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Chilling out with warm teas

GREEN tea, oolong tea and black tea help you rehydrate in summer and improve your health. DIY healthy teas can be made with roses, honeysuckle, cork silk, hawthorn and other herbs. Zhang Qian reports.

Restoring water lost through sweating and restoring the internal energy balance are essential in summer, and traditional teas - green, white, black and oolong - are more effective than sodas and ice cream in really cooling down.

The teas you can make yourself that are good for hydration include green tea and honeysuckle; lotus and hawthorn; gouqi (wolfberry) and bitter cucumber; and rose and corn silk are among many healthy teas.

Hydrating teas, especially white (which is less processed green tea) and green, are famously rich in antioxidants and other nutrients; oolong and black also have benefits.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses tea as medical reinforcement that helps balance energy inside the body.

The legend goes that Shennongshi, the legendary Yan emperor, introduced agriculture and herbal medicine. In one day he was said to have tasted a range of 72 toxic herbs - but chewing green tea worked as an antidote and detoxifier.

Tea was first used as medicine in China and later for therapeutic and health-maintenance functions. Then it became wildly popular.

TCM holds that energy reinforcement is necessary throughout the year, and uses different herbs, foods and approaches in different seasons.

Tea therapy for reinforcement is especially suitable for the hot summer, as tea is easy to consume and quickly hydrates, according to Qian Hai, associate professor of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

"Hot weather usually leads to great water loss through sweating, and the fluid needs to be made up," says Qian. "Though many people turn to sodas and ice cream, warm tea is much better."

The skin temperature drops by 1-2 degrees Centigrade about nine minutes after drinking warm tea, but there's no significant temperature drop after taking iced drinks, the doctor says.

Warm tea also balances energy and contributes to good health.

TCM holds that the major medical functions of tea are: "a fresh mind and improved eyesight in the head, improved digestion in the middle and regular urination and bowl movements in the lower body."

Green (and white), black and oolong teas each have different functions.

Black tea fires yang (warm) energy, reinforces yang energy and warms the body against a cold environment; oolong tea is "neutral" in energy and nourishes the skin, benefits the lungs and promotes body fluid and moistening.

Green tea is especially recommended in summer. It is a yin (cold) energy food that dispels pathogenic heat in the season, relieves skin irritation and thirst. It's rich in antioxidants and promotes general health.

Other herbs can be added to tea, such as chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, hawthorn and lotus leaves, for treating specific conditions. Thus the tea quenches thirst, hydrates the body and helps maintain general health. Making your own tea

In addition to tea made with camillia sinensis (Chinese tea), some others are also healthy and you can brew your own, targeting specific functions.

A few pointers:

Don't use more than four different ingredients, two are usually enough. Don't use more than 5 grams of each ingredient, otherwise the tea will be too strong. Don't combine yang and yin ingredients, as the medicinal effect will be lost.

Cover the ingredients with boiling water, filter and discard the first pour to wash ingredients.

After pouring again, let the tea steep for five or 10 minutes before drinking.

Honeysuckle and green tea

Ingredients: Honeysuckle (5g), green tea leaves (3g)

Preparation: Brew tea with boiling water, steep, drink often.

Benefits: Honeysuckle is a "cold" herb that helps detoxify and dispel pathogenic heat. This tea relieves irritability, sore throat and tooth ache caused by pathogenic heat.

Lotus leaf and hawthorn tea

Ingredients: Lotus leaves (5g), dried hawthorn (5g)

Preparation: Brew tea with boiling water, steep, drink often.

Benefits: Lotus leaf is "cold" and helps reduce blood fat and cholesterol. Hawthorn reduces fat, improves appetite and helps regulate blood pressure.

Recommended for those who want to lose weight and patients with high blood fat or high blood pressure.

Rose and corn silk tea

Ingredients: dried rose (5g), corn silk (5g)

Preparation: Brew tea with boiling water, steep, drink often.

Sugar can be added to sweeten.

Benefits: Corn silk is neutral in energy and is used as a diuretic and to dispel internal heat and damp. It relieves edema and can help reduce high blood pressure and blood fat.

Rose is "warm" in energy and promotes blood and energy circulation. It is said to be calming and especially good for women.

Gouqi and bitter cucumber tea

Ingredients: Gouqi (5g), dried bitter cucumber (3g)

Preparation: Brew tea with boiling water, let steep, drink often.

Eat the gouqi.

Benefits: Both gouqi and bitter cucumber are "cold" herbs that help dispel internal, and reduce fat and treat acne.

In addition, gouqi helps benefit eyesight while bitter cucumber whitens complexion.


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