A hot cup of tea can be one of life’s simple joys, but tea can also support your well-being and help you manage your pain. To get all the benefits of herbal teas, you’ve first got to learn how to brew it properly.

Brewing your tea

Most supermarket tea comes in bags. These are pre-mixed blends of herbs that have similar purposes. The boxes that these teas come in often have directions for the best way to brew that particular tea, specifying the water temperature and steeping time. The directions on the box should be followed to get the biggest benefit possible, but the steps to brewing a cup of tea are usually similar no matter the type.

Get the water boiling before adding any tea. Generally one tea bag is sufficient for one cup of tea, but some specify on the packaging that it’s okay to use two tea bags for a stronger effect. If you’re making a pot of tea, add one tea bag per cup of water. When using a loose leaf blend, the rule of thumb is one spoonful of leaves per cup of water.

Allow the tea to steep for 10-15 minutes. Place a cover over the tea while it’s steeping to keep all the medicinal properties in. If you’re using a tea bag, gently squeeze it out with your fingers or with a pair of spoons to get the last few dregs of tea out.

Tea for stress

Stress can worsen existing conditions, as well as cause physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia, upset stomach, or elevated blood pressure. Having a cup or two of stress-relieving tea in the evening to unwind can be very beneficial. Look for ingredients like chamomile, lemon balm, or passionflower. Lots of tea companies have mixes that are formulated for stress-relief, relaxation, or sleep aid, like Celestial Seasonings’s Sleepytime.

However, keep in mind that some teas formulated to induce relaxation or encourage sleep can work very, very well. The first time you try one, time it so you don’t have to worry about going anywhere important the next morning. That way, if you’re still a little groggy for a couple hours after waking up, you can relax at home.

Tea for upset stomach

If you’ve got a very upset stomach, keeping anything at all down may not be an option. If you’re able to at least keep a cup of tea down, though, there are a few that might be beneficial. Milk thistle and dandelion may help cleanse the liver and assist bile production, which can help digestive issues. Ginger tea is excellent for nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness.

Peppermint tea is great for gas, bloating, and nausea, although it’s not recommended if you also suffer from heartburn. Bear in mind that peppermint is the only type of mint that contains a digestive aid, so other types of mint, like spearmint, won’t settle your stomach.

Both peppermint and ginger can make you feel like you’re being warmed from the inside out, so one of these teas might be a good choice if you’re feeling queasy as the result of flu. Chamomile can also sooth stomach upset. Because of its ability to calm the nerves as well, chamomile is a good choice if you’ve got an upset stomach as the result of stress.

Tea for pain

Teas that relieve pain don’t typically work as well as traditional medications. However, they don’t have as many potential side effects as traditional medications, either. For minor aches and pains, it might be worth it to try a cup of tea.

Rosemary can be effective for pain relief, especially tension headaches. Kava Kava can relieve tension headaches, too, in addition to neuropathic pain. Ginseng may relieve fibromyalgia pain. St. John’s Wort can alleviate sciatica, arthritis, or neuropathic pain.

If your pain is the result of stress or tension, teas that promote relaxation might help relieve discomfort. For example, a cup or two of chamomile tea before bed might reduce the nighttime clenching teeth that worsen temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

Tea to survive cold and flu season

There is a plethora of teas that can help you through a cold or the flu. Traditional teas include green, black, and oolong. Green tea is full of antioxidants that support a healthy immune system. Traditional teas contain caffeine, though, so be wary of drinking too much before bed.

Herbal teas are usually caffeine free. Some are full of vitamins and antioxidants, and these are the ones that can help you stay healthy. Herbal teas that can bolster the immune system include Echinacea, rooibos, or rosehip. Drinking these teas regularly can help you resist illness or get over illnesses more quickly.

When you’ve got a cold or flu, tea can alleviate your symptoms. Teas with thyme support respiratory health, so they might be beneficial if you’ve got a cough or a lot of mucous build-up. A sore throat can be soothed by tea that contains slippery elm bark, like Yogi’s Throat Comfort.

Teas are best used to complement existing treatments, not replace them

Teas can alleviate minor symptoms and support overall health, but that doesn’t mean that a few cups of tea can take the place of prescription medications. Don’t stop taking your normal medications without your physician’s permission.

Additionally, some natural remedies like tea can interact with medications. If you’re planning to start regularly drinking an herbal tea for medicinal purposes, talk with your physician to make sure it’s completely safe.

Do you have a favorite type of tea?

Image by Nic McPhee via Flickr

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