Tuesday, August 03, 2010

An introduction to herbal tea: what does what.

Being a forager, my concept of viable plant sources of tea may be a bit wider than that of your average tea fashionista. Of course, this also means that I may occasionally find a catalpa worm or other crawly thing in the bottom of my mug. Don't worry, if you attend my herbal tea class this fall at the Houston Arboretum I'll make sure we only use plants!

So, what's all this about herbal teas and why are they so dang healthy? As usual, it's all about the chemistry. You basic Lipton's tea is loaded with a number of beneficial chemicals with the main class being known as "flavoniods". Most flavonoids work as antioxidants which is just a fancy way of saying they get rid of the bad, highly-reactive molecules (aka free radicals) in your body. These free radicals would normally bounce around ripping apart other necessary molecules, which is a very bad thing. Getting rid of the free radicals greatly reduces molecular damage to your cells, which is a very good thing.

If all you want to do is protect your molecules from destruction then regular tea is fine. However, why stop there? How about adding chemicals that can perk you up or make you relax, chemicals that can stimulate your immune system or settle down your stomach, chemicals that can reduces cramps or clear your sinuses of goo, maybe even extend your life? Yeah, they can do that and more. Here's a sample of know benefits from different herbal teas.

Herbs for Energy
Yaupon holly (caffeine)

Herbs for Calm
Kava kava root
Lemon balm
St. John's Wort
Valerian root

Herbs for Stomach Ills
Burdock - reduces indigestion and constipation, increases bile production
Cardomom - increases digestion, reduces gas
Chamomile - reduces indigestion
Cinnamon - reduces indigestion
Fennel - improves appetite, stimulates digestion, reduces gas
Ginger - reduces nausea
Lemongrass - improves digestion
Mint - improves digestion
Sting nettle - relives both constipation and diarrhea
Blackberry/Dewberry - helps control diarrhea
Sage - improves digestion
Valerian - reduces stomach cramps
Yarrow - increases appetite, improves digestion
Red clover - reduces gas
Stevia - reduces heartburn
Anise - reduces gas and indigestion

Herbs for Headaches
Rose hips
Birch leaves

Herbs for Colds
Burdock - reduces congestion, opens airways, reduces fever
Elderberry - improves immune system
Fennel - soothes sore throats, reduces coughing
Ginger - soothes throat, opens sinuses, reduces fever
Lemongrass - reduces fevers and other cold symptoms
Licorice - soothes sore throats, reduces coughing
Stinging nettle - reduces coughing, opens sinuses
Sage - reduces congestion and coughing
Strawberry leaves - slows diarrhea, reduces indigestion
Thyme - reduces coughing and sore throats, strengthens immune system
Yarrow - reduces congestion and other cold symptoms
Red clover - expectorant
Ephedra - reduces congestion
Anise - expectorant, reduces congestion

Herbs for Improved Health
Burdock root - blood purifier, antioxidants
Cinnamon - improves circulation
Dandelion root - stimulates liver, flushes system
Lemongrass - cleanses blood, liver and kidneys; reduces blood pressure
Licorice - reduces congestion from allergies
Stinging nettle - cleanses blood, stimulates liver & kidneys
Blackberry/Dewberry - high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; blood cleanser
Rose hips - vitamin C, antioxidants
Rosemary - improves liver action and blood circulation
Persimmon - vitamin C
Sassafras - blood cleanser
Hibiscus flower - antioxidants, control blood pressure, lowers cholesterol
Red clover - antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, reduces bad cholesterol, thins blood
Ginger - reduces morning sickness, reduces menstrual cramping
Jasmine - antioxidants, reduces absorption of ft and cholesterol, may fight cancer

Herbs for Women
Cinnamon - reduces menstrual cramps
Ginger - reduces menstrual cramps
Lemongrass - reduces menstrual issues
Licorice - reduces menstrual cramps
Motherwort - reduces PMS
Blackberry/Dewberry - general menstrual aid
Skullcap - reduces PMS mood swings
Stevia - may help prevent osteoporosis
Red clover - reduces symptoms of menopause due to estrogen mimicking molecules, not for use by pregnant women!

Herbs for Men
Ginseng - improves blood flow to Mr. Happypants
Ginko Biloba - improves blood flow to Mr. Happypants
Ginger - improves blood flow to Mr. Happypants (don't let Mary Ann know!)
Hawthorn - improves blood flow to Mr. Happypants
Blackberry/Dewberry - improves blood flow to Mr. Happypants

Adventure! Excitement! Merriwether in hot water!


J. David Boyd said...

Is there anything herbal that does for Ms. Happypants what it does for Mr. Happypants? Just asking, seems like it would only be fair.....

Jackie said...

WooHoo! Seeing your post made me have happypants!

Stephen said...

Good to see you back. :D

Christina Rodriguez said...

This is just like real life. We chicks get all the options in the world when it comes to menstrual pain and birth control, but nothin' for the happypants.

Merriwether said...

The person who figures out how to make Ms. Happypants happy will quickly become the richest person in the world.

For now though...tequila.