tea illustration by Malini Basu
In a stressful environment, tea could be just the drink you need to relax. (Illustration by Malini Basu, Macalester College))

Need To Self-Soothe? Try These 7 Calming Teas

COVID-19 and college can cause a lot of stress, but here are some relaxing beverages that can help.

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tea illustration by Malini Basu

COVID-19 and college can cause a lot of stress, but here are some relaxing beverages that can help.

All of the changes surrounding COVID-19 and a new semester require that college students take extra care of themselves, from the routines we create to the amount of sleep we get. What we drink can even make a difference in how we cope with stress and anxiety. Though energizing coffee is usually the beverage of choice for college students, tea can be a better option for relieving stress. Not all tea is equally relaxing, though: While herbal tea is free of any caffeine and good for calming down before bed, black and green teas deliver a caffeinated boost of energy without coffee-induced jitters. Here are some of the best teas for finding calm, whether you are coping with stress or just need a quiet, soothing moment to yourself.

1. Peppermint

Peppermint tea is my go-to whenever I need something soothing and delicious. The mint flavor is refreshing in and of itself, but peppermint also has many medicinal properties to help calm physical reactions to pressure and anxiety. Peppermint tea helps ease the pain of tension headaches, as peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant. When stress has you holding tension in your upper back and neck, peppermint tea can be a good remedy for easing that tightness.

In addition, the muscle-relaxing properties of peppermint are incredibly helpful for aiding digestion and calming an upset stomach. As someone whose anxiety often manifests in uncomfortable abdominal symptoms, peppermint tea is a godsend — not to mention that it can assist with menstrual cramps as well.

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is another natural herb that has many calming health benefits. Like peppermint, lemon balm is wonderful for easing indigestion, nausea, cramps and headaches, and it is a great option for when you need to soothe physical anxiety symptoms. In addition, lemon balm has beneficial psychological effects. Studies have shown that lemon balm can help you relax, boost your mood and even improve cognitive function.

While many of these studies have explored the effects of lemon balm supplements, you can reap the benefits from tea as well. Lemon balm tea has a pleasantly mild flavor that is soothing at any time of day, but especially before bedtime.

3. Ginger

Ginger tea is not necessarily known for its soothing properties, but its reputation as a digestive aid — ginger is especially useful for reducing nausea — makes it an optimal choice for anyone who suffers from stress-induced stomachaches. In addition, ginger can help lessen pain from headaches. These pain-relieving properties may stem from the herb’s anti-inflammatory effect, which can also help with easing stress; because stress produces an inflammatory response, ginger may be useful for counteracting feelings of tension.

Though some find the spiciness of ginger tea to be energizing, I love the flavor’s soothing natural warmth. Ginger tea is especially convenient, as you can easily make it at home from scratch by steeping slices of fresh ginger in hot water. Add some honey and a lemon wedge, and you have a lovely, comforting tonic.

4. Matcha

Matcha is also not traditionally known for its calming benefits, as it contains caffeine, a stimulant. However, green tea contains naturally occurring L-theanine, an amino acid compound that helps relieve anxiety and promotes relaxation. Though you can absorb L-theanine by drinking any kind of green tea, matcha’s concentrated nature packs an extra punch, allowing you to reap more of the benefits of the calming compound. If you’re looking for an energy boost in the morning that doesn’t make you jittery and tense, matcha is the perfect choice.

5. Valerian

Valerian root is found in many calming tea blends, especially those intended to promote sleep. Recognized as “nature’s Valium,” the herb has had a reputation as a natural sedative for centuries. Valerian root contains a number of compounds and antioxidants known for their calming and sedating properties.

Valerian is especially useful for calming anxiety, as it is able to interact with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that regulates nerve impulses in your brain and helps quiet your mind. When GABA levels are too low, your mind can become busier, unfocused and more reactive, leading to heightened anxiety. Valerian assists in inhibiting the breakdown of GABA, leaving more of it in the brain to be used, resulting in a naturally relaxing effect. If you’re in need of something to calm racing thoughts and prepare you for sleep, a freshly brewed cup of valerian tea is the way to go.

6. Lavender

Used often in many essential oil and moisturizer blends for aromatherapy, lavender is known for its calming effect. Studies have shown that lavender helps treat anxiety and depression and lifts mood by influencing how cells in the brain communicate with each other. Lavender’s ability to calm the nervous system can also help promote sleep.

Lavender has a distinctly floral taste that makes for a pleasant herbal brew. Sipping a cup of lavender tea before bed is the perfect way to quiet your body and mind and ready yourself for bed. While enjoying your drink, make sure to breathe in its aroma deeply as you sip, as the scent of lavender has a strong relaxing effect as well.

7. Chamomile

Chamomile tea is a popular herbal beverage with a light floral and earthy flavor. I have fond memories of picking chamomile as a child and making tea with the sprigs, and its taste has always provided me with comfort. Chamomile has a variety of health benefits ranging from its ability to reduce inflammation, treat wounds and improve gastrointestinal and menstrual disorders.

Of course, many are familiar with its reputation for promoting relaxation and sleep. Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in the brain that reduce anxiety and encourage sleepiness. If you’re in need of a dose of calming coziness, snuggle up with a mug of chamomile tea — it’s perfect for chilly fall days.

Each of these beverages provide a soothing effect on their own, and you can either purchase them as tea bags, loose leaf tea or brew them fresh at home if you have the right herbs. You can also find calming tea blends that include several of these herbs together, such as Traditional Medicinals’ Belly Comfort Tea with ginger and peppermint, Tazo’s Calm Chamomile Tea with peppermint and lemon balm and Yogi’s Honey Lavender Stress Relief Tea with chamomile and lemon balm. Whether you blend several herbs together or enjoy the pure flavor of just one, these teas provide a soothing, grounding warmth to quiet your body and mind during this school season and leave you with a little more peace.

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