PhotoAmong the big three of hot beverages--coffee, hot chocolate and tea--a person could go any way when they want something warm and soothing to drink.

For generations tea has been the hot beverage most associated with health and well-being, but not too many studies have examined if it’s really good for you or if it's just nice to drink.

Apparently, a pair of Boston researchers noticed the same thing, as they  examined three of the more popular kinds of herbal tea among U.S. residents, to see if there is any scientific proof to back up the public’s perception of tea being healthy.

Diane McKay and Jeffrey Blumberg of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, took a close look at chamomile, peppermint and hibiscus tea, and pulled research from past studies to determine if they really had any health value.

The researchers found that chamomile tea has an antimicrobial and antioxidant agent, and has the ability to help with blood clotting due to its anti-clumping agent. However there was no scientific proof to show that chamomile tea actually relaxes you and puts you to sleep.

Soothing to the stomach

PhotoMcKay and Blumberg also pulled scientific data about peppermint tea and its potential health benefits.

They found through a series of test tube studies that the minty beverage has the potential to alleviate some allergies, and also contains a significant amount of antioxidants and antimicrobial activities.

Researchers also found peppermint tea could be good for your stomach, after they gave peppermint leaves and leaf extracts to animals, and noticed it provided a calming effect on the animal's digestive tissue and nervous system.

Although there were no findings about peppermint tea and its effects on the human stomach, both McKay and Blumberg have concluded there is enough useful information on herbal teas to conduct further research.

Lower blood pressure

McKay also examined 65 study participants aged 30 to 70 to determine if hibiscus tea had any effect on blood pressure. All of the volunteers were either on the borderline of having high blood pressure or had moderate cases of it.

Half of the participants were told to drink hibiscus tea, the other half drank a fake version of the tea that was just hibiscus flavored.

The researchers took the blood pressure of both groups several times, before and after the testing period--which lasted for six weeks.

PhotoThe researchers found the volunteers who consumed the real hibiscus tea lowered their systolic bold pressure by 7.2 points, which is the top number in blood pressure readings.

The group who drank tea without real hibiscus only saw a drop in their pressure by 1.3 points. Both groups were told to maintain their usual diets and exercise regiments during the six-week testing period.

McKay and Blumberg say the findings show that hibiscus tea isn’t just a soothing drink and it could be increasingly helpful for those who have mild hypertension.

“This data supports the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required,” said McKay in a statement.

Lower cancer risk

In a separate study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that older women who consistently drink green tea could have a lower chance of developing throat, colon and stomach cancer, compared to those women who don’t drink green tea at all.

Canadian researchers studied 69,000 Chinese women for a ten-year span and found those who drank green tea at least three times each week, had a 14 percent lower risk of developing those cancers associated with the digestive system.

Since the participants in the study led relatively healthy lives, it was difficult for the researchers to determine if green tea was the main reason they had lower cancer risks, but the lead study author Wei Zheng said after taking their diets and lifestyle into account, he and his team still found enough evidence to link the lower cancer risks to green tea.

“In this large prospective cohort study, tea consumption was associated with reduced risk of colorectal and stomach/esophageal cancers in Chinese women,” he said in a written statement. “

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