Plants, herbs, and spices have been used medicinally for centuries.
They contain powerful plant compounds or phytochemicals that can prevent oxidative damage to your cells and reduce inflammation.
Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, certain plants may relieve pain that’s caused by inflammation. They may also help manage certain diseases that are triggered by it.
Drinking tea made from these plants, herbs, and spices is an easy way to enjoy their benefits.
Here are 6 powerful teas that may fight inflammation.
1. Green tea (Camellia sinensis L.)
Green tea comes from the same shrub as black tea, but the leaves are processed differently, allowing them to retain their green color.
The health-promoting compounds in green tea are called polyphenols, of which epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most potent.
EGCG has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve some of the flare-ups associated with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
In a 56-day study in people with ulcerative colitis who didn’t respond to conventional medication, treatment with an EGCG-based medication improved symptoms by 58.3%, compared with no improvements in the placebo group.
Green tea also seems to reduce inflammation-driven conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even certain cancers.
To brew green tea, steep a tea bag or loose tea leaves in a tea infuser for five minutes. Matcha powder is finely ground green tea leaves, and you can simply stir a spoonful into hot water or milk.
While green tea is safe to consume for most people, it contains caffeine, which may negatively impact sleep in some people. Plus, drinking large amounts of this beverage may inhibit iron absorption.
In addition, compounds in green tea can interact with certain medications, including acetaminophen, codeine, verapamil, nadolol, tamoxifen, and bortezomib, so check with your healthcare provider — especially if you drink a lot of it.
If you want to give green tea a try, you can find it locally or online. Matcha powder is widely available as well.
Green and matcha teas are sources of the anti-inflammatory polyphenol EGCG, which may reduce inflammation and symptoms associated with IBDs and other inflammation-driven chronic conditions.
2. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Also known by its Hindi name tulsi, holy basil is a perennial plant native to India and Southeast Asia. In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s known as “the incomparable one” and “queen of herbs” due to its wide range of health-promoting properties.
Referred to as an adaptogenic herb in alternative medicine, holy basil is thought to help your body counter emotional, environmental, and metabolic stress. These are often the root causes of inflammation that lead to chronic disease.
Both animal and human studies have found that holy basil has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels
Compounds in the leaves and seeds of the holy basil plant may also reduce uric acid levels, alleviating the pain that results from inflammatory conditions like gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some of holy basil’s compounds fight inflammation by inhibiting the cox-1 and cox-2 enzymes, which produce inflammatory compounds and trigger pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Holy basil or tulsi tea is available at many natural food stores and online. To brew it, use loose leaves or a tea bag and let it steep for five minutes.
Tulsi tea should be safe for most people to drink every day.
Holy basil, or tulsi, tea may fight inflammation and reduce pain from gout, arthritis, or other inflammatory conditions. It may also lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels.
3. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a flowering plant with an edible root or rhizome that’s often dried and made into a spice. The root can likewise be peeled and minced.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a yellow compound known for its many health benefits. It reduces inflammation and pain by interrupting some of the pathways that lead to this condition.
Turmeric and curcumin have been studied for their effects on chronic inflammatory illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, and heart disease. They may also relieve arthritic joint pain and muscle soreness after exercise — both of which are caused by inflammation.
In a 6-day study in people with pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis, taking 1,500 mg of curcumin in divided doses 3 times daily significantly reduced pain and improved physical function, compared with placebo.
Another study in 20 active men showed that taking 400 mg of curcumin reduced muscle soreness and muscle damage after exercise, compared with placebo.
However, these studies used large doses of concentrated curcumin, so it’s unclear whether drinking turmeric tea would have the same effect
If you want to try turmeric tea, simmer 1 teaspoon of either powdered turmeric or peeled, grated turmeric root in a pot with 2 cups (475 ml) of water for about 10 minutes. Then strain the solids and add lemon or honey to taste.
Curcumin is better absorbed with some black pepper, so add a pinch to your tea.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may relieve inflammation and pain when taken in large doses. Yet, it’s unclear whether the amount in turmeric tea would have the same effect.
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Over 50 different antioxidant compounds have been identified in ginger. Many of them minimize the production of cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory substances in your body.
In a 12-week study in people with diabetes, taking 1,600 mg of ginger each day reduced fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammatory blood markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), compared with a placebo.
Similarly, taking 1,000 mg of ginger daily for 3 months significantly lowered inflammatory markers in people with osteoarthritis.
