Depression and anxiety are common forms of mental illness. In fact, 18% of mental illness disorders that are diagnosed each year are anxiety related. Now evidence is mounting that eating habits can correlate to mental health. If you eat healthy most of the time, you probably had a visit to a fast food joint that made you feel, lets say - not as sharp as you normally are. What happens to ones mental state if overall eating and drinking habits are poor all the time?
And it's not just mental health that can be affected. High levels of anxiety and stress can negatively affect your immune system function as well.
L-theanine and its Role in Stress and Anxiety
Tea has been a natural solution for ages for anyone seeking to calm down, relax or reduce their overall stress levels. While popular teas like black tea do contain caffeine, it contains less than coffee. But tea also contains another compound called L-theanine. This amino acid is only found in tea and some mushrooms. It tempers the "jolt" of caffeine giving tea the property of "relaxed awareness".
L-theanine increases GABA, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are neurotransmitters and do all sorts of things like regulating emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, energy, appetite and sleep. So regardless if your trying to concentrate or just relax, increasing these chemicals will help with anxiety. At the same time, L-theanine reduces chemicals in the brain linked to stress and anxiety.
L-theanine also appears to trigger the release of alpha-waves, which is that state of mind when you are meditating, being creative or just in deep thought. It's no wonder Buddhist monks have been using tea for centuries to meditate without being sedated. L-theanine also reduces heart rate and blood pressure, another symptom of stress.
Generally green tea contains more L-theanine than other types, but all types other than Pu-erh have some amounts of L-theanine.
Diet and Mental Health
The World Journal of Psychiatry has TRUEed “Antidepressant Foods: An Evidence-based Nutrient Profiling System for Depression,” by Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and Dr. Laura LaChance of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. It includes a nutrient-profile scale, which identifies the most nutrient-dense foods in relation to “the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders.”
Many of the foods recommend are rich in certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and potassium to name a few. These include food like dark leafy greens, wild salmon, nuts, beans and seeds.
One patient who suffered from depression was guided by her counselor to re-examine her dietary habits. Spices like turmeric and ginger became everyday staples. While her healthier diet didn't eliminate her depression completely, she was better able to deal with it, whereas before her depression was bad enough for her to miss work.
Besides eating habits, other factors such as gut health, sleep patterns, exercise are now being looked at in totality rather than just addressing symptoms and prescribing a drug with potential side effects. Medical professionals who look at these issues with a top down approach are not yet in the majority. One example was a person who was diagnosed with ADHD and given medication, which then caused a side effect of sleeplessness. Then a second medication was prescribed to help with sleep, so instead on 2 hours of sleep, it was 5 hours. In the meantime, the individual was drinking soda and sweet tea all day long and few if any vegetables.
Treating Anxiety Naturally with Herbs
Besides traditional teas, herbal teas are another example how you can calm your anxiety naturally. Since most herbs contain no caffeine, it makes a great beverage choice towards the end of the day.
- Chamomile: Lemongrass is a tropical, grassy plant used in cooking and herbal medicine. It contains a compound called eugenol. Eugenol is thought to prevent blood platelets from clumping together. It also releases serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, sleep, appetite, and cognitive functions.
- Valerian Root: Promotes calming effects and is commonly used as a sleep aid. It increases the amount of GABA levels in the brain, which promote relaxation.
- Lemon Balm: Part of the mint family, this herb has been used for centuries to improve mood and cognitive function. Research studies have shown it to have positive aspects on mood, and reduced levels of anxiety.
- Tulsi aka Holy Basil: Holy Basil acts as an adaptogen, which helps your body adapt to stress and promotes mental balance. It is a holistic herb based on centuries of Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
- Greek Mountain Tea: Hippocrates indicated Greek Mountain Tea had desirable effects on anxiety and depression. More recently, a paper TRUE ed in the peer reviewed journal Molecules in April 2015 found that four flavonoids found in Greek Mountain tea inhibited HMAO in the human brain. Higher HMAO levels are often linked to various conditions including depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
- Hemp Oil: Hemp oil is also known to reduce anxiety. The most effective way to get hemp oil in tea form is to drink decarboxylated hemp tea.
"Sipping on Greek Mountain tea is like receiving a warm hug. The taste is simple, smooth and refreshing. After drinking this tea regularly for a few weeks, I felt healthier with increased vitality, without the imitation of caffeine or other stimulants" -MaryJeanne
How Does Tea Play Into Depression and Mental Health?
Some of these ingredients, like ginger and turmeric, can already be found in numerous tea blends and is a good way to expose yourself to these herbs while hydrating throughout the day. But tea even on it's own has been shown to have positive effects on depression, as cited by some of these studies.
