A calming cup of tea soothes the body, mind, and spirit, relieving stress and anxiety.
The rituals of tea drinking, and the tea itself, provide more than a cultural relief for stress and anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone; millions of Americans struggle with and suffer from anxiety. A cup of tea, even just preparing it, can soothe you and stave off a full-blown panic attack. For a few minutes, you can focus on yourself—just sit back and breathe in the aromas and savor the comfort of a hot cup of tea. It’s the perfect time to be present in the moment.
L-theanine is a potent potion for stress relief
All true teas contain L-theanine, an amino acid that helps to balance your mood. Researchers have discovered that L-theanine has direct effects on your brain. L-theanine increases your brain’s alpha waves, resulting in relaxation without making you drowsy. When you meditate, are being creative, or merely thinking, alpha waves are active.
L-theanine also increases your production of dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, 3 neurochemicals that regulate your emotions, sleep, mood, concentration, focus, energy, and appetite. L-theanine also decreases the neurochemicals responsible for increased stress and anxiety.
Which teas will relieve anxiety?
Green tea has more L-theanine than black, white, and oolong teas. It’s full of antioxidants, such as the flavonoid epicatechin, that help protect against oxidative damage caused by stress.
Green tea also reduces stress levels and fatigue, and it promotes better sleep.
To brew a cup of green tea, bring water to a boil, then wait a few minutes before pouring over a tea bag or a teaspoon of loose-leaf tea. Steep for 1 – 3 minutes.
Herbal teas contain a bounty of anxiety-relieving terpenes, herbs, flowers, and roots
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, though many people commonly associate terpenes with cannabis because cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them. These aromatic compounds create the characteristic scent of many plants, herbs, and fruit rinds, such as pine, and lavender, as well as fresh orange peel.
Chamomile is a sweet herbal infusion that is well-known for its calming effects. Well-studied, research shows chamomile binds to GABA receptors in the brain. It also targets the same central nervous system receptors that prescription medications like Xanax and other benzodiazepines do. It can naturally increase your levels of serotonin and melatonin for a relaxed feeling without drowsiness.
Place a teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers, 2 tablespoons of fresh flowers, or a teabag in a cup. Bring water to a hard boil and pour into your mug. Steep 5 – 10 minutes
Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic and sedative; it’s also an excellent digestive aid. Because of its muscle-relaxing effects, peppermint tea can help soothe tension headaches. Peppermint will give you an energy boost but leave you feeling balanced and calm.
Animal studies have indicated that peppermint tea could help regulate central and peripheral nervous systems’ activities. The rosmarinic acid and menthol in peppermint add to a feeling of well-being.
For peppermint tea, it’s best to use fresh or dried peppermint leaves instead of tea bags; 1 teaspoon of dried leaves or 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves per cup of water. You can use leaves from other members of the mint family, including Moroccan or chocolate mint. Bring water to a boil, add leaves, and steep 3 – 5 minutes.
An ancient herbal medicine, valerian root has natural sedative effects, even when used as an herbal tea. Known as nature’s valium, valerian root tea modulates your brain’s GABA levels and so nerve impulses. It calms stress and anxiety and decreases blood pressure. It also regulates your norepinephrine and serotonin output for long-term relief of stress and anxiety.
Valerian root works best for mild to moderate insomnia. A meta-analysis of valerian root studies indicated it has sedative effects; its effects as a muscle relaxant can also reduce tension. However, valerian root can interact with certain prescription medications, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist before having a cup of valerian root tea.
Bring water to a hard boil; pour over 1 teaspoon dried valerian root. Steep 10 – 12 minutes; the longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor.
Lemon balm tea is another option for relief of stress and anxiety. Lemon-scented, as the name implies, the tea is rich in rosmarinic acid, activating your brain’s GABA receptors. It’s also helpful for improving concentration, relieving tension, headaches, muscle cramps, and soothing your digestive system.
One study found that lemon balm tea helps relieve stress without the adverse side effects of traditional prescription medications. Lemon balm tea drinkers, researchers found, derived notable decreases in anxiety at one hour and 3 hours after drinking.
Use 1 tablespoon of dried leaves or 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves for each cup of boiling water. Steep 5 – 10 minutes.
In aromatherapy, lavender is well known for its calming benefits; lavender tea has the same effect on muscles and nerves. Its impact on the digestive tract is similar. Also, lavender tea is a natural anti-inflammatory.
One study revealed that lavender’s aroma increased slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. Lavender tea could also stimulate dopamine production while decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone.
Steep 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers for every 8 oz. of water for 10 minutes. Taken an hour before bedtime will help improve your sleep. Drinking lavender tea during the day will help reduce your stress levels.
Passionflower tea is made from many species of the Passiflora flowers and has a delicate, sweet flavor. The tea is an excellent source of phytochemicals and alkaloids that help reduce stress biochemicals. It helps promote sleep and reduce inflammation.
Research shows the flavonoids in passionflower tea also regulate GABA receptors. It also contains chrysin, a flavone also found in honey, that is as effective at reducing anxiety as midazolam, a common anxiety medication,
Steep 1 teaspoon of dried passionflower petals in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes.
Rosehip and rose petals
Rosehip and rose petal teas are popular cooking and herbal tea blends that are full of antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Rosehips have many analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits, helping to relieve pain. Naturally caffeine-free, rosehips are full of vitamin C to boost your immune system when stress has gotten you down.
Made from rose petals, rose tea is an herbal tisane with a mildly sweet and delicate flavor. Its flavonoids offer benefits as a sleep aid and an analgesic. The flavonoids also target cortisol production. Scientists have also discovered that rose tea affects your benzodiazepine receptors in the same way as Xanax and Clonazepam.
For rosehip tea, bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, reduce heat, and add dried rosehips. Cover and steep for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain liquid before serving. For rose tea, add a heaping tablespoon of dried rose petals per 8 ounces of water to a pot of boiling water. Simmer 5 – 8 minutes before straining out petals. Add honey if desired.
Tea warms us up, cools us down, and works to provide stress and anxiety relief—altogether a pleasant and healing experience.
Lynette Garet is a bilingual freelance writer. A U.S. ex-pat living in Costa Rica with her wife Silvia, when not busy with writing projects, she can be found hanging with her favorite “stinky boys” (the Grand-Littles), tending to her garden, cooking, reading, enjoying good wine, and dancing in the kitchen to music from a limitless list of genres.