Still, these studies used high doses of ginger — not ginger tea. Therefore, it’s unclear whether drinking ginger tea would have the same effects.
Due to its slightly sweet and spicy flavor, ginger makes a delicious tea. Simmer 1 tablespoon of fresh, peeled ginger or 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger with 2 cups (475 ml) of water. Strain it after 10 minutes, and enjoy it with lemon or honey.
Ginger contains compounds that limit the production of pro-inflammatory substances in your body. It has benefits for blood sugar and cholesterol levels and can reduce arthritis-related pain and inflammation.
5. Rose hip (Rosa canina)
Rose hips are the coral-red, round, edible pseudo-fruits that are left after a rose bush loses its flowers.
They have been used as an herbal medicine for more than 2,000 years, as they’re packed with antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins C and E.
Rose hips contain phenolic compounds, which are powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants that protect your cells from damage.
Studies show that rosehip powder reduces pain and other symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis by limiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokine chemicals.
Rose hips also contain healthy fat compounds like triterpenoic acids, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, and betulinic acid. These inhibit the cox-1 and cox-2 enzymes, which trigger inflammation and pain.
To make rosehip tea, use about 10 whole, fresh or dried rose hips and mash or crumble them. Mix them with about 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of very hot (not boiling) water and let them steep for 6–8 minutes. Strain the drink to remove the solids and add honey if desired.
Rosehip tea has a deep red-coral color and floral notes.
Studies show that rose hips reduce pro-inflammatory chemicals and inhibit cox-1 and 2 enzymes, which trigger inflammation and pain.
6. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill)
The flavor of the seeds and bulb from the Mediterranean fennel plant is often compared to that of licorice or anise. So if you’re a fan of these, fennel makes a delicious tea that also fights inflammation.
Like rose hips, fennel is full of anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds. Some of the most active ones are caffeoylquinic acid, rosmarinic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol.
Some research indicates that fennel may reduce pain, especially menstruation-related pain, which may be due to its powerful anti-inflammatory compounds.
A 3-day study in 60 young women demonstrated that treatment with 120 grams of fennel extract per day significantly reduced menstrual pain, compared with a placebo.
Fennel tea is easy to make with fennel seeds from your spice rack. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds and let them steep for about 10 minutes. Add honey or sweetener if you like.
Fennel tea, made from the licorice-flavored spice, may relieve pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Tips and precautions for tea drinkers
Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Brew a better cup
When brewing a fresh cup of tea, use loose leaves with a tea infuser rather than a tea bag if possible. A study on antioxidants in tea found that loose-leaf teas tend to contain more anti-inflammatory antioxidants than tea bags.
The same study noted that when steeping tea, 5 minutes is long enough to extract 80–90% of its antioxidant content. A longer steeping time doesn’t extract much more.
Be creative and combine different teas and other anti-inflammatory herbs, spices like cinnamon and cardamom, or even fruits like lemon or orange slices. Many of these ingredients work together to provide even more health benefits.
Don’t forget that teas are made from plants, which can spoil or lose their potency over time. Always use fresh ingredients when brewing your tea.
Be careful about your tea’s quality and quantity
While teas can help fight inflammation and provide various other health benefits, there are some concerns to consider.
Some tea plants are treated with pesticides and herbicides, so try to choose high-quality, organic or pesticide-free varieties.
A study on pesticides in tea imported from China found residues in 198 of 223 samples. In fact, 39 had residues that were over the European Union’s maximum limits.
In addition, teas should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry place. If not stored properly, they can harbor mycotoxins, a harmful byproduct from a fungus that can grow on some foods and has been found in tea.
Finally, some teas may interact with medications, supplements, or herbs if you drink a lot of it. Consult your healthcare practitioner if you have concerns about possible interactions.
To brew the best cup of tea, use fresh ingredients and be careful about the quality to avoid pesticides, herbicides, or mold. Also, be aware that compounds in some teas may interact with your medications.
The bottom line
Drinking tea is an easy and delicious way to enjoy the anti-inflammatory and other health benefits of plants, herbs, and spices.
Try sipping on some of the teas listed above, including green, rosehip, ginger, and turmeric tea, to reap their inflammation-fighting and health-promoting benefits.
With so many varieties and flavors to choose from, it’s no wonder tea is one of the most popular beverages worldwide.
Title: 6 Powerful Teas That Fight Inflammation