Winter weather has officially arrived in Canada. This is the season of shorter days, darkness, staying warm, reflection, comfort and getting ready for a new year. Getting away to somewhere warm to escape the cold for a bit. Comfort can also come in the form of warming food. Winter root vegetables, stews and grains and hot teas to warm up from the inside out. I’ve been trying to working on living a healthier life and have been exploring the health benefits of herbal teas.
I’m currently in Toronto hanging out with my parents and visiting with friends. I came across my dad’s extensive stash of dried leaves from select Jamaican trees and bushes while looking for canned chickpeas (that is a totally different story). The use of ingesting these leaves goes back generations. It is worth noting that these types of trees and bushes can be found in many tropical climes, not just in Jamaica. Jamaicans are not wasteful people and will consume not just the fruit or vegetable, but the roots and leaves, when possible. I could go off on a tangent here, but today we’re talking about the leaves. The leaves are picked and allowed to dry in the sunshine before being boiled in water, (Dad also says that they can be boiled immediately without being dried). The tea is then allowed time to steep before being strained. You can drink the tea hot or pour it over ice to enjoy cold, like any other tea. My preference is hot because I’m always cold.
Dad’s Jamaican bush tea collection is impressive and daunting all at the same time. There were so many different varieties. It was nice to spend time with him looking at the teas and discussing the health benefits of each one while boiling up some varieties to sample. I learned a ton and did some additional research on three of my favourites and their individual health benefits. Like anything, there are benefits and contraindications. I recommend anything in moderation and if you’ve got any kind of health issues, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any kind of tea therapy.
I like boiling the leaves because it's a slower and enjoyable process that reminds me of my Jamaican roots. I have since invested in tea bags to make it quick and easy to enjoy these teas when I am travelling or at home feeling lazy.
Below are my three favourite teas and their benefits. The teas that I’ve selected are easy on the palate and can easily be found online (see below) or at a West Indian (Caribbean) grocery store. If you’ve got a Jamaican bestie who travels back to the island – lucky you! Hit them up for the freshest leaves! Also, remember that variety is the spice of life. Switch it up so you're not drinking the same tea all the time. I’ve drank soursop tea for years, but it’s not something that I drink every day. Once or twice a week is my maximum for any herbal tea. Keep these as part of a rotation of your favourites.
Moringa Leaves from Moringa Oleifera tree
Moringa is from the Oleifera tree. What does it do? It contains lots of iron and is a great source of calcium, vitamin A, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium and beta carotene.
How does it taste? I drank it black and found it to be mild. It’s a taste that I can’t compare to anything else. It wasn’t like any other tea that I’ve tried before but I liked it and plan to add it to my tea rotation.
This tea is made from the leaves of the soursop fruit tree. Soursop tea is also called graviola tea and is said to aid in weight loss, anxiety and is a great bedtime tea because it has relaxation qualities. It is also good for elimination.
The bonus is that it tastes good. So good! At first sip it’s a little tart but settles nicely. It’s hands-down my favourite bush tea. I’ve been drinking it for years and always have some of the leaves in my pantry.
Cerasee is rich in vitamins A and C, phosphorus and iron. The tea is an antioxidant, similar to green tea and you can often find the two types of tea mixed together. The tangled, nest-like Cerasee provides relief for stomach and menstrual pain, has laxative qualities, is said to purify the blood and it is believed to help remove toxins from the body for clearer skin.
The taste is definitely on the bitter side, but not horrible. For the health benefits, I would definitely drink it sometimes.
If you try any, I would love to know your thoughts!
Do your research and speak to your doctor before ingesting any plant or herb, especially if you’re pregnant, have a pre-existing medical issues or are taking prescription medications.
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Inked by Nicole. My name is Nicole and I am a travel and lifestyle writer based in Calgary, Canada.
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