The beverage that dreams are made of, a touch of paradise and a kiss for the soul – tea. This wondrous drink is not only rich in antioxidants and can help to reduce inflammation, but according to research, it may ward off depression.
One in three South Africans suffer from depression and rates are climbing, while a third of people with anxiety and depression never find an effective therapy. This is why scientists are starting to explore new, more integrated forms of treatment that look at the interconnectivity between the brain and the gut.
This has also prompted researchers to look more closely into the effects of tea-drinking on psychological well-being.
“Researchers have found that frequent tea consumption has a strong linear relationship with reduced rates of depression. One study determined that for every three cups of tea consumed a day, the relative risk of depression decreased by 37%.
“It’s likely that the healthy compounds in tea stimulate a positive response in the gut and brain, which improves mood,” said Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC).
One of the major triggers of depression is stress, and severe stress caused by life events sends the psyche out of equilibrium, therefore it’s vital that stress is managed properly.
Research into locally grown Rooibos tea points to its stress-relieving properties and the ability to alleviate anxiety, and scientists from Stellenbosch University found that Rooibos tea contains two rare antioxidants, namely, aspalathin and nothofagin, which interferes with the production of cortisol – a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal gland.
Tests were carried out in a lab on adrenal cells that were stimulated to mimic a stress response similar to which occurs in humans. They concluded that Rooibos tea does lower the production of cortisol and by doing so, it also lowers the body’s response to stress.
The added benefit? Rooibos is caffeine-free! This helps the body to relax. Du Toit explains that Rooibos is rich in polyphenols – compounds found in plants, including flavonoids and phenolic acid that benefit the body and fights disease. It also helps to widen blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood pressure and anxiety.
“Globally, we are seeing a move towards more natural ways of treating a variety of illnesses. Researchers are only beginning to examine how tea exerts its effects on mood and cognition. For now, they are trying to identify the major active compounds that give tea its mental health benefits and whether they work alone or in combination with other compounds present in the beverage.”
October is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety, apathy, feeling hopeless, having trouble sleeping, crying excessively, experiencing changes in appetite, mood, energy or concentration levels or have suicidal thoughts, contact the SADAG helpline on 0800 70 80 90.