Dr. Isaac Eliaz
Chai tea has been a staple in India for thousands of years, and today it is enjoyed throughout the world as an uplifting and health-promoting beverage. But what is it that makes chai such an excellent wellness tonic? A powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices, chai has been cherished for centuries in the East as a soothing way to preserve health and increase peace of mind. But the more we learn about the ingredients in chai, the more benefits we discover. Chai improves digestion, enhances the immune system, fights inflammation and has antioxidant properties. It has also been suggested that chai has antibacterial and anti-cancer effects.
Chai can be made using various recipes. Usually, the blends are specific to the region where it is consumed. Essentially, however, there are a number of standard ingredients, including black tea, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, clove and black pepper. When looking at chai’s health benefits, it’s important to examine each ingredient in turn. Though they act synergistically to increase each other’s benefits, the separate ingredients offer impressive health benefits on their own.
It’s no secret that tea is full of antioxidants. However, the antioxidants in tea may provide more far-reaching protection than we previously suspected. For example, black tea may support a healthy HDL (good) cholesterol ratio, helping to maintain desirable cardiovascular health. In addition, some research has shown black tea has antiviral and anti-cancer properties. A 2012 study published in Pharmacognosy Research shows that black tea exerts beneficial anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating actions.
An important root used in Eastern medicine, ginger aids digestion, improves circulation, boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation, which can be especially helpful for people suffering from arthritis. It offers antioxidant support, and some research has also shown that ginger can help fight cancer cells. In 2011, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that whole ginger extract inhibited the growth and progression of prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.
Found in virtually every Tibetan medicine formula, cardamom aids digestion and supports the immune system. In addition, it helps detoxify the body and improve circulation, and it may also fight respiratory allergies. A 2012 study in the Journal of Pharmacy Research demonstrated the antioxidant, immune-modulating and antimicrobial effects of cardamom extract.
Keeping with the theme, cinnamon has wonderful digestive properties and may also help balance blood sugar. In addition, research has shown that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant effects.
A great source of antioxidants, fennel provides vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Fennel also has demonstrated some anti-cancer effects.
Clove helps digestion, has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties and may help alleviate ulcer pain. In addition, clove has antibacterial action.
New research shows that black pepper may have an effect on our metabolism. A 2012 study demonstrated black pepper’s direct influence on fat storage, suggesting that it may be useful to prevent fat accumulation. Black pepper also offers antibacterial and antioxidant support and aids digestion.
If you want to obtain similar health benefits but aren’t crazy about chai tea, I also recommend a comprehensive digestive formula to help boost digestive function, increase nutrient absorption, support immunity and improve overall health. This targeted formula contains a number of herbs and spices also found in chai, such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and black pepper. In addition, it contains a small amount of enzymes, along with minerals such as zinc to support digestion and immunity. The formula helps to warm and energize digestion, alleviate occasional discomfort, and promote digestive, immune and overall health.
Given these and other benefits, chai’s popularity is no mystery. Some people in the East assert that their daily cup of chai tea is what keeps them healthy and strong throughout the years. As more people discover what Eastern practitioners have known for centuries — that chai calms the mind, improves digestion and provides numerous health advantages — this ancient beverage will continue to gain popularity around the world for its delicious flavor and vital health benefits.