It’s true that few things beat a steaming, fragrant cup of coffee. I know that I, for one, am loath to give it up. But truth is, during periods of high stress or when battling certain unpleasant conditions (UTIs, skin conditions, upset stomach, among others), it’s often best to skip your cup of joe because of its high acidity and diuretic properties. I personally can tell when coffee is doing me more harm than good—just a sip or a waft of it can send my heart racing when I’m under pressure, whereas on a normal day, I could drink two cups no problem. Teas, on the other hand, tend to be much more hydrating and offer additional benefits. Your best a.m. option on those days you want to skip your Americano? “Green tea. It contains caffeine, antioxidants [as does coffee] and other goodies,” says Jennifer Browne, author of The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea. “But it’s a bit of a Catch-22: Because of its high caffeine level, green tea is great at waking you up, but it’s also mildly dehydrating. The best solution would probably be to drink a cup of peppermint tea, followed by a cup of green tea.”
And, if you haven’t noticed, there is a new wave of beauty teas on the market to boost your skin health, as well as beautiful, Instagrammable teas (we’re looking at you, Sloane) that make you want to keep your pinkies up. But these aren’t your two-milks-one-sugar teas. To learn what teas are best for certain ailments, we’ve prepared a cheat sheet below.
Much like choosing produce, you want to search for the best-quality teas. “You’re absorbing whatever you’re about to drink, so we should all be mindful about choosing teas that are organic—no pesticides or herbicides wanted,” says Browne. If you’re not buying loose-leaf tea to use with a strainer, consider the bags, too. “You need to be sure those bags aren’t bleached. In addition, choose teas that are free from additives, like artificial flavours and colours.” (Celebration Herbals offer an amazing assortment of organic teas with unbleached tea bags.)
Medicinal teas (or those used for health benefits) require a different steeping approach than more “pleasure” type teas, which are steeped to taste. “Most people don’t steep their tea long enough—at least five minutes, preferably 10 to 15 for herbal blends,” says Browne. “Most of us also don’t cover our cups while steeping.”
Below, Browne’s tried-and-true tea picks for our common health and beauty woes.
For skin: Try calendula (a.k.a. marigold). “It’s great for blemishes,” says Browne.
Digestion: Try peppermint or ginger teas
Hair growth: Burdock and rosemary teas
Stress: Chamomile and peppermint to soothe, and ginseng and ginkgo to help cope.
Headache: Peppermint. “It’s a mild/moderate pain reliever,” says Browne.
Mood: Lemon balm and licorice. “These herbs are great at fighting irritability, fatigue and depression,” she says.