The Healing Power of Tea

herbal teas

If there is something that can lift up my happiness gauge a little bit every day, it's a good cup of tea!

There are so many varieties of teas, most of them healthful and some of them not at all.

In this article I will introduce you to the healing powers of tea, their different types, and their best uses to improve health conditions and overall wellbeing. I will also mention tea types that are better to avoid.

So, sit back, brew yourself a good cup of tea and enjoy reading!

Some interesting tea facts that may surprise you!

  1. All tea is good for you – as long as you drink it pure and in moderation! The mighty health benefits of green tea have been widely extolled (and we will go into more details further below), but all teas, black, pu-erh, oolong, green, and white, are actually good for your health.
  2. All tea comes from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. No matter what type of tea you drink, this is the plant it’s from! The difference lies in how the tea leaves are treated after they are harvested. If your tea comes from any other plant, it is actually called a tisane.
  3. It takes around 2,000 leaves of the tea plant to make just one pound of finished tea. These plants grow wild in parts of Asia but are cultivated and farmed around the world.
  4. Some tea grows in the United States. There is an island tea plantation off the coast of South Carolina and also in Hawaii.
  5. The caffeine in tea does not “crash you” like caffeine from coffee or sugar, since the inherent antioxidants balance the caffeine release, which leads to more gradual alertness, but also a longer lasting one
  6. Don’t store your tea next to coffee or strong spices, as these can impede the delicate aroma of your tea! If possible, dedicate a portion of your pantry to only store your tea in a dark and dry place
  7. In China where tea originates from, it was used for its medicinal uses, such as detoxification, by chewing the leaves, rather than infusing and drinking them
  8. People have used the mighty tea plant’s leaves in other ways, like wound healing, mosquito repelling, dying cloths, cleaning floors, marinating meat, or creating garden compost
  9. Tea is the second most consumed beverage on the planet after water!

tea types

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Different types of teas and their healing benefits

For millennia, tea was a medicinal beverage obtained by boiling fresh leaves in water for special uses. Around the 3rd century BC it became a daily drink through cultivation and processing, and since then it is being enjoyed by many cultures around the globe.

The tea types black, oolong, pu-erh, green and white all originate from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Originally found in Asia, tea is cultivated in many areas of the world now with the most prominent regions being in China, India and Japan.

How is tea made?

After harvesting, the different types of tea go through different processing steps, which determines the final product. These steps can include withering, rolling, oxidation, drying and roasting, and fermentation.

white tea

Photo credit: Healthline

White Tea

How is it made: as the least processed of all teas, white tea only goes through two processing steps: withering in the sun to reduce moisture content and then drying in a hot air dryer.

Health benefits:

  • with the highest amount of polyphenols called catechins and the least amount of caffeine due to its limited processing, white tea can easily be considered a superfood
  • It has antioxidants that fight free radicals and decrease inflammation
  • One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas
  • Polyphenols may prevent bad cholesterol and help reduce the risk of heart disease
  • The caffeine and catechins called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) are linked to burning fat and boosting the metabolism
  • Animal studies have found that EGCG and other polyphenols found in white tea may enhance the effects of insulin and prevent high blood sugar levels
  • White tea contains the least amount of fluoride, which can be beneficial to prevent tooth decay along with the tannins in tea
  • In one study, scientists discovered that applying white tea extract to the skin helped protect against the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays
  • Compounds in white tea, like the polyphenol EGCG, may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease

Use lose tea leaves and organic tea if possible. Heat filtered water to a temperature of 160-180 F. Brew for 3-4 minutes.

The most famous white teas to try:
White Peony from China has a fruity, mild flavor
Silver Needle from China has a floral, herbal taste

green tea

Green Tea

How is it made: Green tea goes one step further than white tea: the leaves are withered in the sun, fixed with heat to prevent enzymes from oxidizing and to retain the green color, and then dried in a hot air dryer. In China the fixing is mostly done through pan frying while in Japan the tea is mostly steamed.

Health benefits:

  • the high concentration of EGCG in green tea has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers
  • may prevent clogging of the arteries,
  • green tea can increase fat burning and boost metabolic rate
  • may counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Caffeine along with the amino acid L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier. Several studies show that the catechin compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on neurons in test tubes and animal models, possibly lowering the risk of dementia
  • may reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • The catechins in green tea also have benefits for oral health and may lower bad breath
  • One study in Japanese individuals found that those who drank the most green tea had an approximately 42% lower risk of type 2 diabetes

Use lose tea leaves and organic tea if possible. Heat filtered water to a temperature of 160-180 F. Brew for 1-2 minutes.

