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6 Types of Tea Scientifically Linked To Calming Nerves and Boosting Your Mood

teas for mental health

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In high-stress moments, going back to the little things can make a huge difference. Science shows that mini-health interventions—like breathwork, meditation, and going for a short walk—can majorly lift your mood and help down-regulate your nervous system. (Something that we all definitely need in 2022.) If a warming cup of tea is one of your go-to ways to unwind, certain varieties may help calm your nerves more than others, according to Kylene Bogden, RDN, co-founder of FWDFuel.

“Tea is a wonderful option when you are looking to calm your nerves or lift your mood, especially during the long dark and cold months,” says Bogden. “A hot cup of anything can relax you, and many types of tea are made from blends of spices and herbs known to enhance human health.”

According to the U.K. Tea and Infusions Association, the origins of drinking leaves and herbs dates way back to 2737 B.C., when legend has it that the Chinese emperor’s servant was boiling drinking water when some leaves from a nearby tree blew into the beverage. The emperor, Shen Nung, was an herbalist and decided to drink the concoction. While historians have no way of knowing if the story is true, tea has played an essential role in Chinese culture—and many other cultures across the globe—for thousands of years. Nowadays, research has shown that drinking your herbs is a great way to relax your mind in body, help prevent cardiovascular disease, and even increase your bone density.

Here, Bogden is sharing her expert intel on the best teas for boosting your mood, relaxing, and enjoying a quiet night in with your book or Netflix queue. Ahead, she offers three teas to sip when you need some R&R and three teas to drink if you need an energizing mood lift.

Without further ado, here are the best teas for mental health.

The 6 best teas for mental health, whether you need to chill out or boost your energy

1. Green tea

If you need a burst of energy and some immune-supporting antioxidants, green tea or matcha is your best bet. Both matcha and green tea hail from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but matcha is much more concentrated (and contains more caffeine, FWIW). “Green tea is excellent for boosting your mood because it’s jam-packed with antioxidants in addition to a slight boost of caffeine,” says Bogden.

Green tea is also an excellent source of the amino acid l-theanine, which has a robust amount of research backing its mood-boosting abilities. “L-theanine is an amino acid that has been associated with many beneficial psychotropic effects, most notably reducing anxiety and stress,” psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD previously told Well+Good. “A growing body of research suggests that l-theanine helps promote healthy moods. For example, a 2017 study published in the journal Acta Neuropsychiatrica on people with major depressive disorder found that l-theanine improves symptoms of depression among other benefits.

L-theanine also enhances gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate brain excitability and calms over-firing in the brain.” This, he says, leads to feeling calm. “In addition, findings in the journal Nutrients show that l-theanine’s anti-stress properties may lie in dampening the stress hormone cortisol. Another randomized controlled trial showed that taking l-theanine significantly lowered the body’s stress response system,” said Dr. Amen.

2. Chamomile tea

The classic relaxer, chamomile tea, has a floral, simple flavor that is bliss at first sip. “Chamomile tea is excellent for relaxation, deeper sleep, and improved digestion,” says Bogden. Chamomile is also the chicken noodle soup of teas, in that it may help support your immune system.

“In Western herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Ayurveda, chamomile is mainly known for its wonderful relaxation effects,” herbalist and Urban Remedy founder Neka Pasquale, LAc, MS, previously told Well+Good. “In TCM, chamomile is mainly used to move the qi and treat stagnation, or stuck energy. It’s used in support of the lungs (colds and flu), heart (nervous disorders), and stomach (digestion). In Ayurveda, chamomile is used for gas, bloating, painful menses, insomnia, and to calm the nervous system.”

3. Valerian root tea

“While the scent can throw you for a loop, Valerian root can reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and improve OCD symptoms,” says Bogden. If valerian root isn’t exactly to your taste, try adding some sugar, honey, or milk.

4. Ginger tea

“Deliciously spicy, ginger tea boosts our mood by enhancing circulation. Better circulation means more vitamins and minerals reach more destinations in the body leading to a mood boost,” says Bogden. Ginger also fights nausea and offers anti-inflammatory benefits.

“Studies have shown ginger to be effective in decreasing inflammation, swelling, and pain, thanks to a compound called gingerol. Gingerol is a bio-active compound in ginger which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects,” Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman, RD, previously told Well+Good. If you find the flavor of ginger tea a little overwhelming, try sweetening the beverage with honey or agave to soften its rich, potent flavor.

5. Honey lavender tea

The smell of lavender conjures daydreams of Italy, afternoon naps, and giant sun hats. (Just me?) Bogden says that honey lavender tea is just about as relaxing as a beverage can get. “Honey lavender tea is soothing, tastes great, and is awesome from an aromatic and digestion standpoint when it comes to enhancing relaxation,” she says. Try making this chamomile lavender latte for the ultimate stress-busting, sleep-boosting beverage.

6. Lemongrass tea

“The strong, vibrant, and fresh scent of lemongrass tea has been shown to improve mood simply by inhalation,” says Bogden. Of course, you could also actually, you know, drink the beverage. Although more research needs to be done on the health effects of lemon grass tea, it has been used as a stomach-soother for thousands of years.

Make your own herbal tea with these easy recipe:

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