Hot, iced, with honey, in a latte—tea is good in so many ways. Whether you reach for basic black, grassy green or one of the array of herbal options, each has its own set of health-boosting traits. The best way to get the most benefits is to enjoy a variety, just as you aim to get a rainbow of produce on your plate. Here are some of the most popular types and what’s in it for you.
Best For: Your heart
Health Benefits: Drinking three cups of basic black a day may lower blood pressure, while at least four cups daily may confer a lower risk of stroke. Some researchers say it’s the tea’s flavonoids, while others credit the caffeine. “There is evidence now that caffeine has cardio-protective effects,” says Celine Beitchman, chef instructor and nutrition counselor at the Natural Gourmet Institute. However, she adds, be cautious how much you drink, since caffeine can cause some people to feel stressed or anxious, and can disrupt sleep.
Best for: Relaxation
Health Benefits: Chamomile has been used for ages to help promote sleep. Scientists believe a flavonoid called apigenin helps calm you down. Now researchers are looking into chamomile supplements as a possible treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.
Best for: Upset stomach
Health Benefits: “There’s a modest but significant body of evidence that ginger tea helps with nausea and mild GI distress,” Beitchman says. Research shows that ginger helps reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women and chemotherapy patients. The root appears to increase gastric tone and emptying, which helps with all kinds of gastro issues. Ginger tea is also a good option because unlike ginger ale, it doesn’t have added sugar or sweeteners.
Best for: Upset stomach/an alternative to ginger
Health Benefits: If you don’t care for the taste of ginger, or just want to mix things up, try peppermint for stomach relief, as it also appears to help the gastrointestinal tissue relax. Enjoy it in moderation, though: “A lot of research shows that peppermint tea is good for an upset stomach, gas, and bloating,” Beitchman says, “but more than a cup may be irritating because of the menthol.”
Best for: Immunity
Health Benefits: Some studies suggest drinking this tart, fruity tea can lower blood pressure. Hibiscus is also rich in vitamin C, which Beitchman notes is “a valuable immune booster.”
Best for: Managing stress
Health Benefits: “Being a powerful adaptogen, ashwagandha enhances the body’s resilience to stress,” explains Erin O’Hara, senior manager of product innovation for Numi Organic Tea. In one study, adults with chronic stress who took a supplement of this root daily had a 44 percent lower perceived stress scale score after 60 days. Though tea is less powerful than a supplement, O’Hara notes, every bit can help.
Best for: Reducing inflammation
Health Benefits: Golden milk is trendy for good reason—especially its star ingredient: “Turmeric has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries,” O’Hara says. “In more recent years, scientists have discovered evidence that curcumin, an antioxidant in turmeric, may have many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Best for: A slight energy boost
Health Benefits: “At Natural Gourmet Institute, we love twig tea from the black tea plant family camellia sinensis. Because most of the plant’s stimulating caffeine molecules are in the leaves, making tea from the twigs produces just the slightest buzz that’s perfect for our Friday Night Dinner crowd,” Beitchman says. Try it when you want a little extra energy but not a full-on caffeine kick.
Best For: Fighting cancer
Health Benefits: Green tea consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate, breast, lung, and other cancers, according to a 2014 report. This may be due to the tea’s catechins and polyphenols, two types of antioxidants. But if you don’t currently consume caffeine, adding green tea to your diet may do more harm than good, Beitchman warns, because it may make you feel anxious or stressed. Try decaf, which still has the beneficial antioxidants.
MILK THISTLE TEA
Best For: Hangover recovery
Health Benefits: Forget hair of the dog. Beitchman suggests this tea if you had a few too many the night before. “Milk thistle has been shown to produce beneficial effects in liver cells, supporting repair and new liver-cell growth,” she explains.