The most famous green teas to try:
Sencha from Japan is delicate, aromatic with flavors of fresh grass
Genmaicha from Japan has toasted brown rice that gives it the unique flavor
Gunpowder from China comes in small pearls and has a smoky, almost oaky flavor
Longjin from China is a delicate green tea that tastes sweet and mellow

This is a very fine quality tea from Japan, in which the entire tea leaves are powdered and ingested fully, versus steeped and removed from the beverage in normal green tea. Matcha has even more concentrated antioxidants than green tea and is 10 times more powerful, however, it also contains much more caffeine. Matcha should always be obtained in the highest quality and if possible organic, since the tea leaves accumulate compounds and metals that can be pronounced.

oolong tea

Photo credit: Serious Eats

Oolong Tea

How is it made: Oolong is neither a black tea nor a green tea; it falls into its own category. Yet an oolong may end up with more black or green tea characteristics depending on the direction the tea master takes in the processing of the tea. The process is very involved and includes these steps:

The tea leaves are withered to reduce their moisture content. Then they are spread on racks and stirred regularly for 12-18 hours in order to break down the cell structure and release essential oils. The oxidation period for oolong teas is less than that for black teas and depends on the type of oolong. After the desired oxidation level is reached, the leaves are heated at high temperatures to prevent further oxidation. After heating, the leaves are rolled and shaped and then dried. The final stage may include a high temperature roasting or baking to develop woody, sweet and caramelized notes.

Health benefits:

  • Oolong tea is notable for containing l-theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety and increases alertness and attention. 
  • Scientists have found that l-theanine can help prevent cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Oolong tea is also high in polyphenols, which are linked to lowering inflammation, preventing the growth of cancers and decreasing type 2 diabetes risk.
  • In an animal study, antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims

Use lose tea leaves and organic tea if possible. Heat filtered water to a temperature of 180-200 F. Brew for up to 2-5 minutes.

The most famous oolong teas to try:
Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin or Tie Guan Yin) from China was brewed for Chinese emperors with a hint of flowers and honey
Phoenix Tea (Dan Chong or Dan Cong) from China has a floral flavor
Wuyi Oolong Tea (Da Hong Pao) is dark in color and strong flavored

black tea

Photo credit: Medical News Today

Black Tea

How is it made: Traditionally, black tea processing comprises four steps: withering, rolling, oxidizing and drying. This is the most heavily processed type of tea and has the highest content of caffeine.

Health benefits:

  • Contains polyphenols that can help remove free radicals and decrease cell damage in the body
  • One randomized controlled study found that drinking black tea for 12 weeks significantly decreased triglyceride values by 36%, reduced blood sugar levels by 18% and lowered the LDL/HDL plasma ratio by 17%
  • Another study found that those who drank three cups of black tea per day had an 11% reduced risk of developing heart disease
  • Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke
  • The polyphenols found in black tea may help maintain a healthy gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, such as Salmonella. In addition, black tea contains antimicrobial properties that kill off harmful substances and improve gut bacteria and immunity by helping repair the lining of the digestive tract.
  • may play a role in regulating cancer cell growth and reducing new cell development
  • Another study analyzed the effects of the polyphenols in black tea on breast cancer. It showed that black tea may help overcome the spread of hormone-dependent breast tumors
  • Black tea contains caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which can improve alertness and focus. L-theanine increases alpha activity in the brain, resulting in relaxation and better focus

Use lose tea leaves and organic tea if possible. Heat filtered water to a temperature of 190-212 F. Brew for up to 3-5 minutes.

The most famous black teas to try:
Darjeeling from India is often called the “champagne of black teas”. Its flavor is delicate, fruity and light
Assam tea from India is bold, malty and brisk and is often used as base for the breakfast tea blends
Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka is strong and rich and can have spice flavors
Earl Grey is a popular blend of black tea and the essential oils of the bergamot citrus fruit, giving it a unique aroma

pu-erh tea

Photo credit: Serious Eats

Pu-Erh Tea

How is it made: Pu-Erh tea from the Yunnan province in China is also called red tea or dark tea for its intensely dark color. It is post-fermented through a microbial fermentation process after the tea leaves have been dried and rolled, causing them to darken and change in flavor. This process allows the teas to not only improve with age like a fine wine, but many pu-erhs are able to retain their freshness for up to fifty years! Pu-erh teas can be found in compressed brick form or in loose leaf form and can be made from both green and black tea leaves.

