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12 Teas to Brew Up Better Health

By Joe Wilkes
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Herbal teas have been used for centuries in almost every culture in the world, both as a social beverage and as a medicinal treatment. We don't recommend tea as a substitute for prescribed medication or the advice of a doctor, but some teas have been anecdotally, and in some cases, scientifically proven to have some excellent health benefits. And with zero calories, and in most cases, zero side effects, it might be worth checking out some of these herbal wonders. Again, though, some teas have scientific evidence to support their claims, and some have only old wives' tales. You should consult with your doctor or a medical professional before treating any illness or symptom with anything, including tea.

  1. Chamomile. Its Greek root and Spanish name, manzanilla, both mean "little apple." And a cup or two of chamomile a day might keep the doctor away as well. Regarded as cure-all for centuries, chamomile has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties, and is also a mild sedative. Herbalists recommend it for treating symptoms of everything from colds, cramps, and digestive, liver, and gallbladder problems to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
  2. Fennel. A tasty vegetable in salads and sautés, fennel also makes a great tea for an upset stomach. It helps protect the liver from toxins and also helps reduce discomfort from cramps, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome. It can also provide upper respiratory relief for bronchitis and asthma. And, it is gentle enough to be given in small amounts to colicky infants (although, as always, consult your doctor first).
  3. Ginger. How many times have you been shopping with your spouse and one of you has athlete's foot, the other one has menstrual cramps, and there's only room in the cart for one more item? Don't call the divorce lawyer—get ginger tea! It is effective for both of those maladies (although you have to soak your athlete's feet in it for its antifungal properties) and it also can alleviate symptoms of nausea, morning and motion sickness, headaches, and inflammation from arthritis.
  4. Ginkgo. Ginkgo biloba has been famously associated with increasing blood flow to the brain, helping memory. It also increases blood flow to other parts of the body, which can give both partners a little boost in the bedroom.
  5. Hawthorn. Not only a beautiful plant to look at, it can also be good for your heart. Hawthorn has been used for years in Germany to regulate blood pressure, aid in recovery from heart attacks, and as a treatment from everything from anxiety to hemorrhoids.
  6. Hibiscus. The herb that gives Celestial Seasonings' Zinger teas their zing. This tart herb is rich in vitamin C and is thought to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  7. Peppermint. It freshens your breath, and it can also freshen your gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint can be used to ease symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome, may help dissolve gallstones, and help with congestion, allergies, and stress.
  8. Rosehip. Another tangy tea like hibiscus, and like hibiscus, it's high in vitamin C. It also is believed to help bladder ailments and may have anti-diarrheal properties.
  9. Senna. This is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter drugs used to aid constipation. It stimulates the colon and as a tea has a gentle laxative effect.
  10. Slippery Elm. The thick mucilage from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree has been used by Native Americans for centuries to help soothe the digestive tract. Opera singers have also found its coating properties useful in alleviating sore throat symptoms.
  11. St. John's Wort. In Germany, this herb is prescribed 20 times as often as Prozac to aid mild depression, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. Its effectiveness is debated among medical circles, but some people swear by it, and it appears to have few, if any, side effects.
  12. Valerian. Referred to by some as herbal Valium, valerian tea can be drunk to aid insomnia, nervousness, menopausal symptoms, and menstrual discomfort. A word of warning, though. Some drinkers say that too much valerian tea can actually make you more nervous, so use sparingly until you know how it affects you.
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