Mint-chocolate mocha lattes, holiday parties, skiing, cozy fireplaces, and snowmen. Sometimes, winter really does feel like the most wonderful time of the year. But of course, the cold weather also comes with some pretty unpleasant side effects (like Seasonal Affective Disorder, the common cold, and cabin fever) that have me longing for summer nights by about mid-December. Luckily, nature provides soothing balms for these ailments in the form of piping hot magic — a cup o' tea! Trust me when I say you're going to want to make herbal tea (and its many health benefits) your new best friend this winter.
Tea is both comforting and healthy. In fact, it is downright medicinal. According to legend, it was discovered in 2737 BC by the Emperor of China, and for thousands of years since it was used daily for its healing properties. Today, herbal teas claim to do everything — detoxify the liver, help you sleep, even fight cancer.
A few years winters back, I started drinking chamomile tea at bedtime to put me to sleep, and that launched me on a never-ending quest to find the perfect tea cure for everything. If you're thinking about grabbing a box on your next trip to the supermarket, here are some well-researched suggestions. Because when it's 10 degrees below zero outside, there is something about snuggling under a fleece blanket and sipping from your favorite mug that sends the winter blues a-flying.
1. CHAMOMILE TEA FOR RELAXATION
The queen of herbal teas, this powerhouse can do it all — reduce inflammation, relax your mind, and calm a sore throat. People also use it to get rid of inflammation from bug bites and dark under-eye circles. No wonder it's been around for centuries. I drink a cup almost every evening to ease my wintertime anxiety, and it works every time! It tastes good too, especially with honey.
2. GINGER TEA FOR A PICK-ME-UP
Lagging a bit? Grab a cup of ginger tea! Ayurvedic medicine suggests that ginger tea can stimulate circulation, speed up digestion, and enhance immunity. I often throw a bag of ginger tea into my morning mug to help overpower the bitter taste of green tea. You can also slice up real ginger and put it in your tea for a less-processed pick-me-up; it tastes stronger and smells awesome.
3. PEPPERMINT TEA FOR TUMMY TROUBLE
If I'm ever feeling a little nauseous at work (usually from overdoing it on the holiday treats), I make myself a cup. I swear, for mild stomach upset, peppermint tea is all you need. Keep a box in your desk and never reach for that chalky pink stuff again.
4. LICORICE ROOT TEA TO SOOTHE A SORE THROAT
That first day when a cold hits you is the worst — you keep saying "I can't be sick" and in a panic, you pop vitamin C to stave it off. But when your body gives in, it usually starts with the throat. I can't tell you how many times this tea has gotten me through a day at work with a developing cold. It sort of coats your throat and makes you feel human again. Licorice root has been proven to ease congestion and coughing too. If you ever have to get through a presentation with a scratchy throat, pop some Advil and bring a thermos of this tea. You'll get through it; I promise. Plus, it tastes like candy!
5. LEMON BALM TEA FOR WINTER BLAHS
A week of commuting through sleet can get me down. At the end of a long day, lemon balm tea is like a hug from Grandma. It's sweet and delicate, and one sip can make my day's stresses sort of float away. It has been used to treat anxiety, sleep problems, restlessness, and even high blood pressure. I swear a cup of it has the same effect on my mind as a massage — and it's much cheaper!
6. STINGING NETTLE LEAF TEA FOR ALLERGIES
Funny, this plant. It can sting you and heal you! A natural anti-inflammatory that has been used for hundreds of years to cure a variety of reproductive system ailments, arthritis, and seasonal allergies, stinging nettle tea is worth a try. It has a floral, slightly bitter taste that I really enjoyed even without sweetener. I drank it for about a month in the winter to see if it would, as suggested, alleviate my dust mite allergies. They didn't go away completely, but I noticed a reduction in my symptoms.
7. DR. OZ'S DETOX TEA FOR AFTER THE FOOD COMA
I found myself intrigued about this simple, easy-to-make blend of cumin, coriander, and fennel seed after viewing an episode of Dr. Oz on the web. His "detox tea" claims to assist the body's removal of what Ayurvedic medicine calls ama, or toxins, from the body. Sounds hokey, but honestly, the tea tastes spicy and delicious. It does have this tingling, warming effect on the whole body that is comforting. And hey, if it's helping me to remove toxins, amazing. I have a lot of those.
8. MILK THISTLE TEA FOR AFTER TOO MUCH EGGNOG
Everyone has felt the effects of too many holiday parties. The days after Christmas and New Years can feel like death... for your liver. It's tough to feel motivated to get back to work when your head is heavy as metal, and your pillow feels like a magnet. One solution to this is to drink milk thistle tea, which is often used as part of cleanse diets. Milk thistle claims to boost liver function and shield the liver from the toxic effects of certain substances (such as alcohol and acetaminophen). One cup won't cure you, but drink it for a week and you should feel a difference.
Make tea-drinking into a nightly or daily ritual. It can help you get through even the toughest of winters.