Health benefits:

  • There’s some limited evidence to support the use of pu-erh tea for weight loss
  • Studies have shown that pu-erh tea may help synthesize fewer new fats while burning more stored body fat — which can lead to weight loss
  • Several animal studies have observed that supplementing with pu-erh tea extracts benefit blood fat levels
  • In test-tube studies, pu-erh tea extracts have killed breast cancer, oral cancer, and colon cancer cells
  • Because it can help decrease fat accumulation, pu-erh tea may help prevent or reverse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a disease in which excess fat accumulates in your liver

Get a pressed pu-erh tea cake of high quality. Heat filtered water to a temperature of 200-212 F. Brew for up to 2-5 minutes.

Most of the side effects of pu-erh tea come from its high caffeine content. Depending on the strength of the brew, pu-erh tea can contain 30–100 mg of caffeine per cup, which is much higher than other types of tea. The caffeine content may naturally diminish the older the pu-erh tea gets.

The most famous pu-erh teas to try:
BornTea Raw Sheng Pu-Erh Tea – best raw loose-leaf Pu-Erh
Yunnan Sourcing ‘Gong Ting’  – best mid-range ripened Pu-Erh
Yunnan Sourcing Old Arbor – best high-quality aged Pu-Erh

Herbal Teas – Tisanes

flower tea 

Herbal teas are not actually teas, but rather tisanes, as they are made from other plants than the original Camellia Sinensis tea plant. Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.

Herbal teas do not contain caffeine and are therefore hailed for their calming and often stress-reducing benefits.

Here is a list of the most famous herbal tisanes and their benefits: 

Chamomile Tea

  • May help to reduce menstrual pain and muscle spasms, improves sleep and relaxation, and reduces stress
  • Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells
  • It is most commonly known for its calming effects and is frequently used as a sleep aid
  • It is also believed to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and liver-protecting effects
  • Studies have found preliminary evidence that chamomile may help fight diarrhea and stomach ulcers
  • A study in people with type 2 diabetes saw improvements in blood glucose, insulin and blood lipid levels

Peppermint Tea

  • Contains menthol, which can soothe an upset stomach and serve as a cure for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and motion sickness. This tea variety also
  • May offer pain relief from tension headaches and migraines
  • Can help relieve indigestion, nausea and stomach pain
  • May relax spasms in the intestines, esophagus and colon
  • Soothes a sore throat and may help with flu symptoms

Ginger Tea

  • Helps to fight against morning sickness, can be used to treat chronic indigestion and helps to relieve joint pain caused by osteoarthritis
  • It also helps fight inflammation and stimulates the immune system
  • Studies consistently find that ginger is effective at relieving nausea, especially in early pregnancy, although it may also relieve nausea caused by cancer treatments and motion sickness
  • May help prevent stomach ulcers and relieve indigestion or constipation
  • May help relieve dysmenorrhea, or period pain. A number of studies have found that ginger capsules reduced pain associated with menstruation  
  • In fact, two studies found ginger to be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen at relieving period pain  
  • Finally, some studies suggest that ginger may offer health benefits for people with diabetes, though the evidence has not been consistent. These studies have found that ginger supplements helped with blood sugar control and blood lipid levels

Hibiscus Tea

  • May lower blood pressure and fat levels, may improve overall liver health, can starve off cravings for unhealthy sweets, and may prevent the formation of kidney stones
  • A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels
  • It has antiviral properties, and studies have shown its extract to be highly effective against strains of the bird flu
  • It has been shown to have a positive effect on high blood pressure
  • May reduce high blood pressure
  • What’s more, another study found that taking hibiscus tea extract for six weeks significantly decreased oxidative stress in male soccer players

Echinacea Tea

  • Evidence has shown that echinacea may help boost the immune system, which could help the body fight off viruses or infections
  • Many studies have found that echinacea can shorten the duration of the common cold, lessen the severity of its symptoms or even prevent it
  • At the very least, this warm herbal drink may help soothe your sore throat or clear up your stuffy nose if you do feel a cold coming on

