Centuries ago, when tea was first discovered in China, it was used as medicine and not as the tasty beverage we know today. In the past decade or so there's been renewed interest in studying the health benefits of tea. Scientists today are doing a wide range of research about how tea might help us with everything from weight loss to disease prevention.
There are a lot of health benefits of tea that are already known. Some of these are scientifically proven and others just common sense. On this page we'll explore these benefits as they apply to our modern lifestyles.
One of the key health benefits of tea is that it keeps our minds alert. Long ago Buddhist monks in China recognized this effect and adopted tea as their beverage of choice. Tea, or more specifically the caffeine in tea, helped keep them alert through their long periods of meditation.
Tea is made from the leaves of the plant called Camellia sinensis which contain caffeine. The caffeine in tea helps to stimulate our minds and keep us alert, similar to what we would experience with coffee or soft drinks containing caffeine. But the caffeine in tea is a little bit different because it has another component, theanine, which moderates the effect of the caffeine.
With most caffeinated drinks you’ll feel buzzed and maybe jittery. This reaction is not common with tea. Instead, the effect of the caffeine-theanine combination in tea is typically calming. So tea keeps us alert in a calm sort of way.
Tea is relaxing. Taking a break during our workday is known to be an important way to stay productive throughout the day. So taking a tea break is good for us. It helps us set aside our worries and work concerns for a while.
Taking a break with a cup of tea gives us some time to relax and enjoy ourselves. We can brew a cup for ourselves and enjoy some quiet time, or brew a pot to share with family and friends while we socialize. Either way, the health benefits of tea are apparent as we put our cares behind us for a while and take some time to unwind.
Tea warms us. On a cold winter day we all have experienced the pleasure of holding a warm drink in our hands. A hot cup of tea warms our hands while we hold the cup, and it warms our bodies as we drink it.
If you’re worried about your weight, tea has another health benefit—zero calories! Tea is made from plant leaves that have been dried, and it doesn’t contain harmful additives or sweeteners of any sort. It’s completely natural. As long as you don’t add any sugar or milk, you won't need to worry about your waistline when you’re drinking a cup of tea. If you rely on milk and sweeteners in tea, explore the tremendous variety of different teas and the different flavors offered. You're sure to find one that appeals to you "plain," and maybe discover this is the best way to enjoy a cup.
Most importantly, research tells us that a cup of tea provides us with a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Because of some of these components, tea is being studied for its anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, factors important in disease prevention. Almost weekly we hear claims of the health benefits of tea—even claims that the properties in tea help to inhibit bacterial plaque on your teeth.
As tea gained popularity and spread from China to other parts of Asia, some of these cultures developed the preparation and serving of tea into a fine art, and the tea ceremony was born. Even today these ceremonies exist in many cultures and for various occasions. Part of the Chinese wedding day includes tea ceremonies where the bride and groom serve tea to their parents. Japanese tea ceremonies take place for their most special guests in a small teahouse, designed for this single purpose, with its furnishings and accessories used only for serving tea.
We may not have a special teahouse for serving tea, but we can develop our own rituals around tea. Maybe we can have a favorite teapot and cup, or reserve a special place in our home where we can enjoy drinking tea. Any one of us can create a comfortable, uncluttered area that feels peaceful so that we can enjoy our cup of tea without being distracted.
You can take it a step farther and use tea in your meditation practice. Diana Rosen talks about this in her book "Meditations with Tea—Paths to Inner Peace." In it she talks about how to combine your enjoyment of drinking tea with the practice of meditation. She writes that "the single most important constant is the gift of quiet, uninterrupted time: and goes on to say: "We each have twenty-four hours a day. How we spend those hours is directly related to what kind of day we have." Her book of meditations guides the reader through a variety of ways to take charge of their time and find inner peace with a warm, refreshing cup of tea as a companion.
The health benefits of tea are numerous. Drinking tea in moderation produces a calm, relaxed feeling. You can enjoy it alone or with your friends. It’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are good for our bodies. By setting aside some quiet time for a cup of tea, you can create more peace in your life.
A British playwright and essayist named Sir Arthur Wing Pinero said “While there’s tea there’s hope.” We couldn’t agree more. Tea is good for your mind, body, and spirit.