Samui Wining & Dining
Cuppa, Anyone?

Herbal teas have been enjoyed for centuries, and are by no means a passing fad.

 

10Some may pass herbal teas off as ‘alternative medicine’, but in fact, doctors often recommend them as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They can not only prevent certain ailments, but help to cure them too.

      So what exactly is herbal tea? Well, it’s made from various plants, using not just the leaves, but also the flowers, roots, bark and seeds. Sometimes, a few of these are blended together to make an interesting flavour combination – there’s a herbal tea that’s just right for every mood as well as ailment.

      Herbal teas naturally contain no caffeine at all, which accounts in part for their mellow, soothing character – and their growing popularity in today’s hectic, high-pressure world. We all know that we need to drink plenty of water in the tropical heat. But let’s face it, water can be, well… boring! Boiling up a pot of herbal tea to be drunk either hot or iced, is a delicious and easy way to increase your fluid intake and sneak in some extra nutrients too.

      Drink peppermint tea to relieve the symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat – not that we need that here on Samui. If indigestion or heartburn are problems, then it’s best to avoid peppermint altogether. Peppermint tea can be made using

fresh herbs from the garden – and it's one of the easiest herbs to grow.

       Many people are familiar with ginger tea, and here in Thailand there are several varieties on the supermarket shelves, so it’s easy to incorporate it into your diet. Another great digestive aid, ginger can be used to curb nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach due to motion sickness – so if you’re prone to seasickness, brew up a pot before you head out on that boat trip. Make fresh ginger tea by simmering a piece of ginger root on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and honey when you have a cold for a powerful germ-fighting combination. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties also help those with arthritis.

       Does the sandman sometimes fail to visit? Well, for a gentle, calming sedative, enjoy a cup of chamomile tea for insomnia. It’s also helpful with digestion after a meal, so having a pot at night is useful on both counts. Some homeopaths also recommend chamomile for coughs and bronchitis, when you have a cold or fever, or as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth. Chamomile tea is one of the most consumed teas in the world behind regular black tea. The flowers have a naturally sweet taste with a hint of an apple flavour.

      Rooibos tea (that translates to red bush tea in Afrikaans) is high in vitamin C as well as other minerals. Made from the South African red bush plant, rooibos has all sorts of health benefits, specifically its antioxidant properties, which help ward off disease and signs of aging. This easy-drinking tea contains calcium, iron and zinc and helps repair cells damaged by sun, so is good for reducing sunspots and wrinkles. It’s also good with common skin conditions such as eczema.

       Known as the ‘wonder herb’ by tea drinkers and health gurus alike, green tea comes with a host of health benefits. This slightly bitter tea (well, it can get very bitter if left to brew too long) contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols, which help suppress free radicals. These are not an anti-government protest group, but rather the things that can trigger cancer. Green tea is also effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels and thereby promoting a healthy heart. And the benefits don’t stop there. This bitter brew also lowers blood pressure, prevents and fights tooth decay and inhibits different viruses from causing illness.

      Lemongrass plays an integral part in Thai cooking with its recognisable zingy flavour and aroma. But it’s good as a tea too. Lemongrass tea is often served as an after-dinner drink to aid digestion – primarily due to a substance called citral, which is also the active ingredient in lemon peel. Other benefits include its antioxidant, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial properties. It’s great for reducing blood pressure, improving circulation, reducing flatulence, improving skin, boosting the immune system, calming the nerves, detoxifying the organs, reducing cellulite, and helping to tone muscle and tissue. Though usually enjoyed unaccompanied by other herbs, it blends well to create lemon-flavoured teas.

         Advertisers often oversell the alleged perks of these products, but scientific research does support the health benefits of several herbal teas. Just Google your condition and you’re bound to find a herbal tea recommended to assist your recovery or ailment. Of course, they’re not intended as a substitute for traditional medical practices in the treatment of serious illnesses, so it’s always best to consult your doctor when ill. However, there’s no doubt that most herbal teas are delicious, and when incorporated into a healthy meal plan, can play an integral part in general wellbeing.

         Now be a dear, and put the kettle on…

         

Rosanne Turner


 


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