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5 Flavorful Herbal Teas to Help You Rest and Digest

These brews are easy, warming, calming—and right on time for the busy holiday season.

Drinking soothing, herbal tea
Credit: Getty Images
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We talk a lot in wellness circles about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems—the twin pillars of our brain activity that govern how our bodies and minds respond to input of any sort. When we’re stressed, anxious or upset, we might go into the sympathetic “fight-flight-or-freeze” mode. And when we’re calm, relaxed and grounded, we enter into a parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” state.

The winter holiday season is a time when it can feel hard to do either of those parasympathetic activities. Rest is hard when we’re planning, shopping, cooking and traveling—even harder than usual given that we’re doing those things while still navigating the Covid pandemic. And digestion is famously…let’s say seasonally challenging as we tuck into richer foods, more treats and often back-to-back indulgences.

Put the stress of the holiday season together with the shift in our eating habits, and you’ll see the need for easy, nurturing strategies to ease ourselves in the “rest-and-digest” direction. 

I look no further than my teacup at this time of year. Herbal teas hydrate, warm and soothe us (no caffeine, thank you very much!). And they cue us to relax, slow down and sip our way toward calm and peace. Here are five of my favorites—and if you buy loose tea, you can combine these flavors to meet yourself wherever you are at tea time.

1)  Mint
Mint—peppermint in particular—has been found in research studies to have a relaxing impact on smooth muscle, including the muscles of the digestive tract. Antimicrobial and antiviral properties and high antioxidant levels add to mint’s appeal as a digestive helper. Sipped in a tea, mint can actually be refreshing, so this is a great choice when you want to ease your tummy but also have the energy to chat with loved ones after dinner.

2)  Ginger
Ginger is a gentle stimulant to the digestive tract, which helps ease nausea, bloating and cramping by moving things along. Fresh ginger boiled for 10-20 minutes makes for a bracing brew, clearing your sinuses, warming your insides and leaving you relaxed and grounded. 

3)  Chamomile
Chamomile tea is a subtle, floral flavor that delivers antioxidants and bloat-reducing properties along with soothing, sleep-inducing compounds that help you let go of anxiety and truly rest. Like ginger tea, chamomile tea is particularly delicious with a drizzle of honey melted into your warm, fragrant cup. 

4)  Cinnamon
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that can support immune health, protect you from bacterial infection and even help prevent certain cancers. It is also a highly warming, soothing aroma that fills not only your cup but the whole room with an inviting scent that says “holidays” but also “come on in and relax.”

5)  Lemon
“Lemon tea” can simply be hot water stirred together with a squeeze of lemon juice, or water simmered with several strips of lemon peel for 10-20 minutes (strain out the peel before sipping). Dried lemon peel is also a common ingredient in many herbal tea mixtures. The acid in lemon is clarifying and relaxing to the digestive tract, while the vitamin C in lemons can boost immunity. We’re working so hard to stay safe from Covid, shouldn’t we also protect ourselves from plain old colds…and relax in the process?

What are your favorite herbal teas for rest and digestion?

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