Camellia sinensis, the true tea, was first used only as a medicinal herb. This has been true for more than 2000 years, even as it became a popular beverage. When tea was first introduced to Europe and the colonies in North America, it was the phenomenal health benefits that were marketed, and rather than calling them “servings”, a cup of brewed tea was often referred to as a “dose”. Since there were not retail tea merchants, it seems rather logical that tea was sometimes sold in pharmacies.
In addition to the health benefits of consuming good quality tea, we have also come to realize that the ways we use tea in our daily lives also provide health benefits. This is very much true when it comes to our mental and cognitive health. This article is a follow-up to my previous as we consider tea and dementia.
In last week’s post, Tea and Dementia; Can a Tea Lifestyle offer Protection Against Cognitive Decline? I wrote:
People living with dementia can experience problems with memory loss, cognitive abilities, language, and communication. We’re discovering many ways in which we can modify diet and daily activities to fend off the ravages of cognitive decline. As simple as it may sound, adding true tea, Camellia sinensis, as well as the practice of making and sharing tea to your daily routine can play an important role.
To be clear, there are physical conditions that make some of us more likely or less likely to develop dementia. There is currently a huge amount of scientific research exploring this. But we are not helpless in the wake of this unknown. Dementia is not an inevitable condition of aging and it is not limited to people of a certain age. There are things that we can do now to fight back. Fun things. Meaningful things. Tea things!
We Don’t Have To Wait For Tea and Dementia Research
What we know by scientific research, by our own observations of cognitive decline in family and friends, and also by common sense is that the effectiveness of these lifestyle changes is best implemented early in life. Waiting until you are already experiencing cognitive decline is too late for most of them to be very effective.
Today’s post is a kind of tea drinker’s anti-dementia worksheet for some of the ways you can add or increase tea to your daily life – no matter what age – to take an active role in your personal mental and physical health for the long term.
This is some of my homegrown tea that I dried like a white tea.
Create a meaningful daily tea ritual.
This shouldn’t be something complex so that you can be consistent. It’s probably better to create a personal practice that can easily be repeated. Perhaps this could be your first cup of tea each morning. And you may include some of the following suggestions.
Use the same kind of teaware. And you might find yourself using the same kind of tea. I have a tea friend who has Yunnan Golden Tips every morning. But I find myself drinking Japanese green tea for my first cup. This habit developed gradually. I used to begin the day pondering the options.
How will you create your own personal teatime?
Have an intention that this activity is one that you can do every day for the rest of your life. Your intention is what makes this practice more meaningful. You might use daily affirmations. You might begin with readings from your spiritual practice or poetry. Or this may be a morning meditation when you want to totally clear your mind.
The power of this personal teatime has immediate benefits but creates a kind of muscle memory that can serve you even if cognitive thinking and short term memory are compromised.
A second daily cuppa: Try something new every day.
Try new ways to make your second daily cup of tea and use different teas. This is the opposite of your daily ritual. In this way, you can challenge yourself to learn something new about tea every day. Think of it like learning a new language or learning music. Tea – both Camellia sinensis and herbal tisanes – can provide you with a lifetime of study.
Keep a tea journal.
Tea professionals keep logs of the teas they cup every year. These are intricate notes that most of us wouldn’t find particularly useful. But, you might want to keep a journal of your thoughts and experiences and preferences. Let the people who are close to you know that this is something important to you. Consider the possibility that you may face a time when you will not be able to explain to your caregivers what things are most meaningful to you and why. Your tea journal can be one of the tools they can use to help make you more comfortable.
Record some of your favorite teas and teaware. Keep notes of what you learn about tea. Later, this can be something you share with family and friends in the same way that a photo album serves as reminders and ignites storytelling. This may help inform your family and friends about how to spend time with you if you become dependent or frail. Your tea journal can include stories of the people with whom you share tea, memories, poetry, art. Write them down!