Lemon Balm Tea

  • In a small study in 28 people who drank either barley tea or lemon balm tea for six weeks, the lemon balm tea group had improved elasticity of the arteries
  • In the same study, those who drank lemon balm tea also had increased skin elasticity, which typically tends to decline with age
  • Another small study in radiology workers found that drinking lemon balm tea twice a day for one month increased the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, which help protect the body from oxidative damage to cells and DNA. As a result, participants also showed improved markers of lipid and DNA damage
  • May improve high blood lipid levels
  • Studies have shown that lemon balm improved mood and mental performance
  • Two studies found improvements in both calmness and memory
  • Another small study found that lemon balm extract helped reduce stress and improve math processing skills
  • A small study found that lemon balm tea reduced the frequency of heart palpitations and anxiety

Roibos Tea

  • One study has shown that rooibos tea may benefit bone health. One test-tube study suggests that rooibos tea, along with green and black tea, might stimulate the cells involved in bone growth and density
  • The same study found that the teas also lowered markers of inflammation and cell toxicity. The researchers suggested that this might be why drinking tea is associated with higher bone density
  • May help prevent heart disease
  • May inhibit an enzyme that causes blood vessels to constrict, similarly to how a common blood pressure medication does
  • Also, another study found that drinking six cups of rooibos tea daily for six weeks lowered blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and fat, while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol

Sage Tea

  • A number of studies have shown that sage is beneficial for cognitive function, as well as potentially effective against the effects of the plaques involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Sage appears to provide cognitive benefits for healthy adults as well
  • Studies found improvements in mood, mental function and memory in healthy adults after they took one of several different types of sage extract
  • One small human study found that sage tea improved blood lipid levels, while another study in rats found that sage tea protected against the development of colon cancer

Rose Hip Tea

  • It is high in vitamin C and beneficial plant compounds. These plant compounds, in addition to certain fats found in rose hips, result in anti-inflammatory properties
  • May reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • May be effective at reducing inflammation and its related symptoms, including pain
  • Rose hips may also be beneficial for weight management, as one 12-week study in 32 overweight people found that taking rose hip extract resulted in decreased BMI and belly fat
  • Rose hip’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may also help fight skin aging
  • One preliminary study found that taking rose hip powder for eight weeks reduced the depth of wrinkles around the eyes and improved moisture and skin elasticity of the face

tea plant


What kind of teas should you avoid?

While a majority of teas are beneficial for your health, you may want to steer clear of these varieties: 

  • Detox teas made for fad diets that suggest you will quickly lose weight. These teas often come laced with laxatives that can be harmful to your health. Read the labels carefully to be sure these are not harmful to you
  • Fancy tea lattes and drinks. While some of these drinks, such as a green tea latte, may appear healthy, they are loaded with sugar
  • Trendy bubble teas or “Boba Teas” are also loaded with sugar, calories and carbs, and have little nutritional value
  • Popular tea blends may taste great but may come with artificial add-ons you may like to avoid – read the label to be sure
  • Herbal teas that may potentially trigger allergies. Many herbal teas contain different types of fruits, herbs, spices and flowers that some people are allergic to. If you have allergies, always read the ingredients on the package

Enjoy your tea as pure as possible, without any added sugar, syrup, sweetener, milk or other substances!

Too Much of a Good Thing: Health Risks of Tea

While there are so many wonderful health benefits to tea, overdoing it can put your health at risk.

One risk is a caffeine overload. Large amounts of caffeine may lead to nervousness, restlessness and may disturb your sleep. Some people may also experience loose stools and other gastrointestinal issues. Nausea, abdominal pain, heartburn, dizziness and muscle pain are possible side effects from consuming too much caffeine.  It may also interact with certain medications and increase the effects of caffeine in the body. Total daily intake of caffeine from all sources should not exceed 400 milligrams.

Tea leaves absorb fluoride and metals through their growing environment, so make sure you drink high quality teas and as organic as possible.

Keep your daily intake of tea in check: 4 cups of quality tea per day appears to be a good intake limit for an otherwise healthy adult person.

Here's to your good health!

Ina Mohan

Founder & President
Health, Healing & Happiness LLC