I’ve been a bit under the weather lately, and when that happens, I think, “What kind of tea will make me feel better?”  As I felt a sinus infection coming on, I was craving a rich, spicy chai – although I usually steep it like tea instead of preparing it with milk in the traditional way.  The aroma of the spices makes me think it’s clearing my sinuses, and the addition of a little honey makes it very soothing.  As I was drinking my chai tea over the weekend, I started thinking about other teas that address specific symptoms – not necessarily teas that deliver any long-term health benefits, but simply make you feel better.

Along with a spicy chai blend when I’m congested, just about any tea with honey and lemon is good for a sore throat.  I think this is what my mom always gave us when we were sick as kids – she is definitely in the camp of people who think tea is something you drink when you’re sick, and only when you’re sick!  I have managed to convince her differently of late, but I agree that when I’m sick, I want my tea.

For an upset stomach, or to help digestion, I’ve turned both to pu-erh tea and to green or black tea with ginger in it.  For me, the ginger tea seems to be more soothing – there must be something to the ginger ale and saltines cure (again used by my mom).  Peppermint is often used in a tisane or added to tea to help with digestive upsets.  I also find spearmint or peppermint tisanes help my sinuses when I’m trying to go to sleep and don’t want caffeine.  That lovely minty scent makes me breathe a little clearer.

Another therapeutic tea is oolong.  Many times, on a hot day, I’ve steeped a pot of oolong tea, and drunk it hot.  My friends in Malaysia and China have told me many times that oolong is a cooling tea, and I’ve heeded their advice.  I don’t know if there are any physiological reactions that can be measured, but I find that just the act of relaxing over a cup calms me down, and in that way makes me feel cooler.

There are also the many documented benefits of the catechins and flavonoids in tea, but I’ll leave those to the experts to discuss!  All I know is what William Gladstone once said: “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.”  I think that says it all.

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