By Dr. Isaac Eliaz
If I were stranded and could only choose one beverage, I would probably take chai. A powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices, chai has been cherished for centuries in India to preserve health and increase peace of mind. But, the more we learn about chai, the more benefits we find. In addition to improving digestion, chai enhances the immune system, fights inflammation and has antioxidant properties. It has also been suggested that chai has antibacterial and anti-cancer effects.
Chai is made using different formulas, depending on the region where it is being consumed, but there are a number of standard ingredients: black tea, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, clove and black pepper. When analyzing chai’s health benefits, it’s important to examine each ingredient in turn. Though they act synergistically to increase each other’s benefits, the separate botanical components have powerful health benefits on their own.
It’s no secret that tea is full of antioxidants. However, the antioxidants in tea may provide more far-reaching protection than we suspected. For example, black tea may protect LDL (good) cholesterol, helping prevent cardiovascular disease. In addition, some research has shown black tea has anti-viral and anti-cancer properties.
An important root used in Eastern medicine, ginger aids digestion, improves circulation, boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation, which can be especially helpful for people suffering from arthritis. It offers antioxidant support, and some research has also shown that ginger can help fight cancer cells.
Found in virtually every Tibetan medicine formula, cardamom aids digestion and supports the immune system. In addition, it helps detoxify the body, improve circulation and may also fight respiratory allergies.
Keeping with the theme, cinnamon has wonderful digestive properties and may also help balance blood sugar. In addition, research has shown that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant effects.
A great source of antioxidants, fennel also provides Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Fennel has also demonstrated some anti-cancer effects.
Again, clove helps digestion, but it also has analgesic (pain relieving) properties and may help alleviate ulcer pain. In addition, clove has antibacterial action.
New research shows that black pepper may affect our metabolism. The study demonstrated black pepper’s direct influence on fat storage, suggesting that it may be useful to prevent fat accumulation. Black pepper also offers antibacterial and antioxidant support and aids digestion.
Given these benefits, chai’s popularity should be no mystery. The real question is why people in the West took so long to discover what Eastern practitioners have known for centuries—chai calms the mind, improves digestion and provides numerous additional advantages. This ancient beverage is treasured by people around the world for its delicious flavor and vital health benefits.