Herbal teas are dominating more and more space on supermarket shelves; this is obviously a fast growing trend. But why should we put away our bags of Fives Roses, our Darjeeling and our Earl Grey in favour of something that just looks like a pile of leaves in a pretty pack?

The most obvious answer is the health benefits that all of these teas bring, doing far more for the body and mind than you would get from the more traditional leaf.

People from around the world have being using different leaves and plants to heal their bodies since time eternal but now we have the modern day consumer benefits of being able to take a bag of our desired herb, popping it into a mug and just adding boiling water. Eh voilá!

Here's a quick guide to some of the teas you can find in your local supermarket and how they can benefit you:

Chamomile

Well known for its calming and soothing effects. Chamomile has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians and was worshipped as being the flower of the sun god Ra. It has been used throughout the world's history as a medicinal plant as well as a tea.

Today it is considered to be one of the most effective healing herbs and as a tea can be used to calm jittery nerves and as a remedy for those who suffer from mild insomnia.

Fennel

A soothing, calming digestive aid and appetite stimulant Fennel tea is made from the seeds of the fennel plant and has a wide range of medicinal uses. It is a wonderful tea for those with stomach complaints as it has anti-spasmodic properties, relieves intenstinal cramps and soothes general stomach pains. There is also evidence that it helps in the digesting of fats and can take away hunger pangs.

Fennel tea needs no sweetening.

Green Tea

A natural stimulant, the perfect replacement wake-up brew. This tea is a great stimulant for the mind and although it also contains lots of caffeine the experience is far more natural and gentle than drinking coffee or black tea. It also contains plenty of fluoride and catechins (antioxidants) which in turn helps to; prevent tooth decay and disables the free radicals in the body that that are reputed to play a part in the development of cancer and arteriosclerosis.

Green tea can have quite a bitter taste so is often mixed and packed together with mint to improve the flavour. It's also good idea to add a dash of honey to your cup if you like it a little bit sweeter.

Jasmine

A wonderfully calming and relaxing drink. Jasmine tea can be considered to be China's national drink and you'll get it if you ever ask for tea in a Chinese restaurant. It's made by mixing the leaves from the Tea Shrub (fermented at a slightly higher temperature than green tea) with the flowers of the jasmine plant.

Jasmine tea has a very delicate and subtle taste, it needs brewing for only a short amount of time and needs nothing added to it. It also contains a much smaller amount of caffeine than most teas.

This is a great tea to uplift your mood and ease digestion problems.

Mint

A Digestive Aid The peppermint herb is used to make mint tea, it contains no caffeine. This is a wonderful tea to drink after meals as it helps calm the digestive system, relieving indigestion, heartburn, stomach ache and nausea. Mint tea is also reputed to sweeten the breath.

Add honey or sugar to sweeten the taste.


Ceri Balston is the editor of online alternative lifestyle portal Harmonious Living. Visit www.harmoniousliving.co.za.