With the advancements in modern medicine, it isn’t hard to find a pill that claims to fix virtually any ailment. But, for those who want a more natural means of feeling their best, Mother Nature has a lot to offer by way of boosting immunity and helping with relaxation so our bodies are better prepared to ward off those nasty bugs we all want to avoid.
Let’s start with leaves. With early credible records of tea dating back to the third century, it’s fair to say tea has come a long way, baby! Gone are the days of simply dropping a stale tea bag into boiling water. In fact, modern-day tea blenders have worked special magic in creating blends that not only maintain their medicinal integrity but also boast heavenly aromas with layers of decadent and enticing flavors. We’re lucky to have a number of tea shops offering a wide range of teas and tisanes. If your goal is to boost your immune system, matcha should top your list. Once reserved for royalty, matcha is grown and processed in a very specific manner in order to maximize l-theanine, the amino acid that allows for a focused and concentrated energy without the crash associated with coffee and energy drinks.
“Even caffeine levels are impacted by soil, water, and age of the plant,” says April Benson, certified tea specialist and owner of The Tea Spout and Matcha Bar on El Paso’s west side. Unlike regular tea, matcha is not a result of steeping leaves but rather leaves that are ground whole to make a potent powder that has 137 times the antioxidants of traditional green tea. Pro tip: sourcing is everything when it comes to the benefits of matcha. While matcha trumps regular tea in terms of antioxidants, it doesn’t have the same shelf life. After just one month on the shelf (three in the fridge), matcha begins losing its benefits.
So, if you’re buying it off the shelf, it has likely already passed its prime. You’re better off purchasing from places like The Tea Spout to get the highest quality product. April is so dedicated to quality and purity, she makes trips to Japan to meet with growers. With a wide assortment of tea options, April can help if you happen to be under the weather. She can blend something specific to your symptoms, or you can try April’s Get Well Elixir that includes peppermint, echinacea, and ginger to get you back on track fast. In stressful times, it’s human nature to try to find methods to help us relax. Unfortunately, many of the things we reach for can actually be harmful to our health, hurting us over the long haul. This is where tea is a real hero. A relaxation tea becomes a whole ritual. The steeping and the inhalation of the aromas as the steam rises from your cup are soothing even before your first sip. Loose-leaf teas are also great iced in hot weather. Ready for a new healthy way to deal with stress? Enter Old Barrel Tea Company (OBTC).
With four of their seven locations in Mesilla, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, and Albuquerque, as well as a mail order option, they’re the perfect way to get your tea fix. OBTC is all about locally sourced ingredients and personal relationships with tea growers in order to bring you a tea experience like no other. With a certified herbalist and master blender on hand, they carry incredible blends you won’t find elsewhere. They offer everything from amazing whole berry herbal tisanes, which are both soothing and packed with antioxidants and rooibos blends that help with pain and inflammation, to an incredible chai made with honeybush which is loaded with minerals. For that extra relaxation push, try one of their teas with chamomile, valerian, or lavender. Lavender Crème Brulee is a great option for a nightcap because it’s not only great for pain relief and insomnia, it tastes like dessert. So, you may even find yourself skipping evening sweets. Win-win! Pro tip: to get your most delicious cup and avoid bitterness, watch your temperatures.
More delicate teas, like whites and greens (including matcha), will quickly become bitter with boiling water, while black teas and pu-erhs are able to handle the heat. OBTC offers a link on their website specific to temperatures. If you like to sweeten your tea, honey, you’re not alone. But, instead of reaching for sugar or a sugar substitute, why not enhance your feel-good brew with even more health benefits? Honey has amazing antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and has been shown to help with seasonal allergies. Raw honey also contains compounds such as flavonoids and polyphenols which serve as antioxidants, making it a healthful boost wrapped up in a sweet little package. Mountain View Market Co+op is virtually a one-stop shop for honey, particularly regional honeys supplied by Sun Mountain Honey. Sun Mountain’s raw selections result in a solid, scoopable variety with full beneficial properties. Luckily for those who prefer a pourable variety, Sun Mountain only heats their honeys to 110 degrees — just enough to liquify and still retain most of the properties you want in your honey. Of course, while you’re at the co-op, be sure to check out the tea section. It boasts an impressive assortment of brands and varieties, including two in-house blends for immunity and relaxation.
With 84 billion servings of tea consumed in the U.S. in 2018, Americans are clearly enamored. However, for the non-tea lover who still wants a boost, here are some herbal suggestions. For antistress, anxiety, and sleep, you can try skullcap, lavender, or bergamot, which you can find in tinctures as well as capsules and other forms. For antioxidants, matcha can be incorporated into all sorts of recipes. Also, oregano, peppermint, and cinnamon are among the herbs that have the highest levels of antioxidants. You can find these in various forms, or just incorporate them into your recipes. Finally, beyond food, there is so much you can easily do to help your overall wellness. Deborah Brandt, registered nurse, clinical herbalist, and owner of From the Ground Up in Las Cruces, encourages everyone to try meditation for relaxation, get plenty of sunshine, make taking a walk part of your new healthier lifestyle, and make sleep an absolute priority. Remember, you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with changes to embrace a healthier you. Getting and staying healthy is all about small, consistent habits. Pick habits that are enjoyable to you and you’re more likely to stick with them.