Is Chai Tea Good For You? Benefits of The Famed Spice Tea
Chai has made a mark in the tea industry when it comes to flavor and the tea drinking experience. It has been revered for its antioxidant effects by the Chinese and Indians for centuries. In Ayurveda, it's commonly prescribed as a weight loss aid and to treat digestive issues.
Recently, it's also begun to make a name for itself as a healthy beverage that can alleviate pain and prevent serious disease. As researchers delve deeper into the ingredients of chai, the more evidence emerges of its potential health properties.
Not only is chai healthy, it's also tasty. The sweet and spicy flavor of this tea makes it feel like an indulgent treat. Drinking chai tea enables you to reap serious health benefits without sacrificing an iota of flavor. Read on to find out how chai can improve your health.
What Is Chai Tea?
Chai tea is an Indian beverage made by steeping spices in hot water. Chai in India simply means tea. The chai we are familiar with in the United States is known as masala chai, or 'spiced tea' in India.
Chai tea is typically brewed with black tea leaves or black tea bags. The most common black tea blends are Assam and Darjeeling, which are grown in India. Some chai is brewed with green tea or oolong tea instead. This offers an earthy flavor with floral and grassy notes.
Chai tea spices can vary widely depending on the region and flavor preferences. In general, there are five staple chai spices that are almost universally used. These five spices include black peppercorns, cloves, fresh ginger root, cinnamon sticks, and black or green cardamom pods. Many chai tea recipes include other popular spices such as star anise, fennel, and nutmeg.
Flavor and Preparation
Chai tea boasts a deliciously spicy flavor that is complemented by the roasted and bold flavor of black tea leaves. Chai is also commonly consumed with milk or as a chai latte. The chai lattes at Starbucks and other coffee houses aren't brewed the traditional way.
Generally a chai tea latte is made by first creating a chai tea concentrate. This base consists of brewing the black tea leaves and infusing the spices in water. Once the concentrate is complete, milk is steamed and added into the mixture for a creamy finish.
Soy milk and nut milks are the traditional favorites, but dairy milk can be substituted if desired. The milk helps to balance out the spicy notes and creates a delightful, creamy texture. For more information, check out our guide on how to brew chai tea the traditional way or learn how to brew chai lattes like a barista. Read on here to find out more about the health benefits of chai tea.
Health Benefits of Chai Tea
1. Increases Alertness
Since chai tea is brewed with black tea leaves, it contains a moderate amount of caffeine. In general, chai tea contains about one third the amount of caffeine as a standard cup of coffee. The caffeine content of chai tea can help you start the day off right or pull you through a sluggish afternoon.
The moderate caffeine content of chai makes it a great coffee replacement if you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake. You can drink several cups of chai throughout the day without feeling jittery or wired.
2. Boosts Immune Health
Chai can help support a healthy immune system thanks to a high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins. Cardamom contains high doses of vitamin C that can help fend off the common cold and flu.
There are two types of cardamom: green and black. Black cardamom has antiseptic qualities and works as an expectorant to relieve chest congestion and cough. Green cardamom clears sinuses and detoxifies the body. Both types of cardamom boast antimicrobial properties that are effective against bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
Chai also contains a high level of antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress caused by free radical damage. Free radicals are prevalent in the modern world and are increased by pollution, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. Free radicals have been correlated with serious diseases including neurological disorders and cancer. Chai antioxidants flush these free radicals from the body to protect overall health.
3. Soothes Inflammation and Pain
Chai tea ingredients boast anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe common aches and pains. Chai has also shown potential in treating severe pain conditions such as arthritis. The two ingredients responsible for these chai tea benefits are clove and ginger.
Cloves are widely known in homeopathic circles for their ability to reduce pain. Today, cloves have shown their powerful uses in dentistry and pain management. Dentists use clove to treat dry sockets following tooth extractions as well as general oral pain. One study found that clove is just as effective as benzocaine—a popular anesthetic—for dentistry uses.
Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties that ease pain from headaches. Thanks to its circulation boosting properties, ginger delivers oxygen-rich blood cells to pain sites to alleviate symptoms.
4. Protects Heart Health
The spices in chai may help to prevent the conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and high blood pressure. Black tea is known for its healthy heart benefits. Black tea helps to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels and prevents the onset of heart disease (1).
Animal studies also demonstrate the heart health effects of cinnamon (2). Compounds in cinnamon have been shown to prevent platelet aggression in mice. Cinnamon also helps to soothe vascular smooth muscle to prevent blood clots and other vascular disorders.
5. Aids Digestion
Chai is revered in India and particularly in Ayurvedic medicine for its healthy digestive benefits. One of the main ingredients responsible or these benefits is black pepper. Pepper encourages the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes that help break down food.
Chai contains ginger, which is known to ease symptoms of nausea and stomach upset (3). Ginger root helps digestion by stimulating blood circulation and soothing stomach muscles. These muscles can contract and cause cramps and nausea when irritated or inflamed. Ginger soothes these symptoms and can help treat excess gas and stomach aches.
6. May Treat Type 2 Diabetes
Chai tea may help regulate blood sugar for patients, something that is particularly useful for people who have insulin resistance. Cinnamon in particular has been shown to decrease high blood sugar levels.
In a study published in Annals of Family Medicine, researchers found that cinnamon significantly decreased fasting levels of glucose (4). Chai also contains polyphenols from tea leaves that help to regulate blood sugar and prevent the onset of cardiovascular symptoms associated with diabetes.
Verdict: Chai Tea May Improve Health
Chai contains several healthy spices and tea leaves that can promote better overall health. Drinking chai tea can help boost immunity and eliminate free radicals that can cause premature aging and serious disease. The antioxidant properties help to detoxify the body while vitamins and minerals help strengthen healthy body systems.
Revered in Asia, chai has become increasingly popular in the western world. The spicy beverage offers a delightful kick that is balanced out by the creamy, silky texture of milk and empowered by the bold, roasted taste of black tea leaves. When you drink chai tea, you'll enjoy a world of blended flavors that provide a rich taste experience. Pour yourself a cup of this spicy tea and cheers to your health.