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The Magic of Tea: Understanding Teas and Tisanes

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health



Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet, with many people and cultures ascribing to it benefits of tranquility and healing. From both the Western and Eastern perspectives, teas and infusions offer multiple benefits.

There is only one plant that officially produces tea: Camellia sinensis. This plant contains the buds and leaves that give us white, green, pu-erh, oolong and black teas. All other “teas” such as ginger, chamomile, and rooibos are categorized as tisanes (tea-ZAHNS), a French word for herbal infusions. The drinks we choose certainly contribute to overall nutrition, and teas can be part of that healthful life. Tea leaves contain compounds, called catechins, which have antioxidant properties, countering cell damage and offering anticarcinogenic protection. Green and black tea have been shown to contain not only catechins but also healthful phytonutrients like L-theanine, which can produce an alert but calm state. “Teas are a phenomenal way to deliver the healing power of herbs to the body-mind complex,” says Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.“

"Tea leaves contain compounds, called catechins, which have antioxidant properties, countering cell damage and offering anti-carcinogenic protection."

In Ayurveda, the tea selection will change with the season. Fennel tea is a great antidote to the heat of the summer, because fennel seeds are just the right blend of heating and cooling. When sipped before a meal, fennel tea helps to increase appetite and stimulate digestion. If you’re experiencing indigestion, sipping fennel seed tea will cool down the belly.” Erin recommends preparing your own fennel tea by combining two teaspoons of whole fennel seeds and four cups (one quart) of water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and then reduce it to a low boil for 15 minutes. Cool, strain through a Mason jar, and sip throughout the day. No ice cubes, though, if you’re adhering to Ayurvedic philosophy: Erin says, “Even though it’s hot outside, it’s still best to avoid iced teas in the summer. The main digestive fire that lives in the belly turns way down to regulate the overall body temperature. This leaves you with decreased appetite and decreased digestive strength.” Thus, it’s best to sip tea at room temperature. Mindful sipping seems as organic to tea as the ingredients themselves. As we hold each fragrant and beguilingly colored brew, the connection to our senses invites us to focus on what is before us, bringing us deeper into the moment.

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