Memories of tea experiences may not seem important in our daily lives now, but when I talk to people, almost everyone has a tea memory that delights them to recall. One of my tea memories was sharing tea with my husband. He made me my morning tea on camping trips so that I could stay in my sleeping bag until he had the fire blazing. And he also made tea to share while we watched sunset over the river. The act of recording them contemporaneously may motivate you to create more.
Share tea with friends.
It may seem a bit redundant to say this, but consider the importance of maintaining a close circle of friends as you get older. You can start now reaching out to friends who share your interests to organize tea club. Whether it’s just a simple afternoon tea gathering or something like regular WuWo Ceremonies, tea can help you maintain lifelong social interaction.
Stereotypes are of tea groups lean toward them being merely gatherings of gossiping women. But, the reality is that groups of women sharing tea have historic significance from quilting circles to the suffrage movement. Girl Scouts of America were formed at afternoon tea parties. Your gathering can be as personal and unique as you choose. What do you want and need from a group of friends now? And what might endure?
Enhance tea as a sensory experience.
Drinking tea is a sensory experience. Multi-sensory. The way in we enjoy the richness of these experiences now can stimulate our brain function immediately and can also become part of that longterm memory for later.
Expand your awareness to include as much as possible. Listen to the boiling water. Smell the leaves in all stages, from dry to wet to completely spent. Visually, you can enjoy the way the leaves are restored through these stages. Feel the changes when the spent leaf is soft and slippery. How does it feel on your fingertips and then on your tongue. What is the mouthfeel of the liquor. How does it change if you infuse the leaves multiple times. And, of course, there’s the flavor. These experiences may become part of your journal.
Focus your teatimes on having positive state of mine.
There’s the expression, “fake it until you make it”. Your personal teatime and also the time you share tea with family and friends can be held apart from some of the bad news of the day. All the same issues will be there after you take a break. There have been many studies about the correlation between depression and memory impairment.
“These findings suggest that depressive symptoms precede memory decline, but not vice versa, in late life. This pattern of results is consistent with hypotheses that depression is a prodrome of dementia or a causal contributor to memory decline.” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25093232/)
Pair tea with exercise.
Tea and yoga make a wonderful combination. Camellia sinensis is proving itself to support additional energy for all exercise and also helps with rapid recovery.
Pair tea with meditation.
It was largely Buddhist monks who helped spread Camellia sinensis throughout the world as part of their own meditative practice. The caffeine helped maintain alertness during long hours of meditation and we know now that the L-theanine component contributes a calm focus. Beginning a tea and meditation practice as a lifelong practice can serve to maintain mental health and cognitive wellbeing.
Teatime can be multigenerational and multi-gender
Start now creating family traditions that bring elders and children together. Some children are very uncomfortable visiting grandparents and other elders in nursing homes. Teatime is an activity that can be prepared at home and shared in any setting. Family storytelling and looking through old photo albums (even virtual albums) can easily become a tradition with tea.
Use good quality tea and replace less healthy beverages.
The freshest tea is usually the healthiest tea. So using whole leaf tea that hasn’t endured the processing of bagged tea leaves is most often your best choice. And if you can bring more of it into your daily life as a lifelong practice and remove the things from your diet that you know are not healthy, you may well be giving your immune system and your organs a much better chance to resist disease, keep your mind sharp and maintain good overall health.
What’s Health About Tea; A series of 20 articles based on the book, “The Everything Healthy Tea Book”
- What’s The Healthiest Tea?
- A Glimpse of Tea’s Journey from Field To Cup
- EGCG: Understanding the Health Benefits of Tea
- Tea’s Power as an Antioxidant & Apoptosis Support
- Caffeine and L-Theanine In Tea
- Quantum Dots From Tea Extract Treat Disease
- An Overview of How Tea Helps Prevent and Fight Disease
- Tea And Cancer; The Evidence of Health and Well-Being
- Tea and Dementia; Can a Tea Lifestyle offer Protection Against Cognitive Decline?
- Tea & Dementia; A Tea Drinker’s Anti-Dementia Worksheet