Food & Drink

Calm Your Coronavirus Anxiety With These Herbal Teas

calming herbal teas
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

“(a) Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health.” ~ Dalai Lama

It seems like the world is temporarily upside down – like we are living in virtual reality. News cycles amplify fears and anxiety, and without meaning to, even well-intended activities like sharing concerns with loved ones or managing family emotions can cause or increase stress and leave us sleepless.

Perhaps a little disconnect is in order to help create our own private calm, one we control, something that lets us stay in touch with reality… like a warm cup of soothing helpful tea. Brewed in the safety and comfort of home, a good cup of tea can reduce stress. Even its aroma can melt stresses away.
 
But first, a brief primer. Any beverage made from steeping herbs (with or without spices) is called a “tisane.” Tea is a tisane, but it’s made with leaves from the tea plant. Tisanes and green teas, even though the latter contains some caffeine, can help relieve stress. 

Thanks to centuries of global trade, we don’t have to scour special markets or gardens for the best teas. Here are some of my favorite herbs that make fantastic relaxing teas:

Chamomile

This garden herb has beautiful daisy-like flowers no bigger than a quarter. Dried chamomile flowers make a wonderful tisane. It is a very pale yellow color, with a soft floral fragrance like late summer afternoon breeze (which is when the flower blooms, too). Chamomile tea helps calm the stomach and contains apigenin, a substance that supports sleep, relieves anxiety, and may help reduce depression.

Valerian

The root of the Valerian plant is dried and brewed to make another popular remedy for supporting sleep. Also called “nature’s Valium,” the root contains compounds that change how the brain reacts to fear, stress, and anxiety, and calms down the brain. As the tea is made with a dried root, it has a woody taste. A splash of orange flower water adds a delicious delicate aroma that makes the drink far more enjoyable.

Lavender

Lavender reminds me of a dewdrop-laden morning. Lavender oil has a uniquely calming aroma and is very popular in aromatherapy as it reduces stress and anxiety, and is frequently used in memory care and for patients with dementia. A fragrant lavender blossom tea may be all you need to ease your day away. 

Passionflower

A beautiful tropical flower vine, passionflower has long been used to calm the mind. It prevents anxiety and insomnia – and like Valerian, some of its compounds prevent the brain from overthinking. The dried flower steeped in a pot of water will make for fragrant and calming brew.

Ashwagandha/winter cherry 

This herb has been used for more than 3,000 years to treat anxiety, stress, and insomnia because it is an adaptogen, which means it addresses the stress messaging that our nervous system receives. Ashwagandha (also known as winter cherry) roots and leaves are used in herbal medicines. It’s odorless and tasteless on its own. For a tasty cup of Ashwagandha tea, steep it with other beneficial and aromatic herbs, like lavender, or some rose petals, which are not only fragrant but also stress busters in their own right.

Turmeric and honey

This is a powerhouse combination. Turmeric, related to ginger, is extracted from the plant’s roots (rhizomes, technically), and is very popular particularly in Indian and Persian cooking. It’s effective fresh and thinly sliced or in its dried, powdered form.

This yellow spice is an anti-inflammatory and overall healing spice. Good quality honey is considered calming and helps with sleep. Turmeric brewed in milk, and topped with a spoonful of honey is every Indian grandma’s recipe to help you relax, but can also be made as a tea with loose green tea for a dairy-free version.

Even the little things matter. A relaxing tea ritual can start with assembling the ingredients. With a saucepan, a sieve, and your favorite tisane, water and fragrant herbs can be your remedy for stress. Organic raw materials from reputed brands like Feel Good Organics, Banyan Botanicals, and Melissa’s Produce, particularly for fresh turmeric root, are a great way to stock the pantry. 

Brands like The Tea Company also offer loose leaf herbal blends that may contain green tea. If you would rather enjoy the convenience of teabags, brands like Organic India, Traditional Medicinals, and Numi have wonderful blends. Well-made tisanes and teas offer a fantastic double dose of aromatherapy – and even holding the cup can be relaxing.

This year, in particular, appears to be intent in giving us perspective, so we focus on the little things that matter the most, and that bring us joy. A well-made cup of “functional” tea can put us in just the right frame of mind to relax, so, as the Dalai Lama suggests, we can calmly forge ahead, with strength, self-confidence, and good health.

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Nandita Godbole is a Thrillist contributor.