Tea … One of the Great Natural Medicines?

While researching the health benefits of tea, I seemed to come across one new benefit after another until it got hard to keep up.

TeaIf you’re inclined to research all the apparent benefits of tea, you’d better be prepared for a major undertaking. But as far as this post goes, we’ll narrow our focus to seven benefits of tea that many people may not be aware of.

By “tea,” it’s important to be aware that we are not discussing commercial products containing tea but also containing chemicals or additives that may dilute or even negate the benefits of natural tea. “Tea” here also refers to a large variety of teas—black, white, green, and more—as we’ll see in a moment.

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Did you know …

  1. Tea is a great hydrator.  This is a particularly important consideration for people of Medicare age, as dehydration is a problem many people face as they age, both for natural reasons and as a result of taking certain medications. Dehydration is a major cause of hospitalization among older Americans, and tea—with or without caffeine—is an excellent alternative to water in helping ensure adequate hydration. Recently, I interviewed Jeffrey Lorean (a.k.a. Dr. Oolong) of zhitea.com, and Dr. Oolong—who stresses that he is not a medical doctor—was quick to describe tea as “a great way to healthfully stay hydrated.”
  2. Tea is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that may be hard to find elsewhere.  Investigate varieties of tea, from green tea to herbals to hibiscus and more, and you’re certain to come across references to antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, and many more compounds and substances beneficial to a variety of body functions. One of the real gems found in tea, according to Dr. Oolong, is L-theanine, an amino acid in green tea. The benefits of L-theanine have become so recognized that it has become a popular supplement in parts of the world for reducing stress, promoting mental focus, and boosting the immune system.
  3. Tea appears to help people remain alert, focused, and positive.  Many people believe that drinks containing caffeine cause only a temporary lift, followed by an inevitable crash. Yet Dr. Oolong explained that the moderate levels of caffeine found in tea generally serve as “a moderate mood lifter.” He went on to point out that L-theanine is an ideal complement to caffeine, balancing and limiting its effects. There have also been suggestions that tea can be helpful in improving short-term memory.
  4. Tea appears to help reduce harmful effects of stress. According to Huffington Post blogger Kristin Kirkpatrick, Manager of Wellness Nutrition Services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, black tea may reduce levels of stress hormones. It is well known that stress is more than an inconvenience or a tendency to be jumpy. Stress is associated with a growing variety of serious and life-threatening conditions, including stroke, heart disease, and various types of cancer, and tea appears to be a great natural remedy for stress-related complications. As Kirkpatrick points out, black tea is also believed to help reduce blood pressure.
  5. Tea appears to remedy effects of diabetes.  The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, which promotes the use of traditional Asian remedies, reports that green tea “slows the rate at which the sugar contained in starches is metabolized and released into the bloodstream.” This appears to make Type 2 diabetes easier to manage. Diabetes is associated with various other serious health conditions, and much of the heart disease in the United States is linked to diabetes. Recent studies even link diabetes to hearing loss. While tea is in no way considered a cure for diabetes, it does appear that consuming tea—much like exercising and sticking to a healthy diet—can be effective in minimizing the disease’s ill effects.
  6. Tea may offer protection against eye diseases.  Diabetes is believed to affect the eyes, so green tea’s apparent protection against diabetic symptoms certainly suggests benefits to the eyes. As Macula.org reports, however, green tea’s benefits to the eyes appear to go further. Catechins, antioxidants present in green tea, appear to enter eye tissues. More specifically, Macula.org says that researchers have found that the retina seems to absorb catechins, resulting in a reduction in harmful oxidative stress in the eye. For older Americans, more prone than the general population to declining eyesight, this is certainly good news.
  7. Tea is widely believed to help with weight loss.  Various observers have suggested that a regimen of several cups of green tea daily can combat an unhealthy tendency to overeat. As the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine explains, “Instead of reaching for that candy bar or dish of ice cream that you’re accustomed to eating after dinner, you’ll find that you’re consciously taking a smaller portion or eliminating it altogether. You’ll begin to notice when you go out to a restaurant that your choices will be more in alignment with foods that will optimize your health.” Or, as Dr. Oolong said, tea is one of the few options available that can leave a person “really satisfied” despite consuming virtually no calories.

What appeals most to many tea aficionados is the sheer range of options available. While green tea seems to get most of the credit when it comes to providing the health benefits of tea, if is only one of many teas thought to boost health. According to Dr. Oolong, who described green tea as a “super-antioxidant,” virtually any organically grown tea without additives is a safe bet to be healthy, and the best tea for anyone over or under 65 is usually “whatever you like.”

Many popular teas are divided into the categories of black, green, white, oolong, and herbal teas. Many teas in all categories have luscious-sounding names, and, according to zhitea.com, contain properties that help calm the nerves, promote heart health, provide an abundance of minerals and vitamins, and generally promote good health. There is also a red tea category high in antioxidants. People more interested in cold drinks can enjoy the similar health benefits of iced tea without unnatural additives.

Although many people tend to lump coffee and tea together, Dr. Oolong pointed out that tea is normally easier for the body to process. While coffee does appear to offer certain health benefits, it tends to dehydrate, and it is widely understood that too much coffee can cause problems. Tea, meanwhile, seems to be one of nature’s great remedies, meant to be consumed cup after cup, and, for people on Medicare, very similar to Medicare supplement insurance in its ability to reduce stress and help keep healthcare costs low.

Leave a comment telling us about your favorite kind of tea!

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