5 Things to Know About Tea and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general reference only and is not a replacement for professional health advice from a physician licensed by the American Medical Association.

Tea has been enjoyed by mankind for thousands of years. It’s popularity has paralleled or even been an important part of both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda medicine (in the form of Ayurvedic Teas). Sorting out the claims, which ones have validity and which do not, however, is a very tricky situation, and in many cases there is no hard evidence (clinical studies) to support many of the claims. They are also rather complex, so this article is focusing on only 5 things to know about tea and traditional Chinese medicine.

JAS-2011-Spring-ImperialFudingSilverNeedleWhiteTeaA1

1 – Tea Drinking and Herbal Medicine Closely Linked in Chinese Culture

Tea drinking in China is said to have started around 2700 BC. It is attributed in various reports to Shen Nong, often called the Blessed Farmer. He supposedly went about bravely trying various plants to see what effect they would have on him. So when some leaves from a Camellia sinensis tree fell into his water pot boiling on an open fire, he drank the resulting infusion, survived, liked it, and went on to recommend it to others. Whether that story is true or not we don’t even want to venture to guess. However, since that time a lot has happened in how tea leaves are processed and prepared. One thing is for sure – tea drinking and herbal medicine grew up together, becoming an important part of daily Chinese life.

2 – Tea Often Used as a Base for Medicinal Blends

Green, white, and black teas are often the starting point for medicinal blends, at least for those being sold in the U.S. and other Western countries. Plants such as ginger root, lavender, ginseng root, chrysanthemum, lemongrass, saffron, rosemary, anise, and more are added to teas to boost the many supposed health benefits in the tea leaves themselves.

3 – Flavor Secondary or a Non-Issue in These Blends

Flavor is not the utmost consideration in these blends. The goal is to address various health issues, including improving blood circulations, relieving headaches, minimizing allergy symptoms, keeping you cooler, aiding digestion, and a host of others – enough to boggle the mind. However, just like the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the movie Mary Poppins, consideration has to be paid to the various flavors. They help you “take your medicine.” Honey, lemon, agave syrup, or other items are often used to make these infusions more palatable. But lately, more attention to the quality of the tea base is being given. Also, combinations are being made that are not only for addressing certain health issues, but also for improving flavor.

4 – Herb Flavor Varieties

Some herb flavors are quite pleasant, so much so that you might want to be careful about overdosing (and thus why people like us always say to consult your doctor – even with herbals there is too much of a good thing). Others are rather unpleasant.

Some items in the main flavor categories:

  • Sweet tasting: ginseng leaf, licorice, oryza, jujube, lyceum, walnut, lily
  • Sour tasting: alum, peony, pomegranate, red peony, rose
  • Bitter tasting: andrographis, belamcanda, coptis dictamnus, gardenia, gentiana, phellodendron, picrorrhiza, pulsatilla, sankezhen, scute, sophora (unless you’re really into herbs, you’ve probably never heard of these – they’re certainly new to us)
  • Acrid tasting: Chrysanthemum, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Magnolia flower
  • Salty tasting: Cassia, Clematis, Pumice, Sargassum, Tortoise shell, Turtle shell

5 – The Myth of Using Bad Tea as the Base

While teas that are flavored just to sell and appeal to consumers tastes may be based on ones that are lower quality, tea bases for medicinal blends should be among the best quality. And, as I stated above, the quality of the tea base is being improved to make the infusions more palatable. Here are some naturally sweet tasting teas that make good bases:

  • Fuding Silver Needle white tea – A premium tea with a fresh, sweet, mellow, and light honey taste. The most famous white tea in the world.
  • Ali Shan Oolong – A much celebrated oolong from Taiwan. Fresh and clean flavor with a creamy texture, refreshing yet rich.
  • White Peony white tea – Renowned for its refreshing character and sweet taste.
  • Sencha – A Japanese green tea with a flavor that is sweet, thick, and grassy.
  • Jin Xuan oolong – Mellow, creamy, and with a biscuit-like sweetness and cool palate-cleansing finish.
  • Longjing (Dragonwell) West Lake Green Tea – Extremely fresh, thick, long-lasting sweetness combined with beautiful, pervasive floral aroma.

Sounds good to us!

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
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