by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
Each season has its gifts and the greatest gift of Summer is that the longer, warmer days encourage us to be more active, social and to spend more time outdoors.
Since summertime is inherently warmer, it's important to harmonize this heat with more cooling foods and drinks.
*These 5 non-caffeinated teas will not only help you stay cool and hydrated during the hot Summer days, but they're also packed with extraordinary benefits to support your health year round.
Each one can easily be grown in a small pot right in your garden or balcony then dried or steeped fresh in hot water to make a delicious cooling tea.
Also known as Mentha piperita, Peppermint is one of the most popular and rapidly growing herbs in the world.
The menthol in Peppermint creates both a cooling flavor and effect to help with fever and inflammation.
Peppermint helps reduce inflammation and improves digestion. It's one of the most common oils and teas used to treat gastrointestinal issues including bloating, cramping, constipation, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Peppermint tea is also antispasmodic, so it helps to treat vomiting and nausea as well as respiratory conditions that may be present during a cold or flu.
In Chinese Medicine, Peppermint is one of the most important herbs to regulate Liver Qi which can manifest as agitation, irritability and PMS. It's also commonly used to clear Wind Heat with symptoms that include headache, fever, nasal congestion, dry cough, as well as sore eyes and throat.
Besides alleviating symptoms, Peppermint tea protects against bacteria and can boost immune function. Its menthol flavor helps remove bad breath and its antibacterial properties kill the germs that can lead to halitosis.
2. Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm, or Melissa officinalis, is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition to its antioxidant benefits, Lemon Balm can reduce chronic inflammation, help protect against disease and relieve pain.
Studies have shown that both Lemon Balm essential oil and extract can support the treatment of diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels and reducing oxidative stress related to diabetes.
Lemon Balm is my favorite herbal tea for anxiety and insomnia.
Lemon Balm can help relax the nervous system, supporting improved mood and better sleep. You'll notice how light your heart feels after drinking a cup of Lemon Balm tea.
From a Chinese medical point of view, Lemon Balm clears Liver and Heart Fire, both of which can cause the emotions to flare up. By clearing this Fire, Lemon Balm calms the spirit, known as the shen. Lemon Balm essential oil can help relax and open the chest as well as descend Stomach Qi to alleviate vomiting, belching, morning sickness, vomiting, and food stasis.
Lemon Balm essential oil (also known as Melissa) is also helpful for reducing PMS symptoms and for treating the herpes virus when used topically during an outbreak and to increase time between outbreaks.
Like many of the other teas on this list, Lemon Balm is beneficial as a digestive aid.
3. Lemon Verbena
Lemon Verbena is one of my favorite plants that grows right in our backyard.
Scientifically known as Aloysia citrodora, Lemon Verbena is a perennial shrub that has a strong lemony scent when touched. The leaves can be dried then steeped to support metabolic processes.
Packed with antioxidants, this tea can help reduce inflammation and anxiety through its effects in hormonal balancing. It's also been shown to reduce oxidative stress levels leading to stronger immune function.
Lemon Verbena is a great digestive aid that also clears phlegm and dampness, helping to reduce bacteria as well as congestion.
4. Lemon Peel
Lemon Peel, or lemon zest, can be steeped in hot water to make a cooling tea. It contains a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium, and is more nutrient dense than lemon fruit and juice.
Lemon Peel also contains high amounts of fiber so it can help prevent and treat constipation.
This tea cools the Liver which can help alleviate irritability, anger and even allergies.
With its high content of calcium, lemon peel supports healthy teeth, hair and nails. Its antimicrobial properties ward off a host of bacteria.
Chamomile, also known as Martricaria Chamomilla, is an annual plant with white flowers that's commonly used in traditional medicine for anxiety, insomnia and digestive disorders including heartburn, nausea and vomiting.
Chamomile is rich in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and is also cooling for the Liver.
Steaming Chamomile extract and breathing in the steam can be effective to treat common cold symptoms.
A recent extensive study published in Molecular Medicine Reports describes the use of Chamomile in traditional medicine with regard to evaluating its curative and preventive properties. The study explains that the flowers of Chamomile contain 1–2% volatile oils that possess anti-inflammatory properties.
The authors also discuss the anticancer properties of Chamomile, noting that preclinical models of skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer have shown promising growth inhibitory effects.
Chamomile is cooling and can have a calming effect on both the nervous system and gastrointestinal system. Studies in preclinical models suggest that Chamomile inhibits Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can contribute to stomach ulcers. Chamomile is believed to be helpful in reducing smooth muscle spasms associated with various gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders.**
From a Chinese medical point of view, Chamomile is especially effective to regulate Liver Qi for symptoms such as headaches, anger outbursts, intercostal distention, muscle cramps and spasms, dysmenorrhea, and PMS. It also helps clear Liver Fire that can be caused by excessive emotions, especially Liver Fire that invades the Spleen and Stomach causing epigastric burning and reflux that's aggravated by stress, and even ulcers.
Chamomile's sedative effect helps calm anxiety and hyperactivity, and makes it a great sleep aid.
The efficacy of Chamomile is amplified as an essential oil though these benefits can be experienced to an extent by drinking the tea.
*Please note: this article is for educational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare practitioner to determine what foods and drinks are suitable for your condition.
** Srivastava, J., Shankar, E. and Gupta, S. Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine fo the Past with Bright Future. Molecular Medicine Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895-901.