Tea for Stress: Caught up in Cortisol

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Tea has long been known as a sort of meditative drink.

Focus and attention span are very relevant topics in our currently busy days and lives; often we bustle about so much that we are doomed to forget the simple joys of just sitting and thinking, perhaps, yes indeed, with a cup of tea in hand. Tea is neither a boisterous nor abrasive drink, but instead is good at promoting alertness, a sense of calm and relaxation.

Perhaps we could stress a little less if we all took that ten minutes, every so often, to sit down, close our eyes, and drink up that warm, beautiful taste.

In any case, I’d like to take a moment to talk about a hormone called cortisol. As many of you may already know (especially those of you involved in sciences to do with the human brain and body, or who have suffered from an anxiety disorder), cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. Your body releases cortisol in stressful situations to help you deal with the problem; for instance, it will cause a function called gluconeogenesis, which increases your current blood sugar so that you have more energy to work with than in normal situations. It also gives you the typical “stressful” mental state.

However, our current lives are a breeding ground for cortisol, and as anyone with an anxiety disorder will tell you, too much stress is never any fun. Excess anxiety can both be caused by and result in cortisol release, and once in this state even small events can cause distress. Many Westerners who have no such disorder still present higher levels of stress than they should, simply because of the current complexity and speed of the western lifestyle.

Now, here’s something interesting; several studies have shown that tea, both green and black, can help reduce cortisol production in stressful situations. Although the affect is minimal, every bit of reduced cortisol production can benefit those that suffer from having too much of the hormone, and should be considered.

This affect, however, may not even be tea’s greatest asset towards stress reduction. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, tea is a meditative, zen-like drink. Meditation, or at the very least quiet reflection, has shown to be helpful in people suffering from anxiety, and tea is the perfect drink to promote both of these. The caffeine in tea helps keep the mind alert, while the action of drinking keeps you from annoying, distracting actions like fidgeting.

Maybe it’s time you sat down and took a step back from life?