Tea power: The original supplement

Tea comes in a huge range of varieties, each with unique nutritional and medicinal properties.

With all the focus on superfoods and concentrated supplements in recent times, many people seem to be neglecting the nutritional power of simple tea. It’s true tea makes a great comfort beverage when you need a quick lift without the jolt of coffee or want to wind down at the end of the day, but this is really just scratching the surface of what it has to offer.

Maybe the first thing to clear up is what constitutes tea. Obviously it’s not the same drink that picks you up and winds you down. There are actually hundreds of different types of tea. It can be made by adding hot water to virtually any dried, fresh, or fermented leaf, flower, root, etc. and waiting for the heat to release a range of phytonutrients and other beneficial elements.

A second point to understand is tea is not a weak version of coffee. If you are only looking at the caffeine, then, yes, tea generally has less but even standard black and green teas have a number of mood enhancers not present in coffee (as do non-caffeine teas). Caffeine is basically kind of a blunt instrument in this respect. Try a cup of coffee and yerba mate for a glow factor comparison.

The supplementary powers of tea

Getting back to our idea of tea as a “supplement,” many people seem to place more belief in the effectiveness of something that comes in the form of a pill than as a tea. It’s completely understandable but not necessarily true. For example, we already have various reputable studies in Western medical literature on the benefits of reishi and shiitake teas for cancer prevention.

Katsugen-cha tea

• Natsume – Chinese red dates
• Kocha – black tea leaves
• Kuko no ha – goji bush leaves
• Koraininjin – Korean ginseng
• Reishi – reishi mushroom

Living in Japan, I’ve long been interested in kampo, the traditional Japanese medicine originally derived from the ancient Chinese system. While Japan has enthusiastically embraced Western medicine, the government has also approved around 150 different kampo prescriptions. And apparently about three-quarters of licensed physicians regularly use them.

You can also find various kampo medicines in pharmacies and specialist shops. This includes a large number of kancha teas, many of which have passed through my kitchen cupboards. I do believe supplements can be a valuable part of promoting health and longevity but given a choice, I’d rather brew up a pot of tea (or of course eat food) than pop a capsule.

My current fave is a katsugen-cha energizing blend. I wouldn’t actually recommend it as a first-time experience – the ginseng is a bit earthy – but this is definitely a power brew with cancer-fighting and other properties. I also combine it with pau d’arco, gynostemma or other teas to soften the flavor and create a mega-mix. Even if you can’t get kancha, try to find some of these ingredients.

If you’re looking for a good source of quality teas, check out iHerb.com. I get my kancha here in Kyoto but most other teas I order through iHerb. The selection is excellent and even in Japan, things arrive within four days. This discount code will give you up to $10 off your order: HUT039

Other details and resources
iHerb home page, iHerb trials page and iHerb Freebies page
Up to $10 off your order with this discount code: HUT039

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