What’s in your tea?
Maureen Lamerdin, O.M.D.
I heard a rumor that winter is ending. Judging by the snow in the yard, I’m still a bit skeptical but if Spring is indeed on its way we need to start thinking about how to prepare for it. With the change of seasons, we undergo physical changes, like decreased serotonin in the fall and winter due to decreased sunlight and the return of it with the longer days in the spring and summer. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) a great deal of emphasis has been placed on these changes and how we can best prepare our bodies to accommodate them.
One of the TCM recommendations which has stood through its 5,000 year history is the drinking of green tea through the Spring. TCM practices contend that things colored green help the liver to counter-act the onslaught of changing seasonal energies and help us slide more gradually into the transition, kind of like waking to the rising of the sun versus waking to bright fluorescent lights abruptly turning on above our heads. Abrupt changes can lead to unbalanced energies within our bodies which can lead to sickness and by easing the transition we give our bodies time to adjust to the changes.
The medicinal benefits of tea have been observed and practiced for thousands of years and have more recently been scientifically proven to decrease the risks of skin, breast, and prostate cancer. Green tea has undergone extensive research which has shown it to have not only potent antioxidant effects, which limits cell damage and boosts the immune system, but also heightened levels of polyphenols which serve to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and one’s propensity towards Alzheimer’s disease.
Interestingly enough, tea may have started out being used as a medicinal but its reputation as a beverage did not surface until much later. Although the medicinal properties of tea have long been touted, the social value of this product can also be seen in the various ceremonies surrounding it. The Japanese created their tea ceremony, called Chanoyu, which is based on the Chinese gongfu cha and both bring people together to celebrate everything from weddings to simple appreciations of company. Part of the allure of the process of drinking tea is taking the time to do it. In order to adhere to the spirit of the ceremonies, people must slow down and become more aware of the process, a kind of palatable meditation. Many scholars of Chinese tea will contend that it is this very focus on slowing down that imbues a great deal of tea’s health benefits onto its consumers.
All too often we see lines around the Starbuck’s drive-thru as people on their way to work fill up on coffee, neglecting the quiet appreciation of their morning beverage for its overstimulating effects which serves to create more stress and anxiety. When we stop and take the time to appreciate a well-prepared cup of tea we not only show gratitude for the plant, we also show gratitude towards ourselves which helps promote healing not only of the body but also the mind. So, take time to enjoy the Spring. Sit outside and listen to the world wake up as you help your body adjust to the new season with a nice cup of green tea.