“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. This moment in life.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
Tea: a time-honored tradition in countries and civilizations throughout time. A warm cup of tea is synonymous with taking a break, momentarily withdrawing from the troubles of the world. It’s that withdrawal that makes tea a great stress management technique. Taking just a few minutes focus solely a cup of tea, its warmth and flavor, can halt the stress response and improve your mood. Here are my top 5 favorite herbal teas to keep in the cupboard for times when I’m feeling on-edge. Each of these is caffeine free because the last thing you need when you’re stressed or anxious is a stimulant.
1. Traditional Medicinals Cup of Calm
Ingredients: passionflower, chamomile, English lavender, catnip, rosemary, peppermint, spearmint, and licorice root
What makes this one of the best herbal teas for stress relief, in my opinion, is its main ingredient: passionflower. Passionflower has been shown to increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA, in turn, can reduce the activity of certain brain cells, inducing a feeling of relaxation. In fact, some studies suggest passionflower’s effects may be similar to the anti-anxiety drug oxazepam. In my experience, the tea’s effect is subtle enough to take the edge of my stress without leaving me impaired. However, I recommend having it before bed the first time you try it just to see how it affects you. I also love how it tastes. Like many of Traditional Medicinals other teas, the ingredients blend together seamlessly. It’s flavor is clean, refreshing, and simple.
2. Twinings Pure Peppermint
Sometimes simple really is better. Known mostly for its digestive health benefits, peppermint tea has also been used to boost immune systems, relieve migraines, and reduce stress. Besides that, there’s nothing better than the sweet, refreshing flavor of a cup of peppermint tea. Just about every brand of tea available has its own version of peppermint tea. Twinings has been a favorite with my family since our trip to the UK. Unlike some herbal teas that taste weak and grassy, Twinings’ peppermint tea has a strong, smooth flavor that makes it absolutely delicious. We always have a couple boxes of it on hand.
3. Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night Valerian
Ingredients: valerian root, passionflower, lemon balm, peppermint, caraway fruit, and licorice fruit
Who doesn’t feel better after a good night’s sleep? But when I’m anxious, my racing mind makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. I toss and turn and wake up feeling more exhausted and stressed than before. It’s a vicious cycle, and if left unchecked, it can quickly snowball. Exactly how valerian root works remains unknown, but like passionflower, it’s believed to increase levels of GABA in the brain. Valerian roots effects are believed to be stronger however. Combined, they make for the perfect cup of tea on nights when stress threatens to keep you up. Once again, the flavor profile is well thought out. It’s flavor is sweet but not too sweet, just what you need before bed.
4. Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer
Ingredients: eleuthero, peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, lemongrass, licorice, catnip, tilia flowers, and lemon
By now you’re probably sensing a theme in the flavor profile of these teas. Like the other teas, this one has a strong mint undertone, but this time it is spiced up with cinnamon and ginger. Its warm, spicy flavor is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The tea contains eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, which is believed to combat adrenal fatigue caused by chronic stress. It’s also purported to stimulate the immune system. Altogether, this makes for a very comforting cup of tea.
5. Stash Mango Passionfruit
Ingredients: rosehips, orange peel, lemongrass, hibiscus, safflower, mango flavor, passionfruit, and licorice
There are smells and flavors that transport us to back in time to happy, serene moments. Does the taste of a s’more remind you of summer camping trips? Perhaps a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie fills you with memories of afternoons spent at grandma’s. Each of us has a flavor that comforts and soothes us. This is one of those flavors for me. The sweet, juicy flavor of mangoes reminds me of afternoons spent at the farmers’ markets on Kauai, which is my ultimate relaxation destination. While the flavor could be a bit stronger, its exotic flavor profile is just the right balance of sweet and acidic. So if your idea of a relaxing getaway is a tropical paradise, give this herbal tea a try.
*** If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor before drinking any herbal tea. Do not mix herbal teas with sedatives, antiplatlets, anticoagulants, MAO inhibitors, or any other drugs if you are uncertain of their interaction.