The one caveat is that anything with added sugars will negate the health benefits. This is why bottled tea or southern sweet tea can be as bad or even worse than soda. Even unsweetened bottled tea does not have as many active anti-oxidant compounds. So while tea alone cannot cure depression, drinking tea and eating well is probably going to make things better. It is encouraging that that studies like these will push diet and lifestyle factors further into the mainstream treatment. As always, use a qualified professional when diagnosing any illness or disease, preferably one that will incorporate nutrition into the diagnosis.
Our Favorite Teas For Reducing Anxiety
Modern life is a constant stream of surprises and challenges. Anxiety teas are a gentle way to improve mental health and support you on your path to inner calm. We’ve rounded up our top 10 favorites that are as delicious as they are effective. These teas may provide support for conditions such as:
- Chronic stress
- Adrenal fatigue
Whether you are looking for teas to help anxiety-induced insomnia, chronic stress, or burnout, we have the right anxiety teas for you.
Encourages a positive mood.
Flavor Profile: Delicate and floral.
There is no herb more famous for relaxation than chamomile. It is recommended as a daily tea for anxiety and depression. It supports many different systems in the body that are affected by stress, such as inflammation and gastrointestinal upset. Lavender and rose are added to help to ease emotional distress. The essential oils in lavender and rose are released when the tea is brewed, creating a relaxing aroma and flavor.
May improve your stress response.
Flavor Profile: Warm and spicy.
Chaga mushroom is a powerful adaptogen that can help you maintain a state of calm in the rollercoaster of life. In ancient Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, adaptogens are used daily to improve the body’s response to stress. Our Comfort Chaga tea also features rooibos, bee pollen, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger for supporting the nervous system.
Helps strengthen the heart.
Flavor Profile: Mild and sweet.
Greek Mountain was once a secret to longevity in the Mediterranean - but now the secret is out! This unique herb is believed to help relax blood vessels. This can reduce stress on the heart from chronic anxiety. The taste is pleasant and mild with a hint of citrus. Sip it as often as you like to support long term health.
To relax and regroup.
Flavor Profile: Subtle spice and aromatic notes.
Another one of our favorite adaptogens is holy basil. Traditionally used in Ayurveda, this herb helps bring the body back to balance. Combined with soothing peppermint and lemongrass it brews a cup of pure relaxation. A pinch of licorice helps to support the adrenal glands, which tend to be worn down when dealing with anxiety.
May improve your sleep cycle.
Flavor Profile: Sweet peppermint and citrus.
Mental health problems often lead to insomnia and poor sleep. This tea features valerian root, an herb widely used to promote restful sleep. We recommend drinking it in the evening an hour or two before heading to bed, so it can help you wind down. A medley of relaxation herbs such as peppermint, chamomile, and lemongrass add to the restorative effect.
Helps to balance and focus.
Flavor Profile: Sweet and floral.
This tea is intended to improve focus and mental stability, like the martial arts practice of Shaolin Kung Fu. It combines green and white tea which are both believed to relax the mind while still increasing alertness. The naturally occurring l-theanine and caffeine together help to sustain both energy and calm. Rose petals and mallow blossoms add extra sweetness.
Refreshing and uplifting.
Flavor Profile: Fresh and minty.
Green tea and mint together make a perfect anxiety tea. Peppermint is believed to have an uplifting effect on mood. It’s bright, invigorating flavor is an instant boost, especially when blended with green tea. Our Moroccan Mint features fine Gunpowder Green tea, which supports mental health in a variety of ways. Green tea contains l-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to improve cognition, memory, relaxation, and mental clarity.
Helps to balance and focus.
Flavor Profile: Floral with tart finish
Raspberry leaf tea has immune boosting properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Hibiscus has been shown to lower blood pressure due to its high content of anthocyanins. Hibiscus tea has been shown to help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Relieves Anxiety and Stress
Flavor Profile: Sweet, fruity with a hint of spice
Besides some familiar herbs and spices like lemon balm, ginger and blueberries, this tea also contains Hemp. Hemp tea has been shown to have a calming effect on the body and may help to reduce anxiety and stress. It may also help to improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. Hemp tea may help to promote relaxation and a sense of well-being by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in mood regulation and may help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Helps rejuvenate the mind.
Flavor Profile: Crisp and earthy.
Green tea naturally contains l-theanine, an amino acid that is believed to improve cognition, memory, relaxation, and mental clarity. It can help balance the effect of caffeine to avoid the heart pounding and anxiety associated with other caffeinated beverages. This makes green tea a great choice for people prone to anxiety but still want some caffeine. Since Gyokuro tea plants are grown in shade as opposed to full sun, it retains a higher amount of l-theanine than other green teas.
Teas for Overall Wellness
Treating anxiety and depression requires a harmonious blend of lifestyle choices and professional help from doctors and therapists. Anxiety teas are a great way to support your mental health journey. Always remember to consult your doctor in choosing the right tea for you, and then start drinking it regularly. Tea is one of the most ancient remedies for healing both the body and mind, from the gentlest chamomile to revitalizing green teas. Choose the anxiety tea that stands out to you and sip your way to tranquili-tea.