Food as Medicine

7 Teas Linked to Better Brain Health

BY Lisa Roth Collins TIMEJune 5, 2022 PRINT

Did you know there are certain teas that promote brain health? You could be sitting in a comfortable corner right now, enjoying the scenery and sipping a cup of tea that supports your concentration, awareness, memory, sleep, and other essential brain functions. Let’s look at the delicious teas that can help promote a healthy brain.  

Which Teas Are Best for Brain Health?

Green teas are among the most beneficial for brain health, but there are others as well. The polyphenols found in green tea are powerful antioxidants that work to help prevent cell damage. An important antioxidant called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is one of the main reasons why green tea has so many medicinal properties. If you want to enhance your brainpower, consider using green tea (including matcha green tea). 

In a 2019 study conducted at the University of Singapore, the researchers found “the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest a protective effect on age-related brain changes.” The study included individuals who drank green, black and oolong teas. 

What Is L-theanine?

L-theanine is an amino acid that is found primarily in the tea plant. It can help change brain waves by increasing alpha wave production. The amino acid also enhances neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in stress management, and it may help with sleep and anxiety as well.

L-theanine is known as an anxiolytic, which means it can help reduce anxiety. This amino acid has the ability to promote relaxation and stress reduction without a sedative effect. The result is a feeling of calm, which it promotes by doing the following:

  • Raising levels of GABA and other calming brain chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine, which work to regulate mood, concentration, emotions, sleep, appetite, energy, and other cognitive skills.
  • Lowering levels of excitatory brain chemicals that are associated with anxiety and stress.
  • Enhancing alpha brain waves, which are the ones associated with wakeful relaxation. That’s the state of mind you’re in when meditating or daydreaming. L-theanine seems to trigger the alpha waves. 

Which Tea Ingredients Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects?

Chronic systemic inflammation is involved in many health issues and diseases, and that includes an impact on brain health. In a study of more than 12,000 middle-aged adults, for example, the researchers found that the presence of inflammation was associated with cognitive decline. 

Other studies have shown that inflammation in the brain is associated with all types of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, dementia, autism, and schizophrenia. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to reduce this risk, and one way is by drinking certain teas and tea ingredients. 

Which tea ingredients can help with inflammation? In addition to green tea, which is rich in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant, here are four other tea ingredients that fight inflammation. In each case, you can add the ingredient to green tea or use the ingredient as a tea on its own.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an amazing herb that contains more than 50 different antioxidant compounds. Many of them reduce the production of pro-inflammatory substances. In one study, participants with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg of ginger daily for three months had a significant decline in inflammatory markers. (13Trusted Source).

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps the body deal with environmental, emotional, and metabolic stress. These stressors are often the main cause of inflammation. One way holy basil fights inflammation is by inhibiting certain enzymes that produce inflammatory compounds. 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. 

Rosehips (Rosa canina) are a great source of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and phenolic compounds, which are potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Rose hips also have healthy fats that interfere with enzymes that trigger pain and inflammation. (15Trusted Source).

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) contains curcumin, an active ingredient that has been shown to have an impact on chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and heart disease. It works by interrupting pathways that involve inflammation and pain.

Which Tea Ingredients Help With Sleep Issues?

Looking for a better night’s sleep every night? When you want to quiet your brain and your body, you can try several different teas that may help you sleep. They are available alone or you can combine them with green tea.

Chamomile: This is an all-time favorite for helping you relax and get some shuteye. Its calming effects are believed to be associated with an antioxidant called apigenin, which attaches to receptors in the brain associated with anxiety.

Lemon balm: People have been using lemon balm since the Middle Ages to help with sleep and stress. One study showed a 42 percent reduction in insomnia symptoms after participants used the herb for 15 days. 

Valerian root: This herb can help with nervousness, insomnia, and stress. It’s believed to work by increasing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a calming effect. 

Bottom line

Green tea, including matcha, ranks high on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant list when it comes to promoting brain health. Both regular green tea and matcha contain caffeine, so if you are sensitive, it may affect your sleep. Other tea ingredients known for their anti-inflammatory abilities are also recommended to help promote brain health.

Republished from NaturallySavvy.com

Sources

Berkheiser K. The 6 best bedtime teas that help you sleep. Healthline 2019 Oct 21

Brain inflammation. Integrative Psychiatry 

Breus MJ. What you need to know about L-theanine. Psychology Today 2017 Aug 29

Cases J et al. Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2011; 4(3): 211-18

Chronic inflammation may put your brain at risk. Harvard Medical School 2019 May

Danahy A. 6 powerful teas that fight inflammation. Healthline 2019 Jul 17

Li J et al. Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging (Albany NY). 2019 Jun 14; 11(11):3876-90.

Negar Jamshidi N, Cohen MM. The clinical efficacy and safety of tulsi in humans: a systematic review of the literature. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017: 9217567

Lisa Roth Collins is a registered holistic nutritionist and also the marketing manager at NaturallySavvy.com, which first published this article.
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