It can warm your soul or cool you off on a sweaty summer day—but did you know that tea can also prevent the formation of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease? And that's not all: A potful of research is showing how various brews can ward off pathogens, hypertension, even cancer. Check out these four healing cups; we'll wait while you put the kettle on.
The Brew This delicate infusion—considered by many to be the best tea in the world—is made from plants grown in the Himalayan foothills of India's Darjeeling region.
The Benefits More than half the global population harbors a pathogen called H. pylori; 15 to 20 percent of those people develop ailments including ulcers, gastritis, and gastric cancer. But in a recent study, scientists found that various teas inhibit H. pylori—and that Darjeeling steeped for five minutes has the greatest effect. Just hold the milk; it can block the activity of compounds in the tea.
The Brew The leaves of this elegant Chinese tea are semi-fermented—allowed to wither briefly, then bruised to spur oxidation, and dried before the enzymatic process is complete. Oolong's varieties range from light and sweet to thick and woody.
The Benefits According to a study of more than 1,500 subjects, a half cup to two and a half cups daily of oolong tea or the more famous health star green tea can lower a person's risk of hypertension by 46 percent. Oolong and green tea are rich in antioxidants that help control an enzyme that raises blood pressure.
The Brew When tea leaves are allowed to fully ferment, they develop the bold, tannic, earthy flavor of black tea. (Its color, though, is closer to red.)
The Benefits Four antioxidant compounds (called theaflavins) found in black tea appear to protect the brain from disease in a very specific way. Last year a group of German researchers published findings stating that these compounds prevented the formation of senile plaques (likely by binding to amino acids that would have otherwise formed the plaques), which contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The Brew Derived from the leaves of a holly species native to South America, yerba maté has a strongly herbal, almost grassy flavor. For a less bitter taste, steep in hot (not boiled) water.
The Benefits In a 2011 study, scientists added yerba maté to petri dishes containing colon cancer cells. "Put simply, the cancer cells self-destructed," says study author Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, PhD. "Caffeine-related compounds in the tea damaged their DNA." More research is needed, but Mejia is optimistic that yerba maté could help the body fend off colon cancer.