Comforting foods and traditions provide a sense of stability, belonging, and nostalgia that is reassuring in times of stress. Tea and the traditions preserved in tea culture are a big part of that psychological comfort for many people across the globe. Americans are just beginning to understand the power of tea to soothe, as we feel ourselves relax when we walk into a tea room or sit down with a cup of tea. As the author of “Tea, a Necessary Luxury” wrote, “Tea is expected to create connection, to signal hospitality, warmth, and friendship, to break down barriers, and to temporarily elide boundaries of gender, class, profession, and family.”
It’s not just the ritual of tea that is soothing; tea itself contains catechins and minerals that are not only health-giving, but calming to the senses. The catechins in tea are said to be better utilized by the body if the tea is taken with some lemon, lime or orange juice squeezed into the cup with the tea; the vitamin C helps the body absorb them better. If you drink three cups of tea every day, you may be improving your heart health. A new French study suggests that, for women, at least, drinking at least three cups of day can help prevent a heart attack or a stroke, by reducing the amount of plaque and cholesterol in the arteries. Tea’s caffeine can also help, because of an amino acid called L-theanine, which softens the strength of the “caffeine jolt”. The gentler action of the caffeine is easier on the heart and kidneys. L-theanine also increases alpha brain wave activity which results in calm alertness, and current research suggestst that it actually helps you to get to sleep and stay asleep, contrary to the widespread assumption that tea always keeps people from sleeping. The antioxidant power of tea is also being researched, with promising results.
We shouldn’t forget tisanes, or herbal teas, either; they have their own valuable role to play when it comes to comfort and releasing stress. Chamomile and lavender, as well as orange blossoms, are traditional ingredients in calming herbal blends. Chocolate, too, has its special place as a comfort food, and there are many tea flavored teas available which contain actual bits of chocolate for flavoring. They are delicious as well as comforting in an almost decadent way.
However you look at it, tea is a healthy addition to your life, whether you drink it at home or somewhere else, and is a definite winner when it comes to relaxation and comfort. Why not try replacing your favorite soft drink or cocktail with a glass or mug of tea a few times a week? You may be surprised at the positive effects it has on you!
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
For more information: “Chocolate and tea: the perfect match?”
“Floral tisanes and how to make them”
“Green tea may be of use in the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer”
“Integrating green tea into your long-term lifestyle”
“Mr. Tea – exploring tea and men’s health”
“Tea and digestive disease”
“Tisanes, or ‘herbal teas’: exactly how do you make them?”
“Antioxidants in green and black tea”
“Black tea soothes away stress”
“British tea culture”
“Drinking tea soothes stress, researchers say”
“Tea and cancer prevention”
“Tea and L-theanine” by the Lipton Tea Institute
“Tea, a Necessary Luxury”
“Soak up tea’s nutritional benefits”
“Soothing Teas Combat Stress and Restore Serenity”
“Tea cuts stroke risk in women”
“The Trouble with Green Tea” by RealAge