The 7 Best Teas For Fighting Inflammation

Photo: Martí Sans

Inflammation continues to be a hot topic in the health and wellness space, and for good reason. While acute inflammation can help one to quickly recover from a paper cut or other minor injury, chronic inflammation plays a much more sinister role in the body. Linked to numerous chronic health conditions such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, cancer, and more, the management of chronic inflammation must be taken seriously.

Just like the food we eat, the beverages we drink can play an important role in keeping chronic inflammation at bay. As one of the world’s oldest traditional medicinal drinks, tea has been used to therapeutically manage chronic health conditions like inflammation for thousands of years.

This hot drink, made by infusing the dried, crushed leaves of a plant with boiling water, helps to deliver the healing anti-inflammatory properties of the plant in a soothing, relaxing way. No longer limited to the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, tea is now available in a wide variety of herbal, root, and loose-leaf varieties, all of which offer promising anti-inflammatory properties to promote optimal health. Here are my top picks for fighting inflammation:

1. Black Tea

Made from the leaves of the C. sinensis plant, black tea has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 4,000 years. Black tea leaves undergo a fermentation process before drying, which leads to the distinct taste difference between black and green tea. All tea leaves contain varying amounts of polyphenols, particularly flavonoids, which are biological compounds that exert a positive effect in the body. The active flavonoids in black tea, theaflavins and thearubigins, have been shown to act as promising, anti-inflammatory compounds by inhibiting free radical generation. Theaflavins, the main active compound found in black tea, also help to inhibit the activity of enzymes that cause oxidative stress.

2. Green Tea

Perhaps the most famous tea known for fighting inflammation, green tea has been studied for its therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties for many years. This tea is not fermented, and is instead produced by drying, then steaming, the fresh C. sinensis leaves. While black tea and green tea contain similar amounts of flavonoids, green tea contains more catechins, a type of natural phenol and antioxidant that is prized for its anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Catechins have been shown to inhibit excessive oxidative stress through both direct and indirect antioxidant effects.

Photo: Alison Marras

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3. White Tea

White tea is a delicate, minimally processed tea that originates from the same plant as green and black tea. Young buds from the C. sinensis plant are harvested and dried early to prevent any oxidation of the leaf, thus preserving many of the active polyphenolic compounds. Studies show that white tea has protective, anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as kaempferol, quercetin, and catechins that protect certain types of cells from damage.

4. Rooibos Tea

Originating in South Africa, rooibos herbal tea is made from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant. This tea is quickly gaining popularity for its naturally caffeine free, anti-inflammatory, health promoting properties. Studies have shown that this tea is rich in powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids, aspalathin and nothofagin, that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body better than other flavonoids. Rooibos tea is commonly enjoyed like black tea, with an occasional splash of milk or sugar for sweetness.

5. Chai Tea

Chai tea, originating in India, is traditionally made with a blend of black tea and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. While it is known that black tea offers many anti-inflammatory health benefits, it is the synergistic effect of the spices in this tea that demonstrate a higher, more potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the body. The combination of the bioactive compounds in each ingredient creates an array of overlapping therapeutic combinations that reduce overall inflammation.

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6. Chamomile Tea

Dried flowers of the Chamomilla recutita plant contain terpenoids and flavonoids, which contribute to its medicinal, anti-inflammatory properties. This herbal tea has been used in ancient and traditional medicine for thousands of years, and it is estimated that today more than 1 million cups of chamomile tea are consumed every day. One study demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory properties, flavonoids, and essential oils found in chamomile tea can penetrate below the skin's surface into deep skin layers, promoting skin health.

7. Turmeric Tea

Commonly known as one of the most anti-inflammatory, plant-based herbal remedies on the market today, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Curcumin, the active compound that contains the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, is thought to help block pro-inflammatory molecules that ignite the inflammatory process. You can make turmeric tea by simply slicing a piece of turmeric root and steeping it in boiling water or simply buy it in bagged tea form from the store.

But what's the healthiest tea overall? We asked the healthiest people we know for their top picks.

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