutes in order to reap the medicinal benefits that each tea has to offer. You can find herbal teas in most health food stores. If you want loose teas I recommend Herbie’s Herbs located at Queen and Bathurst (556 Queen Street West).  Don’t try and buy all 10 teas at once and overwhelm yourself. Start by picking up one or two teas that you haven’t tried and over time you can try and work these into your daily routine, perhaps replacing that mid-afternoon cup of black tea or coffee with a cup of rosemary or dandelion root.