Hydrating for Health

Staying hydrated is very important. As the weather begins to warm up, this is a great time to start incorporating more fluids in our daily routines. Water is of course always brilliant, but what about teas (hot and iced)? Most of us are under the general impression that tea as a beverage is “good” for us – but do we know why? Here are a few great reasons to incorporate more of this timeless drink into your daily routine.

1. Coffee Alternatives

While coffee itself is also a herb arguably full of medicinal properties (including potent antioxidants), it is not always the best choice for everyone. The high caffeine content and withdrawal effect of coffee can contribute to irritability, energy highs and lows, and increased blood pressure. As well, many coffee drinkers are getting their daily java in the form of a latte or frappucino – which can be high in both calories and sugar.

Black and green teas are relatively lower caffeine options also loaded with antioxidants and health benefits. Green tea in particular has been studied as a potent cancer preventative and metabolism booster. For those of you who have not tried it yet, matcha is a powdered form of green tea that is beautiful to prepare and contains even higher antioxidant levels.

Compared to coffee, just how much caffeine is in green or black tea anyway? Well it of course depends on the variety, brand, and amount of tea in a cup (and the same for the coffee you are comparing it to) – but as a general average, a cup of black tea has about 25-50% the caffeine that of a similar sized cup of coffee. Green tea has just a little less caffeine on average than black tea.

2. Medicines from the Earth

For centuries, herbal infusions (herbs steeped in hot water) and decoctions (herbs brought to a boil) have been used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from insomnia to wound healing. Chances are you probably have a small assortment of medicinal teas in your cupboard (some of the most popular being chamomile, peppermint, and ginger) and if you don’t yet, you can easily acquire a vast array by visiting your local health food or grocery store tea aisle.

Quality Control

When brewing your own teas for medicinal purposes, it is a great idea to research the source of the herb and the reliability of the company producing the tea. For instance, some lower-end teas may be comprised of the “whole herb” – meaning all of its parts (roots, stem, leaves, flowers) while in fact only one part of the herb may be where the medicinal constituents can be found. A reliable tea producer making medicinal claims about their product should be able to provide you with some science to back it up. As well, you want to purchase from a supplier that grows herbal crops that are free of contamination from heavy metals or chemical pesticides.

Cover it up

Remember, whenever steeping herbs with volatile oils (such as peppermint and chamomile) you must steep your tea covered to prevent evaporation of the medicinal constituents! Unsure if your tea needs steeping? When in doubt, steep all of your teas covered for 15 minutes before you drink and enjoy.

3. Refreshingly Iced

Iced teas are incredibly underappreciated considering how versatile they can be! It is as simple as preparing a big pot of herbal tea, allowing it to cool, adding some ice cubes, and voila! Many fruity teas (strawberry, blueberry, orange zest) taste great when iced, and you can even add a little bit of a lemon juice or herbal sweetener such as stevia to make them even tastier. If you are someone who likes flavoured water, consider using herbal teas to make ice cubes – and adding to water for a healthy, yet smaller dose of flavour. Iced teas make an easy, low cost, and healthy refreshing drink.

In addition to being calorie-free, caffeine-free herbal teas can also contribute to your daily water intake! So if you are someone who gets bored with the taste of water before you can get to recommended minimum of 8 glasses a day, then start including some tasty iced teas into your beverage repertoire.

A Brief Note on Safety

While herbs may be considered a more “safe” therapy than many other interventions – it is important to remember that herbs are still medicines with the potential for a physiological effect in your body. As such, not all herbs are intended for everyone.  Your naturopathic physician can advise you about the specific type, dosage, and preparation of a herb that will be indicated and effective for your health care goals. As always, seek the advice of your naturopathic physician or other knowledgeable health care provider before beginning any new treatment program incorporating herbal medicines.

Dr. Courtney is a Naturopathic Doctor and co-founder of Aurora Integrative Medical, a modern integrative health clinic near Vancouver BC.

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