Heart Healthy Teas

Heart Healthy Tea

One of the amazing things you can do for your health, and particularly your heart health is to drink the right teas. If you’re like me you get bored drinking the same old tea day after day, or maybe you have never been a tea drinker. Part of my recovery from heart disease was learning to drink the teas that would have the greatest impact on my health. There are so many kinds of tea, each with their own health benefits.

There are two basic kinds of tea, that which comes from the camellia bush (camellia sinensis) and everything else, usually grouped together under the name herbal teas. Tea drinking has had a long history of noted health benefit. According to Wikipedia, tea likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty (about 5,000 years ago) as a medicinal drink.[1]

Traditional teas all come from the same plant, but how the leaves are processed give them entirely different qualities. These variations include white, yellow, green, oolong, black and pu-erh teas. The oolong, black and pu-ehr are all oxidized giving the teas their dark color and deep taste. Black tea and pu-ehr tea are fermented. Pu-ehr tea has the added process of post-fermentation giving it some unique health benefits.

The green teas or unoxidized teas are high in antioxidants and contain an important polyphenol known as a catechin or epicatechin. Antioxidants are important for your arteries because they keep LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized, which in turn creates calcium plaques along the arterial walls, known as hardening of the arteries. Eventually they become blocked or clots form causing heart attacks and strokes, the number one killer in America. This is why green tea is associated with increased health.

Epicatechins are very important for heart health. They reduce lipid peroxidation and trust me, lipid peroxidation is nasty. This process takes free radicals and oxidizes fatty acids ultimately causing cell damage. Epicatechins also inhibit platelet aggregation so your blood doesn’t form deadly clots. Epicatechins also cause your blood vessels to dilate allowing increased blood flow. You can also find epicatechins in cocoa.[4]

Pu-ehr tea also has antioxidants, less caffeine than most of the other teas and has an added chemical known to lower cholesterol, lovastatin. Statin drugs are prescribed to almost anyone with heart disease in an attempt to lower cholesterol. This is one way to get low doses of those statins.

Note: Anyone taking prescription statins, or natural statins like red rice yeast or drinking large amounts of pu-erh tea should also take a supplement of CoQ10 or Ubiquinol, as statins destroy CoQ10 in your system.[2] You should also know that recent research has failed to find a link between cholesterol and heart disease.[3]

So far I’ve been talking about the health benefits of traditional tea from the leaves of the camellia bush. There are herbal teas, or more correctly herbal infusions, that are steeped leaves and berries of several other plants, many with amazing heart benefits. I want to introduce two teas in particular, hawthorn tea and motherwort tea. A third alternative, rooibos, is also interesting.

The thorny hawthorn plant is part of the rose family. It has been known through time as a heart tonic. Medicinally there are three parts of the hawthorn plant that are commonly used, the leaves, the flowers and the dried berries. Hawthorn tea is one of those super teas for people suffering from various heart diseases like atherosclerosis, angina, congestive heart failure and hypertension. [5] Like roses, hawthorn is also high in vitamin C with a bit of vitamin A, potassium and magnesium included.

In addition to the direct heart benefits hawthorn tea has been traditionally been drunk to calm anxiety. Anxiety leads to stress and stress leads to disease. So it is a great all-around tea to drink for your heart.

Note: When preparing herbal teas like hawthorn and motherwort you should let them steep longer than traditional tea, a full ten minutes. Pour boiling water over the teas and let them sit. Do some deep breathing exercises while you’re waiting.

Motherwort, Leonorus cardiaca, is generally lesser known than hawthorn when it comes to heart benefits, but you can see the word “cardiaca” right in the Latin name. Another thorny bush, the leaves and flowers are harvested and dried to make this herbal tea. The Greeks would give this tea to pregnant women to lower their anxiety, and thus the name Motherwort, or mother’s herb. But the heart benefits are what it is known for today. There is an old wive’s tale about a village that got its water from a stream that flowed through a field of motherwort. People in this village lived to 130 and longer according to the tale.[6]

For the heart, motherwort decreases heart spasms and temporarily lowers blood pressure. Of course if you are already on blood pressure lowering medications you should talk to your doctor before starting to drink motherwort tea. Chinese studies have shown motherwort extract to reduce clotting, lower heart palpitations and lower a rapid heart rate. I drank motherwort tea when I decided that I would no longer be taking the prescription drug metoprolol. This is not a recommendation or a suggestion. I am only telling you that was my substitute. [6]

Hint: If you want to test whether motherwort will slow your rapid heart rate get one of the many smartphone apps that measure heart rate. It makes checking your pulse so simple that you will do it all the time. See for yourself whether it works or not.

Another tea with no caffeine is rooibos. It is made from the leaves of a South African plant, called Aspalathus linearis. For people wanting a tea with health benefits and no caffeine this is a great alternative. It has two varieties, red and green. The red is fermented and the green unfermented which carries a slightly higher amount of antioxidants. Research on the benefits of the antioxidants in this tea are as yet unclear. Some studies show a benefit while others don't. This leads researchers to believe that the antioxidants in rooibos might be difficult to digest. Any increased antioxidant levels that have been observed have also been short-lived. Another benefit of rooibos is that it contains no oxalic acid, a chemical that is a problem for people with kidney problems.

The heart health benefits of drinking rooibos also include its ability to inhibit ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme). ACE constricts blood vessels leading to higher blood pressure. So rooibos may have the benefit of lowering blood pressure yet further studies are necessary to show this. Lastly, it appears that drinking rooibos could have positive effects on cholesterol levels, raising HDL and lowering LDL in overweight individuals.[7]

Summing it all up

Tea is healthy for you. Drinking just about any kind of tea, particularly if you can drink it unsweetened, will do you some good. At the least it will hydrate you. But more often than not the tea itself has some pretty amazing health benefits. If you drink traditional teas made from the leaves of the camellia plant you will gain the benefits of the catechins and antioxidants. Drinking the variety that is a bit more fermented than the others, pu-erh tea, has a bit of lovastatin for lowering cholesterol.

Drinking hawthorn and motherwort teas will give you all sorts of heart health benefits from lowering your blood pressure, dilating your arteries, diminishing blood clotting, slowing heart rate and stopping heart palpitations. These two teas have been known for their heart benefits and longevity support for millennia.

Drinking tea in general is good for you and some tea experts have told me that even though traditional teas contain caffeine, it affects your system a different way than coffee and does not give you the caffeine rush and later crash. It doesn’t take a cardiologist to tell you that this has to be better for your heart. Confession, my first cup in the morning is still coffee. But during the day I drink the different teas I talk about here.

As always, live longer,

Ted

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea
  2. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/06/fda-warning-on-statins.aspx
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2016-06-13-study-says-theres-no-link-between-cholesterol-and-heart-disease/
  4. http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/epicatechin.php
  5. http://www.livestrong.com/article/285852-health-benefits-of-hawthorn-tea/
  6. http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Motherwort.htm
  7. https://authoritynutrition.com/rooibos-tea-benefits/

Posted by Ted Coombs

Ted Coombs
Ted Coombs is a medical anthropologist, futurist and author who is passionate about health through knowledge.