- Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine specialist
Why tea can be a powerful allergy fighter
“All true teas that come from the plant Camellia sinensis—black, green, white, and oolong teas—have powerful anti-inflammatory properties due to high antioxidant content,” says Dr. Cole. He says research shows that these antioxidants, particularly epigallocatechin gallate, better known as EGCG, works to fight inflammation by boosting pro-antioxidant pathways while decreasing inflammatory activity. Whether you’re suffering from allergies or another ailment, this makes tea a powerful part of an anti-inflammatory diet. "Many herbal and mushroom teas are also packed with vitamin C, zinc, quercetin, and antioxidants called flavonoids to stave off those pesky symptoms," Dr. Chimileski adds.
But the health benefits don't start and stop at the tea leaves—making tea and pausing to enjoy it offers a bounty of health perks, too. “I love that brewing and drinking tea can serve as a reset button and self-care reminder throughout the day, helping us to create our own wellness rituals,” says Dr. Chimileski. “Making a cup of tea provides a moment to take a deep breath, be mindful and present, pulling you into your body and out of the racing to-do lists in your head. It forces us to press pause on a non-stop day to support the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ system.” Dr. Chimileski notes that this self-care practice can help you set healing intentions, confidence, and nurturing goals for yourself.
9 teas to sip during allergy season
Dr. Cole says that several herbal teas in particular can be great additions to your daily self-care regimen if you suffer from allergies. He likes turmeric, ginger, and nettle teas, which he says can soothe any inflammation occurring in the sinuses that can contribute to pressure, congestion, runny nose, and other seasonal allergy symptoms.
"I also recommend echinacea and eucalyptus, which can be game-changers for clearing up congestion and are full of antibacterial properties," Dr. Cole says. "But one of my all time favorite teas for allergies specifically is rooibos tea, as it is packed with the antioxidant quercetin that has been shown in studies to help block the histamine response that occurs in seasonal allergies."
Dr. Chimileski also likes hyssop, which she says can soothe post nasal drip-related issues in the throat while also draining the sinuses and notes that rosehip tea offers a great source of vitamin C to help modulate the allergic response happening throughout the body. And those who suffer from itchy, watery eyes may benefit from chamomile tea, which has been shown to help calm the nervous system and promote restful sleep. She suggests drinking tea year round and adding in local honey a few months before allergy season kicks in to help prevent your symptoms from being so intense.
Keep in mind, however, that both of our experts underscore that overall nutrition is one of the most important aspects of breezing through allergy season. Dr. Cole says that when it comes to patients dealing with seasonal allergies, his ultimate recommendation is to work on balancing your gut. (But if you haven't already—of course—see an allergist or primary care doctor first.) “Your gut is the foundation of your entire health and houses the majority of your immune system,” he says. “Loading up on probiotic-rich foods, fiber, and other nutrient-dense plant foods will be extra helpful during allergy season.”
How to shop for tea like an expert
According to both experts, it’s important to shop for a high-quality teas that offer the level of potency you’re looking for and have been sustainably grown. Dr. Cole especially loves Pique Life, which he says has been his go-to tea brand for years. He loves their on-the-go sachets that work well in hot or cold water depending on the time of year and appreciates their rigorous sourcing methods to ensure a top-notch cuppa that will alleviate allergies and help with other health concerns.
Dr. Chimileski works with patients to create custom loose leaf tea blends from high-quality herbs but when she’s looking for tea options at the supermarket, her favorite brands are Traditional Medicinals, Yogi Tea, and Celebration Herbals.
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