For thousands of years, people have turned to home remedies and natural treatments to ease inflammation and pain. It may be hard to believe that a relaxing sip of your favorite tea could actually help heal your body, but more and more research is pointing to evidence that suggests that anti-inflammatory tea can help treat chronic conditions. Here are the best teas for inflammation and pain (and some suggested blends you can either buy or make at home!).
What type of tea is good for inflammation?
Inflammation in the body serves an important purpose. When you are injured, the body directs fluid and other chemicals to the area to surround the injury, protecting it from further harm. If you have ever sprained an ankle, you know that this inflammation keeps you from injuring the ankle further by making it nearly impossible to bear weight. In most cases, this protective response subsides over a few days as you rest.
Sometimes, however, inflammation becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the protective response goes into hyperdrive. This extends the body’s response to injury well past the time when it should have stopped. The immune system may switch on to continue the cycle, but sometimes inflammation occurs with no inciting injury or condition.
Either way, when inflammation becomes chronic, a variety of things can occur. Inflammation is linked to many of the most serious health conditions, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Heart disease
So how does anti-inflammatory tea help relieve the dangerous cycle of inflammation and pain?
Some anti-inflammatory teas help to reduce the body’s production of cytokines, a chemical that causes inflammation. Others not only help limit cytokines, but also reduce the activity of cyclooxygenase enzymes that promote inflammation.
Another way anti-inflammatory tea helps with inflammation is by helping to balance metabolic disorders. This includes decreasing the presence of apolipoproteins that increase oxidative stress, which prevents the body from healing itself.
Here are five of the best teas for inflammation and pain.
1. Green tea
Green tea is one of the most-researched anti-inflammatory herbal teas available. Made from the leaves of the Camellia synensis plant, green tea has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.
The tea catechins in green tea, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), work with flavonoids to prevent free radicals from provoking or increasing cell damage and the resulting inflammation.
Green tea is an excellent (and delicious) way to counteract the effects of stress. It improves cardiovascular function, lowers cholesterol, and provides an energy boost without the skittish effects that coffee can sometimes have. Green tea also reduces the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease in general.
That’s not all. There are scientifically valid studies that have proven additional benefits of green tea that include:
- Boosted immune support
- Weight loss
- Improved dental health
- Better metabolism
- Improved neurological function
- Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Simply put, if you can only choose one anti-inflammatory tea, green tea is the way to go!
How to choose green tea
Green tea comes in leaf form but is also available in a powdered form called matcha. Most people new to green tea prefer the mild flavor of leaf tea, but matcha is a powerful antioxidant with many benefits.
To get the most from your leaf tea, look for green tea with high levels of EGCG. A Consumer Lab study tested 24 brands of green tea for EGCG and noted the following.
- On a budget, Lipton Green Tea was the best choice, with 71 mg of EGCG per brewed cup.
- A little more expensive, Teavana Gyokuro Imperial Green Tea had the highest levels of EGCG at 86 mg (and about four times the price tag).
- Looking for prepared, iced, sweetened green tea for an on-the-go, refreshing sip? Harney & Sons Organic Green Tea comes with just under 47 mg of EGCG but only a third of the sugar of other iced brands.
2. Black tea
It’s important to note that black tea, green tea, and white tea all come from the same plant but are prepared in different ways. Black tea is the most processed of the three, with deep roots in Ayurvedic medicine.
The power of black tea lies in its flavonoids hearubigins and theaflavin. These two compounds inhibit inflammatory enzymes and control or eliminate free radicals in the body.
It is important to note that black tea carries with it many of the same research-proven benefits as green tea. Black tea may contain too much caffeine for some tea drinkers, and the way the tea acts in the body is not exactly the same.
Still, research does show that black tea has similar protection against inflammation and inflammatory conditions, including heart disease and some types of cancer.
How to choose black tea
Because there are so many choices of black tea, it’s important to take the time to buy a high quality loose tea. If not buying teabags, look for loose tea that is slightly curled, with silvery tips.
There are a variety of regions in the world that grow black tea, and each has its own distinct flavor. Here are four varieties that celebrate the most prolific tea-producing regions in the world.
- The Republic of Tea: This loose tea is from the Keemun region in China and makes a smooth hot tea with no bitterness
- Positively Tea Organic Assam TGFOP: This tea comes from the Assam region of India and is noted for its strong flavor and deep color
- SerendipiTea’s First Flush Organic Darjeeling: This tea from India is lighter in flavor and offers a natural sweetness without any bitterness
- Taylors of Harrogate Special Rare Ceylon: This tea has been grown in Sri Lanka since 1869 and offers a flavor and color that falls somewhere between the darkness of Assam and the floral notes of Darjeeling
3. Ginger tea
Unlike the leaves and powder of green tea, ginger tea is a root that is dried and ground into powder (or sliced fresh for tea).
As with green tea, ginger is well-researched as an effective remedy for both pain and inflammation. Gingerol and shogaol are compounds in ginger that fight inflammation and oxidative stress.
In addition to combating the pain that comes with inflammation, ginger tea also prevents diseases related to oxidative stress, including heart disease.
How to choose a ginger tea
Choosing the best prepackaged ginger tea for you is influenced by whether or not you like the taste of ginger. There are many herbs that can mask the flavor of ginger if you prefer less spice.
- Celestial Seasonings Jammin’ Lemon Ginger: If you like your ginger a little less obvious, try Celestial Seasonings. This blend combines rose-hips and natural lemon in a caffeine free blend.
