If you’re headed to a local tea room or restaurant for afternoon tea and consider it an indulgence, what you drink is likely good for your health. Tea is the world’s most widely consumed beverage. According to Monica Williams, M.D., Primary Care Physician with Ochsner Health System, whether in green or black forms, tea offers many benefits for you heart, your overall health, and your state of mind.

Benefits of Black & Green Tea

Made from the leaves of a shrub properly called Camellia sinensis, black, green, and white tea offer a number of benefits beyond pure enjoyment. “We’ve seen a number of studies that show that drinking black or green tea can have a positive effect on health, particularly heart health” says Dr. Williams. “These effects are primarily related to high levels of compounds such as flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants which protect cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals.”

Antioxidants either stop dangerous free radicals before they form, or, break them down before they can damage cells and tissue. Specific types have specific functions. “The flavonoids in tea and other foods are thought to protect us against heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and stroke, among other issues,” says Dr. Williams. Some people even consider it among anti-aging foods.

Black tea has been shown to lower the ratio of LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol, and increase overall levels of HDL cholesterol. It has also been linked to lower risk of certain kinds of cancers, such as advanced stage prostate cancer and specific types of ovarian cancer. And some large-scale studies have shown that people who drank three or more cups of tea a day reduced their risk of stroke over those who drank less or none. It can also help reduce stress.

“Unlike coffee, which has a stimulant effect, tea works as a mild stress reliever, by bringing down stress hormones like cortisol, which is best known for fueling the ‘fight or flight’ response,” says Dr. Williams. “So a cup of tea, or a glass of iced tea, when you’re stressed can actually help your body relax. The act of making and sipping tea can also help, by focusing the mind and body on something other than whatever is causing stress.”

Herbal Teas and Health

For centuries, people have made teas, or more correctly tisanes, from many kinds of plants other than the tea plant. Chamomile tea is commonly known to provide a calming effect and help promote sleep. Peppermint tea and ginger tea can support the digestive tract. Hibiscus tea is thought to have anti-viral properties and may help fight the flu. And sage tea shows promise as benefitting cognitive function. Additionally, most are either caffeine-free or very low in caffeine, which can also be beneficial for those who also drink caffeinated beverages.

“Whatever kind of tea you choose,” says Dr. Williams, “be careful of your caffeine intake. The good news is that depending on the variety, most black tea has about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee. Green tea and white tea are even lower.”

High Tea on the Turf

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Ochsner and the Brees Dream Foundation will host High Tea on the Turf at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, 5800 Airline Drive, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. The event will benefit the Women’s Wellness and Survivorship Center at Ochsner Baptist. The Center features a holistic approach to address a range of women’s health concerns and offers specialized gynecologic care for cancer survivors. Tickets are available at www.ochsner.org/hightea, or, for more information, call 504-842-7110 or email specialevents@ochsner.org.

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