By Geraldine Campbell
If we asked you to guess the healthiest tea, would you guess green tea? Well, you’d be right. In fact, green tea is basically the healthiest beverage you can drink. But, if green tea isn’t your, um, cup of tea, there are plenty of other options out there. We’ve rounded up the healthiest teas you can drink to reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; to lower cholesterol; and to improve mental focus.
But, First: What to Know About Toxic Teas
It turns out some teas contain toxins, such as epichlorohydrin, a plastic that helps to keep tea bags from breaking. Other toxins found in tea include arsenic, lead, cadmium, endosulfan, fluoride, PET plastic, tannins, and other known carcinogens. Certain toxins may also show up in plastic or paper tea bags, such as the cornstarch product polylactic acid (PLA) and polypropylene.
Most of these pose little risk, unless you’re drinking teas on a daily basis. For example: The Environmental Protection Agency says drinking water with high levels of epichlorohydrin over a long period of time could cause stomach problems and an increased risk of cancer. For perspective: The EPA. allows up to 20 parts per million in drinking water, and tea bags may include 50 parts per billion.
Nonetheless, it is possible to avoid toxins altogether. And that starts with buying the right tea.
How to Buy the Healthiest Teas
Look for non-GMO and USDA certified organic teas. They usually contain fewer toxins and more antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts. It’s also a good idea to avoid teas with “added flavors,” including “natural flavors” or “artificial flavoring” as the FDA allows tea companies to be vague about what exactly is in natural flavors.
Invest in quality teas. As a general rule, more expensive teas frequently come from less contaminated sources. The good news is you can offset this cost by buying loose-leaf tea: By straining your own instead of paying for packaging, you’ll get more cups for your bucks. A tea strainer, like this one, makes it easy.
Choose better-for-you tea bags. If you decide to stick with bagged tea, make sure to look for better-for-you tea bags. Numi Tea, for example uses tea bags made from manila help cellulose, with tags from 100% recycled material.
Other Tea Brands We Like
- Upton Tea Imports
- Tazo Teas
- Pique Tea
- Traditional Medicinals
- Rishi Tea
- Choice Organic Teas
- Stash Tea
- Eden Foods
The 10 Healthiest Teas You Can Drink
We’ve rounded up the 10 healthiest teas, including true teas and herbal teas. True teas derive from the Camellia sinensis plant and include black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea. These contain natural caffeine. Herbal teas (AKA “tisanes”) do not use the Camellia sinensis plant and contain no natural caffeine. Herbal blends may include spices, flowers, leaves, fruits, and herbs from a variety of plants.
1. Green Tea
Green tea — specifically unsweetened green tea — is a true tea (vs. a tisane, or herbal tea). Research indicates that the catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is what gives green tea many of its health benefits, which include promoting brain health, raising energy, decreasing risk of heart disease, and decreasing inflammation.
2. Black Tea
Deriving from the Camellia sinensis plant, black tea is another true tea. It is the most oxidized of any true tea, possesses the strongest natural flavor, and is one of the most commonly drunk beverages worldwide. Health benefits include decreased inflammation, increased metabolism, lowered blood sugar levels, and improved gut health.
3. White Tea
White tea often uses the youngest buds of the Camellia sinensis plant and possesses health benefits similar to other true teas. It may also help with acne and promote overall skin, hair, and dental health.
4. Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is made from ginger root, which offers many health benefits: It relieves stress, anxiety, and headaches, helps with nausea and menstrual discomfort, and promotes heart health. A warning: Consuming a lot of ginger can always lead to bloating or heartburn, but it would take a lot to experience those side effects.
5. Chamomile Tea
The ancient Egyptians believed chamomile was a gift from the God of the Sun. These days we think of it primarily for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality.
6. Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is caffeine-free and calorie-free. It may improve weight, freshen your breath, relieve clogged sinuses and fight harmful bacteria. Though peppermint tea typically has no side effects, you may want to avoid peppermint tea if you have acid reflux.
7. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal blend that originated in South Africa. Also known as bush tea, red tea, or redbush tea, it has a similar color to hibiscus tea, and a similar taste to yerba mate. It may reduce inflammation and prevent type-2 diabetes, and can improve skin health.
8. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is the final “true tea” on this list. It is chock full of health benefits, including decreased inflammation, increased energy, and improved dental and skin health. It may help fight obesity.
9. Lemon Balm Tea
Known as the “calming herb,” this member of the mint family has been used as medicine for millennia. In addition to helping with nausea and menstrual discomfort, boosting memory and concentration, and relieving stress, anxiety, and headaches, lemon balm tea may have a mild sedative effect, making it great for right before bed. Fun fact: The Welsh Prince of Glamorgan drank lemon balm tea every day and lived to the ripe old age of 108.
10. Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus tea’s tart taste and deep red color distinguish it from other teas on this list. In addition to reducing inflammation, hibiscus tea may improve liver health and lower blood pressure.