- Traditional Medicinals: Looking for straight ginger? Traditional Medicinals adds nothing to its organic ginger tea.
- Yogi Tea: This tea is organic, kosher, vegan, and non-GMO. It is prepared with lemongrass, licorice root, and black pepper for even more flavor (and powerful digestive benefits).
Rooibos tea is grown only in South Africa. Caffeine-free and with a sweet, barely tart flavor some compare to cranberries, rooibos contains two of the most powerful flavonoids found in anti-inflammatory tea: aspalathin and nothofagin.
Rooibos’s powerful benefits include:
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Preventing damage to the DNA and inflammation
- Protecting against cardiovascular toxicity
One review of studies noted that rooibos tea was just as powerful regardless of variety (red or green) and offered powerful relief from insomnia, anxiety, tension headaches, stomach cramps in babies, and irritability.
How to choose rooibos tea
Of the top ten rooibos teas ranked in 2019 by Top10Supps, Davidson’s Bulk organic took the number one spot for flavor and purity. Rooibos is the only ingredient, and the tea is fair-trade certified.
Other standouts included:
- Twinings Tea: Noted for its affordability, flavor, and great reviews by tea drinkers all over the world
- Rooibos Rocks South African Red Bush: A bit pricier than the other options on the list, the company focuses only on rooibos tea, and it shows in the quality of their product
- Numi Organics: A rooibos that is organic and uses verified fair labor practices for harvest and processing
While not a leaf, turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory root that has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal tea. Turmeric is earthy-tasting and harnesses the power of curcumin, a well-studied compound that fights inflammation. In the same family as ginger, turmeric is a staple of Ayurvedic medicine and is now gaining popularity in a preparation called golden milk (recipe below).
In a review of studies, turmeric displayed its anti-inflammatory properties in six trials that used human subjects. This is important because the studies demonstrated turmeric’s effectiveness out of the lab and in the human population.
Turmeric has been found effective in reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Its antioxidant properties and metabolic regulation have been found helpful for other inflammatory conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
How to buy turmeric
For fresh preparations, you can find turmeric root in the produce section of some supermarkets. Keep in mind that turmeric is highly staining and has been used as a vibrant yellow dye. Protect cutting surfaces and your hands when you prepare it!
Powdered turmeric is useful for making pastes and flavoring food. This can be found in the bulk section or in the spice aisle of the supermarket.
If you’d like to skip the yellow powder or staining root, here are three of our ready-to-make turmeric preparations.
- Traditional Medicinals Turmeric (with meadowsweet and ginger): Easy, delicious teabags with the additional support of ginger.
- Numi Organic Turmeric Three Roots: The roots are turmeric, ginger, and licorice – a delicious and powerful combination!
- Organic India Tulsi Tea Turmeric Ginger: Yup, more ginger, plus tulsi (holy basil), another powerful anti-inflammatory herb.
How to prepare tea for inflammation and pain
To brew a proper cup of tea, steep a tea bag (or tea diffuser if using loose tea) for approximately five minutes, covered. Green tea may have a slightly shorter steep time, so always check the package. Remove the tea bag or diffuser and enjoy hot or iced, with honey or other sweetener, or maybe a squeeze of lemon or splash of milk.
When preparing ginger or turmeric tea from fresh roots, peel and slice the roots into thin rounds. Pour boiling water over the roots and let steep for five to 10 minutes. You can also use nutmilk for a delicious and creamy beverage.
How much is enough?
Even the best teas for inflammation in pain won’t work if you don’t sip them enough. But how much is enough?
- Green tea: There is conflicting evidence for how much green tea is enough. Some studies say just one cup a day is enough to get the benefits, while others advocate up to five. Most agree that somewhere between three and five cups a day will yield significant benefits. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may experience side effects associated with that. These can include anxiety, insomnia, and upset stomach. Start on the lower end of suggestions.
- Black tea: Black tea is one of the few anti-inflammatory teas that can come with side effects. Many people find the high levels of caffeine too stimulating and should limit their intake to just a cup or two per day (in place of another caffeinated beverage). Drinking too much black tea has been associated with anxiety, headache, increased respiration, and nausea.
- Ginger tea: Ginger tea dosage is highly individual. Some people respond to very little, while others need high concentrations for inflammation benefits. Because of this, it’s best to experiment and see what helps you best.
- Rooibos: Rooibos is easy to break down in the body – the bioavailability of its beneficial compounds is high. Most researchers agree that six cups daily is safe, effective, and best for healing.
- Turmeric: The recommended daily intake really depends on what condition you are treating, but most researchers agree that 400 to 600 mg a day is sufficient and safe. Because turmeric has poor bioavailability, many opt for highly concentrated capsules, but drinking the tea is a delicious option.
As always, speak to your doctor before beginning to take medicinal doses of anti-inflammatory herbal tea.
Anti-inflammatory tea recipes
Our two favorite recipes combine multiple anti-inflammatory compounds and can be adjusted based on your preferences.
- Chai: Chai uses black tea at its base then adds a spicy and delicious combination of herbs, along with honey and milk (or milk substitute) for a warming and therapeutic blend. Get ready to empty out your spice cabinet for our favorite chai recipe!
- Golden milk: Turmeric gives this anti-inflammatory beverage its name. The Minimalist Baker’s golden milk recipe takes just five minutes to make and offers versions that use both fresh and powdered turmeric.
The best teas for inflammation and pain can be a warming and complementary part of your comprehensive treatment plan. If you’re in Arizona, we welcome you to talk to our team at Arizona Pain for help. Get in touch today.