Tea steeped in health benefits

By Susan Szuch

While coffee and energy drinks may tend to prevail as drinks of choice during finals cram sessions, students shouldn’t overlook tea as an option.
The drink, in many capacities, has an array of benefits, and Natural Gourmet at 2225 S. Neil St. in Champaign, and the Common Ground Food Cooperative at 300 S. Broadway Ave. in Urbana, both have wide varieties of tea to offer.
While studies linking tea consumption and a lowered cancer risk have been inconclusive, there have been studies that show how drinking black tea regularly can lower blood pressure as well as reduce stress.
According to a study done by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, green tea holds benefits as well. In addition to exercise, it has the potential to aid in weight loss by reducing risk of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, a meta-analysis conducted in 2011 found that catechins, antioxidants that bind to free radicals in the body, in green tea lowered LDL and total cholesterol.
Margeaux Flannery, senior in ACES who works as a wellness assistant at Common Ground, finds green tea beneficial for more than just lowering cholesterol or managing weight.
“I recommend green tea for a little energy boost,” she said. “Black tea is a little acidic; it can be acidic at times, but green tea is really, really good for the system … It’s cleansing and detoxifying to the organs.”
While black and green teas both have many benefits, so do herbal teas. In a study done by the USDA, researchers found that chamomile has some antibacterial properties and antiplatelet-clumping activity, while peppermint has strong antioxidant and antitumor abilities. In a clinical trial, drinking hibiscus lowered blood pressure of subjects that were pre-hypertensive or mildly hypertensive.
Gaylene Amorasak, co-owner of Natural Gourmet, encouraged students to try herbal teas and their benefits.
“For people who get really stressed by the whole idea of an exam, it might be a good idea to have a little chamomile tea. It will not necessarily put you to sleep, but just take the edge off,” Amorasak said. “Basil tea, actually, kind of does the same thing, and you can get green tea with basil in it, or just straight up basil and just make a tea out of that, and that’s very good for stress.”
Flannery also noted that students don’t have to limit themselves to green tea or black tea.
“We have a Kava Stress Relief tea that is really, really useful, and kava basically just helps to calm the nerves. Getting a good night sleep is really important — peppermint can help do that, it’s sort of just cooling to the system,” Flannery said. “If you think about certain herbs being heating, like cinnamon and spicy herbs like cayenne pepper or chili, think about mint as a cooling herb. So instead of warming up the metabolic system, it will cool it down.”
Additionally, Common Ground offers a variety of tea in their bulk section, which change depending on the preference of their customers. They also carry dried items in bulk that people can use to brew their own tea.
“We have fresh raspberry leaf which is really useful for regulating the menstrual cycle and women’s systems in general, and we have rosehip and mint,” Flannery expalined. “Mint is really good for aiding digestion and the body system, for example, at the end of the night.”
Susan can be reached at [email protected]