Green tea, however, is considered to have originated in China. It is said that even today the word “tea” in China refers only to green tea, not to the general category of tea as it does in the West. China’s Yunnan province is considered to be the original home of the Camellia sinensis plant species. In fact, 260 of the world’s 380+ varieties of tea can be found in Yunnan.
Matcha tea works wonderfully well in providing a calming effect on the body. L-theanine, a unique amino acid present in this green tea, possesses anti-anxiolytic properties, which assists in boosting alpha waves in the brain. These alpha waves enhance mood, encourage relaxation, induce a profound feeling of mental clarity, and help achieve an alert state of mind.
Matcha is a high-grade green tea ground into powdered form. The green tea powder is whisked into hot water, instead of steeped, to form a frothy drink. The meditative act of preparing, presenting, and sipping matcha is the backbone of the Japanese tea ceremony. While matcha’s origins are ceremonial, the green tea powder is widely popular around the world in beverages like tea lattes or boba tea, and as a cooking ingredient in everything from ice cream to salad dressing.
Burdock Root - a member of the daisy family that originated in Eurasia - is now firmly established as a naturalized plant in North America. Herbalists value burdock for helping to detoxify the liver. The root is served as a food in Japan, where it is known as gobo. Resembling a long brown carrot, burdock can be prepared in the same way you might enjoy a carrot, such as fresh juice or in a stir-fry dish.
Rooibos is sometimes used as substitute for milk with colicky babies, says Alvaro Viljoen, PhD, of the department of pharmacy at the University of the Witwatersrand. And the health benefits of Rooibos are bound to make it a favorite, he says: rich in antioxidants, rich in vitamin C, caffeine-free, and low in tannins, the residue in teas that can sometimes cause digestive problems.
Sometimes given to babies suffering from colic, rooibos is known for anti-spasmodic activity. A growing body of evidence suggests that the health benefits of rooibos may be quite broad, including evidence that the antioxidants in the tea may reduce the risk of heart disease, and may inhibit some parameters of aging. Rooibos even shows use as a cosmetic ingredient for soothing, protecting and repairing skin.
One thing to watch out for in detox teas, though, is a common ingredient—and herbal laxative—senna. “One part of detoxing is the cleansing of the intestines, and senna aids this process,” he explains. While it can be helpful as a night-time drink short-term, taking senna for too long can cause vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. If you feel stopped up, incorporate a senna tea for a few nights (Villacorta recommends Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move). But stick to senna-free varieties for your habitual cup.
Studies on green tea’s impact on cancer have been mixed. But green tea is known to aid healthy cells in all stages of growth. There are some clues that green tea may help destroy cancer cells, but that research is still in its early stages, so you shouldn’t count on green tea to prevent cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute's web site says it "does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer."
A well-known compound found in green tea is called EGCG (which stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate). EGCG is associated with enhanced metabolic activities that may prevent weight gain or assist with weight maintenance. Some of the ways that EGCG seems to work is by boosting thermogenesis (the body producing heat by using energy) and suppressing appetite, although not every study has found evidence that these effects are substantial.
Those magical catechins also have tons of potential in helping people with heart issues. “Catechins present in green tea have the ability to prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, ischemic heart diseases, cardiomyopathy, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure by decreasing oxidative stress, preventing inflammatory events, reducing platelet aggregation and halting the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells,” explains the author of the study, published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines.
Gardenias were originally found only in China and Japan, but today there are over 200 different species of gardenia, mostly hybrids, throughout the world. Gardenia fruit is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where it is known as zhi zi. TCM uses gardenia primarily to promote calm, but it is also used to support bladder and urinary tract health.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.