Sip away stress with tension-taming tea
Simply sitting down to a nice cup of tea can be relaxing. But it’s not just the warm cup, tasty muffin on the side, or soothing moment of peace and quiet that get the credit for putting you at ease. Ingredients in several types of tea actually lower your body’s response to stress.
Kick back with black tea
A study from the journal Pyschopharmacology helps explain how tea can make you feel more relaxed. Young men in London, a city of tea drinkers, were divided into two groups. Those who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks enjoyed a lower stress response than men who drank a similar beverage that did not contain tea. Both groups were presented with a stressful event, like the possibility of losing their jobs or being accused of shoplifting. They then had to defend themselves in front of a camera. Researchers found the tea drinkers had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. They also had less evidence of certain heart risk factors and were more relaxed after the event was over.
Black tea has so many active ingredients, including flavonoids, polyphenols, and catechins, that experts don’t know exactly what was at work. But they speculate it may have been theanine, an amino acid that can block the effects of excitement in your body.
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Go green for a relaxing change
The traditional Chinese beverage of green tea can also be a relaxing choice, since it contains theanine just like its black-tea cousin. Both come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Research in Japan found theanine extract helped students relax — even right after they took a math test. Other studies found drinking green tea might lower your risk for depression and other forms of mental distress. Five cups or more per day had the greatest benefit. This powerful health booster may also help lower your blood pressure, slow hardening of the arteries, and keep your weight under control.
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Calm down with chamomile
The light flavor of that old bedtime favorite, chamomile tea, is no slouch when it comes to cutting anxiety either. Researchers went to a group they were sure would be under stress — people having a heart catheterization procedure. Sure enough, more than 80 percent of people who drank two cups of chamomile tea were sound asleep within 10 minutes.
Chamomile tea is made from an herb, Matricaria chamomilla, not from the same plant as black and green tea. The active ingredient in chamomile that helps you relax is likely apigenin, a flavonoid. A study on mice found apigenin works like a tranquilizing drug to bring on relaxation.
- FC&A Staff Writer