It has been well established that green tea can help people who want to lose weight and reduce their percentage body fat, and we all know that regular black tea is a great “pick-me-up” in the afternoon. But there is a whole world of different specialist herbal teas too, some of which are widely available (eg mint teas and chamomile) and others which are prescribed by herbalists to treat certain conditions.
My own experience with specialized teas began in my early thirties, when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, the result of a very stressful job I was doing at the time. I ended up going to a Chinese herbalist and asking for chrysanthemum tea because I had read that this was good for reducing hypertension symptoms. What they offered me at the herbalist’s was an unusual concoction called Jiang Ya Cha – or De-Stress Tea. It contained a series of different herbal ingredients, but was just like any other convenience product; it was even in a teabag, just like the teabags you get from the store.
Although chrysanthemum (or in Chinese, Ju Hua) is reportedly an excellent herb for reducing high blood pressure, what the herbalist was trying to achieve was a general state of relaxation. And so a selection of herbs, contained in the Jiang Ya Cha according to an ancient recipe, was a better choice. A case of treating the underlying causes rather than the symptoms.
Like many teas, this one was prepared by soaking the teabag in a cup of hot water for a few minutes, and then drinking without milk. I was told that I could sweeten it with a little honey if necessary, but I do not drink any of my teas or coffees with sugar.
So the question you are probably asking yourself is whether the tea worked. And perhaps also, if it wasn’t chrysanthemum what was in it? The answer to the first question is yes, it did work; but along with some tablets. The tablets were related and contained a different, though complementary, set of ingredients to the tea (the tablets were called Jiang Ya Pian, also referred to as Jiang Ya Wan).
The tea itself contained six primary herbs: motherwort, figwort root, yellow milk-vetch root, tangerine peel, cassia seed and hawthorn fruit. It is very interesting that in traditional Western herbalism, hawthorn is regarded as a good ingredient for controlling blood pressure. However, in Chinese medicine it is used more for stomach and digestive problems, though it does have some recognition for hypertension.
Let’s dissect the tea and see what makes it work. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), high blood pressure is usually regarded as being the result of “fire” or rising qi. You might hear it called a “flaring up of the liver fire” where the symptoms are felt in the head. For example, you might suffer from headaches, bloodshot eyes, a flushed face or tinnitus. Also included in the hypertension family in TCM are syndromes of yin-deficiency (of both liver and kidney yin), and syndromes of yang-hyperactivity due to underlying yin-deficiency.
To counteract these conditions, the De-Stress Tea, Jiang Ya Cha, does the following:
- Motherwort (Yi Mu Cao) – has diuretic properties (similar to many pharmaceutical medicines for hypertension)
- Figwort Root (Xuan Shen) – clears heat to drain fire symptoms
- Yellow Milk-Vetch (sometimes called astralagus) root (Huang Qi) – tonifies qi
- Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) – promotes downward movement of qi
- Cassia Seed (Jue Ming Zi) – clears liver fire, and nourishes liver and kidney yin
- Hawthorn Fruit (Shan Zha) – this is simply used for hypertension, as well as other non-related digestive symptoms
As you can see, most of the herbs contained within this Chinese medicinal tea have effects which address the fire symptoms, the upward movement of qi or the deficiency of liver and kidney yin. I was happy to have discovered this little gem, and it helped me to relieve stress after a hard day at work. These days, I am in a far less stressful job and do a huge amount of sport. Losing weight and keeping active have helped me to retain a normal blood pressure after the De-Stress Tea helped me get it down to normal levels in the first place. Who’d have thought the humble cuppa would have had such a life-changing effect!
Guest post by: Neil TryAthlete, who enjoys green tea for its health benefits, and likes experimenting with other unusual teas having discovered their medicinal benefits first hand in the past. He is the editor and principle author at Triathonline, a blog about health and fitness.