If you’re anything like me, and a lot of other more natural people out there, you have probably tasted your fair share of herbal teas. One of my favorites is an aromatic calming tea made with chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm. What I have found is herbal teas tend to calm the mind and soothe our stress away, and there’s a science behind why herbal teas tend to be good for our overall mental health.
I’m a big coffee drinker too, and nothing beats that first sip of steaming hot coffee on a cold winter morning. But once my pot of joe runs out, I’m heating up water for a custom blend of herbal tea. It’s relaxing and calming, and there’s some science to back up the boost to our mental state when we drink a warm mug of tea.
Drinking any warm liquid has the ability to calm our nerves, lower our stress levels, and decrease blood pressure as warmth itself is associated with comfort. As warm beverages also beg to be sipped as opposed to chugged quickly, it often means the person consuming the warm drink will be sitting down, calm, possibly reading, or just enjoying the quiet. There are few days I’m not up before 5 am and the days that I am not in a hurry make a great time for me to sit in the dark and quiet with a cup of hot coffee or tea before the kids get up and fill the house with obligatory noise. This can be almost like a meditation for me, and it starts my day on a more positive and relaxed note. And many others tend to agree!
A study conducted in 2014 says that warm drinks can help us see the best in other people. An experiment conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder and published in the journal Science found that “participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a ‘warmer’ personality (generous, caring).” The subjects of the study were asked to hold a hot coffee or an iced coffee belonging to another person before being introduced to them. (They had no idea that holding the drink was even part of the test.) The researchers found that based on a body of research into the significance of the insula (the part of the brain in which judgments about others are formed), and also where we process warmth, go hand in hand when judging others. So drinking warm beverages can help us all be a little “warmer” towards others.
The scent of your favorite herbal tea can be intoxicating, and aroma plays a huge role in the human brain and the power of association. Aromatherapy, or using scents for their effects on the body and mind, has been around in different forms for thousands of years. Herbal teas often contain hundreds of active ingredients that all have scents! The herbs themselves consist of concentrated oils and when you brew a cup of tea, some of those oils drift upward in the steam creating an aroma. As you breathe in the wonderful aroma of the steam, individual scent molecules enter receptors in the cells throughout your body. This triggers many changes in your mental state. Those changes are most often distressing, soothing, calming, and relaxing.
A study from the Mie University School of Medicine found that patients with depression needed smaller doses of antidepressant medications after citrus fragrance treatment. Another study from the University of Vienna demonstrated that when the scent of orange oil was used in dental clinics, female patients exhibited decreased anxiety. The aroma of tea can be very beneficial if you’re having a bad day. Brew your favorite herbal tea and just relax as you breathe in the scent and feel your stress melt away. This is indeed, important because stress has been linked to chronic health issues such as coronary heart disease.
An extremely soothing tea with a pleasant aroma is this one:
The fast-acting natural sedatives like lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, catnip, and passionflower promote a deep, restful night’s sleep, but are also highly effective at reducing stress and creating a soothing aroma to help some of the most overworked relax after a long hard day.
Your Favorite Mug
If you drink warm beverages on a regular occasion, you’ve probably got that one mug that you just always reach for. I know I do! It’s a slightly larger than average and heavier mug with my favorite sports team’s logo slightly raised on each side. We become used to and attached to that mug; it’s weight, appearance, the feel of it as we sip from it, and the comforting way it looks sitting next to you with the steam rolling out of it. We become emotionally attached to our favorite mug and that, in and of itself, helps the relaxing effects of herbal teas take a firm hold on us as we sip our favorite warm beverages.
According to Psychology Today, part of the pull is the simple sense of personal ownership. Several studies of the endowment effect (the tendency for people to overvalue their own possessions) actually looked at people’s valuations of their coffee mugs. Researchers found that people ascribed greater value to a mug when they owned it. However, people are more likely to be obsessed with a favorite mug than a favorite fork, for example. One reason is that mugs are common gifts or souvenirs or keepsakes, so we often associate them with a beloved person, place, or time. And then once we start using them to put our warm and aromatic beverage in, we form attachments to the soothing way the combination of the tea and the mug make us feel.
There are many reasons to drink tea, and the calming and warmth they impart are just a small piece of the “why” behind the psychology of tea. I personally have many favorites when it comes to herbal teas, but the one I’ve been reaching for the most lately is accurately named Holiday Cheer. Holiday Cheer is a slightly spicy and warm smelling tea perfect for those winter days and nights snowed in by the fire. It completely embodies its name, and is perfect for those snowy days!