Coffee is still the number one beverage after water, but tea drinkers are uniting as tea consumption grows in popularity, particularly among the young. The growing tea trend brings with it a world of new flavors to explore, as well as medicinal benefits. Yet, like everything in Ayurveda, not every new trend is good for everyone all of the time. Let’s review some of the benefits and considerations when choosing your next delicious herbal remedy.
For starters, there are three basic groups of tea generally consumed as beverages–black teas, green/white teas and herbal teas.
- Black teas are nervine stimulants, diuretics and astringents. They tend to be bitter, sweet, astringent, cool and pungent in post-digestive effect and are thought by some to be sattvic (blissful) in nature. They decrease Pitta and Kapha but increase Vata, so those with Vata imbalances or doshas should avoid black tea like you would coffee. Strong black tea, particularly when taken with milk and spices like ginger and cinnamon as in the case of Indian chai tea, is less likely to aggravate Vata but can be too heating for Pitta.1 Black teas have been found to lower cholesterol and help prevent diabetes, among other benefits.2
- Green and white teas have the same properties as black tea but are milder and cooler and easier on the system, particularly white. They are still best for Pittas and Kaphas, but only mildly increasing to Vatas. They offer many of the same benefits as black tea, with a healthy reputation for aiding in the fight against weight, cancer and inflammation. White tea is my personal favorite for its mild, cleansing taste and its anti-aging support. It makes a wonderful natural sunscreen and skin treatment!3 and 4
- Herbal teas come in two basic varieties–spicy and astringent. Spicy blends include ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, orange peel, sage, mint and chamomile and are typically pungent, astringent and sometimes sweet. Their heating nature stimulates digestion and increases the circulation, making them best for Vatas and Kaphas. Astringent teas like alfalfa, chamomile, dandelion, chicory, strawberry leaf, nettles and hibiscus, are antacid blood cleansers and very supportive for Pittas and Kaphas. They can be too cooling and drying for Vata, but with honey and lemon juice, Vatas can still drink them from time to time. Here’s a list of some of the most popular herbal options, along with their benefits.
There are also medicinal herbs that Ayurveda prescribes as teas for specific conditions. The list for that is too long to cover in this article, and many of these concoctions wouldn’t be recommended for pure enjoyment.
In general, tea is best taken after meals due to its astringent (digestion-closing) nature. In fact, drinking a cup at the end of a meal is a great way to curb the craving for a sweet dessert. It’s very supportive in hot, tropical climates as it combats the dampness, sun exposure and overall heat. Overly brewed or overly consumed, it causes constipation; n the other hand, it’s a good medicinal for diarrhea.
Because of its drying, diuretic nature, too much tea can cause insomnia, dry mouth and thirst. For this reason, it’s never a good idea to substitute tea (or coffee for that matter) for your daily water intake. And when you are fighting long-term dehydration, I recommend avoiding most teas until your body has had a chance to stabilize. If you decide to drink it anyway, antidote the dryness with a squeeze of lemon and some honey. As a general rule, one to two cups per day is a healthy practice for Kaphas and Pittas, particularly when it is damp or hot outside.
Enough teasing! If you are now ready to test the waters of infused and decocted herbs, get ready to explore a cacophany of flavors, along with some pleasant health benefits. Welcome to the brand new world…of tea!
1 Ayurvedic Healing for Healthcare Professionals, Vol. 2 – Dr. David Frawley, P. 85-86
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.