September 12 2021 – Diana L
Life has its ups and downs. What if you learned you could go through that life in a better mood more often, and naturally? Well, science says you can! Studies show that the ingredients in a cup of tea can do just that: improve your focus, lift your mood, reduce stress, stave off depression and anxiety, and possibly even dementia.
Tea lovers around the world understand the relaxing nature of a cup of tea. Some drink it to stay hydrated or boost energy in the morning, but they also drink it to soothe the midday nerves or unwind at night. Even though tea drinkers believe in the benefits of tea, scientists are now on board as well as they dig deeper into how exactly tea can be a natural mood booster.
Science has shown that tea actually reduces cortisol, a known stress hormone. Drinking just half a cup of green tea per day appears to lower the risk of depression or developing dementia.
What ingredients in tea boost your mood?
It's well known that tea contains antioxidants including EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) which is believed to make people feel calmer and more attentive when consumed. The amino acid L-theanine has a shown to improve memory as well as reaction time when combined with caffeine.
This may sound a little odd because we associate caffeine with that in coffee which can cause anxiety, restlessness, jitters, irregular heartbeat, and sleep unrest when consumed in excess. Andrew Scholey of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne Australia calls tea a bit paradoxical. "Tea is calming, but alerting at the same time".
This isn't to say that clinical depression isn't a real thing, and should not be confused with the occasional mood drop that many casually refer to as depression. But there is clear evidence that tea can make moderate mood improvements in the average person.
Five best mood-boosting teas
Chamomile: Popular as a bedtime tea, Chamomile is made from the flowers of the plant that contains apigenin – an antioxidant that causes brain receptors to induce relaxation and improve sleep. Chamomile has a flavor that is similar to crisp green apples.
Ginseng: Ginseng may provide a protective effect against stress, and help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety such as fatigue. We blend our ginseng tea with ginger to soften this slightly bitter-flavored tea.
Green tea: Along with the well-reported health benefits such as helping prevent heart disease and boosting immunity, green tea contains l-theanine, the amino acid that is responsible for slowing the absorption of caffeine. L-theanine also may have a natural anti-anxiety effect
Passionflower: Tea made from the passionflower petals, research has found that passionflower tea may help improve sleep quality. As an herbal tea, it may also help boost GABA levels that promote relaxation and provide a restful night's sleep.
Peppermint: The invigorating aroma of peppermint tea is delightfully refreshing. Studies have shown the peppermint scent alone may help induce relaxation while also possibly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. Peppermint tea also contains anti-inflammatory properties that aid in reducing pain and inflammation.
Is the benefit in the brew or the experience?
Tea is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world, yet as Scholey says, surprisingly little is known about its effects on human behavior. However, the evidence available generally shows that tea has a positive effect on mood and cognitive function.
A study published in Korea reported that those who regularly consumed green tea were 21% less apt to develop depression over their lifetime when compared to non-drinkers. And in a Singapore study of people over 55, those who drank just one cup of tea per week proved better at memory and tasks requiring information processing than did non-tea-drinkers. These results are similar to those obtained in a person who exercises 2.5 hours per week.
But researchers are also looking at the possibility that the experience of brewing and drinking tea is adding to the effect, not just the tea alone. Unlike the drive-thru at Starbucks for a cup- of-Joe-on-the-go, drinking tea is often associated with setting aside a moment in time to enjoy the experience. Since tea is typically consumed at a time when looking for relaxation, the combination of the tea plus the experience may be responsible for the benefits.
But that aside, it's difficult to ignore science. In a test of healthy men, some were given black tea and some a caffeinated placebo. Those that consumed the black tea recovered from stressful tasks more quickly than the placebo group. After 50 minutes, the black tea drinkers reported they felt relaxed, and their cortisol levels had fallen to 53% of baseline, compared to 73% in the placebo group.
But science never stops. Research continues on tea as it relates to mental health benefits. While it is known that it benefits mood and cognition, they don't quite yet know the "why". Does the caffeine boost the effects of L-theanine or the other way around?
Until these questions of long-term benefits are answered, the medical use of tea will have to wait. But there's no reason others can't look to a cup of tea to feel good, feel happier, and improve their mood and focus.