Regular Loose Leaf Tea or Chai?

by Elena Popec 14. August 2012 08:26

While many Americans are very familiar with the popular spicy Chai tea from India, few people are aware of one of its key flavorings:  cardamom.  A relative of ginger, cardamom has been a valued and widely used spice in Asian culture for centuries.  The cardamom plant produces pods, which contain the seeds.  It is these pods that are harvested so that the seeds can be used in culinary and medicinal applications.  There are two categories of cardamom plants; one produces smaller, light green pods and the other produces larger, brown or black pods.  Both varieties have a warm, mildly spicy flavor that adds depth to both savory and sweet dishes in many Asian cultures, most notably Indian.  Cardamom is the spice that gives Chai tea its distinctive, vanilla-like taste.  In terms of price, only vanilla beans and saffron are more expensive than cardamom; its cost is indicative of the demand for cardamom, as well as the limited areas in which it grows.  Cardamom is indigenous to India and Nepal, although it has been successfully cultivated in other warm, tropical regions.  While purchasing whole cardamom pods is preferred to preserve freshness, it is the seeds inside the pod that yield the health benefits.

Cardamom has a well established history as an important medicinal spice.  Pods can be chewed whole, or the seeds can be crushed and steeped in boiling water to create a bold, spicy infusion.  Cardamom is very high in antioxidants, particularly phenolics and flavonoids.  Regular consumption of cardamom tisane can promote healthy tissue function and fight free radicals.  These same antioxidants help to fight inflammation, so cardamom is a common component of holistic remedies for arthritis.  It is also commonly used as a digestive aid; the same essential oils that give cardamom its distinctive spicy flavor also encourage healthy function in the stomach and intestines.  It has been shown to be effective against all sorts of digestive problems, from nausea to flatulence.  It may also relieve cramping due to antispasmodic properties.  Cardamom is a natural detoxifying agent; it can help to clear out harmful waste compounds and allow your body’s organ systems to function more efficiently.  Its anti-bacterial properties have long been used in dental care; cardamom can help heal infections in the teeth and gums, and can curb halitosis (which is often the result of bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract).  Cardamom may have been the first teeth-whitening agent; ancient Egyptians steeped strong infusions for just that purpose.

The vast collection of health benefits attributed to cardamom is enough reason to add this exotic spice to your infuser.  But an even more compelling reason might be its unique flavor.  The delightful warm spice of cardamom is wonderful alone, and pairs well with a lot of other flavors.  Add cardamom to black tea (true tea) for a morning pick-me-up that is more flavorful than gourmet coffee.  Or, blend cardamom with cinnamon, ginger, or vanilla for a delicious personalized mix.  Cardamom is so tasty you’ll forget how healthy it is.

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Herbal

What Is The Healthiest Type Of Tea?

by Steven Popec 6. August 2012 15:42

With so many different types of tea in the world, it can be difficult to find the perfect type of tea for you. What is the world’s healthiest tea - black, green, white, or herbal?

As you might know, black, green, and white tea all comes from the same plant – the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on the processing techniques used, Camellia sinensis can turn into black, green, or white tea.

The tea blends made from the Camellia sinensis plant have been linked to several powerful health benefits. Here are a few of the health benefits of black, green, and white tea blends:

-Weight loss (due to caffeine and other ingredients)

-Increased levels of antioxidants that target free radicals

-Polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins benefit various areas of your body

Some tea blends have specific benefits that other tea blends do not have. For example, black tea has been said to protect lungs from smoke damage and reduce the risk of a stroke. Black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai. In many cases, tea that has health benefits will simply be classified as wellness tea.

The rich antioxidants in green tea have also been said to combat all sorts of different diseases, including neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Since green tea is not oxidized as much as black or white tea, it generally tastes more natural.

Meanwhile, white tea has powerful anticancer properties that make it healthier than virtually any other type of tea, and oolong tea has been linked to lower cholesterol levels.

One of the most popular types of tea in terms of health benefits is Pu-erh tea. Made from fermented and aged tea leaves, China Pu-erh tea has been linked to reduced weight gain and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

Herbal tea, on the other hand, is made from various herbs and spices. Although science has yet to research many of the benefits of herbal tea, herbal tea drinkers have reported a number of different benefits, including everything from positive mood changes to anticancer properties.

The answer

In short, all tea blends made from Camellia sinensis features similar health benefits. However, the way the tea is packed can affect its healthiness as well.

Tea experts suggest that loose tea blends are healthier than those packed in bags. In addition to being more flavorful, loose tea blends tend to contain more antioxidants. After all, tea bags limit the surface area of the leaves that is exposed to the water. With loose tea blends, the entire leaf is exposed, which means more nutrients and flavor is drawn into the surrounding water.

Herbal Tea Blends – How It Benefits You

by Elena Popec 2. August 2012 10:39

From the buzz and popularity around “super foods” to a wide range of vitamin supplements, Americans can’t seem to get enough of the trends in health and nutrition.  The vitamin industry alone boasts hundreds of formulas:  multivitamins, isolations of specific vitamins, vitamin combinations designed to target particular conditions and concerns, kids’ formulas, and compositions aimed at every stage of adulthood and activity level.  Most supermarkets and health food stores have whole aisles devoted strictly to the wealth of vitamin products they offer.  But what could potentially provide as many, if not more, health benefits are frequently found a few aisles away:  herbal tea.

Technically, herbals teas aren’t actually teas; they come from a wide variety of plants around the world, but not the camellia sinensis plant that is the exclusive source of true teas.  The vast range of plants that can be made into herbal teas, or tisanes, offer as vast an array of vitamins, chemicals, and compounds that are proven to offer myriad health benefits.  For everything from occasional discomforts to chronic conditions like diabetes, there are teas that can ease severity and relieve symptoms of a host of ailments.  Stomach upset, nausea, and digestive problems can be relieved with a tisane of ginger, peppermint, licorice root, or lemon.  The antihistamine and immune-boosting properties of Echinacea makes it the ideal choice for fighting cold and allergy symptoms.  Some tisanes, like chamomile, have soothing and calming characteristics; tisanes of Rhodiola and ginseng provide a boost in energy and vitality.  Passionflower and lavender may alleviate the nagging pain of a headache. 

While many conditions are incurable, herbal tisanes have been shown to be beneficial in helping to manage them and promote health.  Diabetes, for example, can be very difficult to manage.  Spikes in blood sugar can lead to a host of related health problems.  Several herbals can help a diabetic manage his or her condition.  Fenugreek may absorb excess sugar, preventing it from getting into the system; raspberry and bilberry infusions can help to lower blood sugar.  Herbal infusions are helpful in easing the symptoms of a number of other chronic conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and anxiety.  Some herbs can relieve colic and digestive issues in infants; others can boost lactation for nursing mothers.

Tisanes are ideal treatments for a wide range of conditions and maladies.  But they also offer preventive properties.  Most herbals contain antioxidant compounds, which are known to destroy the free radicals that have carcinogenic characteristics.  Nutrition experts recommend consuming foods high in antioxidants to help in the fight against cancer; most agree that getting your antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients from natural, food-based sources is preferable to taking expensive supplements.  Herbal tisanes are a convenient and easy way to load your diet with a variety of compounds to promote a healthful life.  And unlike vitamin supplements, tisanes are delicious, too.  They are available in a wide variety of flavors, from fruity choices to spicy options like cinnamon or ginger and a host of blends.

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