Chai, as a tea, is a pretty interesting product. The origin of the name lies in “cha”, which is the Chinese term for “tea”. However, the drink itself couldn’t be as far away from the traditional Chinese definition. While many other parts of Asia consider the essence of tea to be that of “purity” and “calmness”, the Indian version, chai, is as strong and colorful as the culture that birthed it.
Chai is essentially spiced tea, with emphasis on “spiced”. It is a black tea mixed with a myriad of spices such as ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and more. The recipe changes from area to area (sometimes even from house to house), but the idea remains the same. This concoction is then brewed with milk, and tempered with sugar or honey. The resulting strong tea is quite the experience, but not many people outside India get to experience it — the “chai” we usually get served in coffee shops have very little in common with the kick of the original.
One side note in the development of chai is that according to records, the original versions did not even contain leaves of the camellia sinensis — the tea plant from China. This, along with the milk and sugar, were later additions. According to legend, chai was originally invented as an Ayurvedic drink that relied on the various medicinal properties of the original components. This is a good thing to mean that chai was really made to be a healing beverage from the get-go. Aside from the many benefits of tea, we can also count on the various ingredients to help keep our body in good health.
Chai Tea Benefits
Chai tea is considerably a wonderful brew of black tea combined with some awesome spices, including nutmeg, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, as well as ginger, along with soy, rice, coconut, or cow milk. There are a certain health benefits associated with this spiced drink from India. Here are some research-backed reasons why you should take up a hot cup of chai:
1. Chai tea helps improve the blood and stimulate the mind
The cinnamon content of chai has a two-fold power. First, it helps reduce high blood sugar by improving the blood’s glucose content. Also, it helps reduce the blood’s lipid content, such as total cholesterol and triglycerides. This was found in a study that involved people with Type 2 diabetes, who responded to cinnamon intake.
Also present is the cardamom ingredient of chai tea that helps stimulate and clear the mind. Nutmeg, which is another ingredient of chai tea, is helpful in improving sleep when taken in small doses. In addition to helping stimulate the mind, cardamom is also effective in the elimination of allergies that may result from consuming dairy products.
2. Chai tea has a strong antibacterial property
Cloves are known to help restore and invigorate the body. It also helps generate heat in the body which can be significantly helpful during cold or flu season. Cloves have long been thought of as a strong antibacterial and modern science brings the proof.
A study as early as 1989 has found that cloves can kill up to 99.99% of bacteria dispersed in a sugar medium. It is to be noted that sugar is one of the most basic energy sources of bacteria, and should have helped the bacteria multiply rapidly if not for the introduction of clove essence. One of chai’s mainstay ingredients is cloves, and drinking it allows us to take advantage of this strong antibacterial property.
Cinnamon, which is one of the ingredients of chai tea helps fight flu, sore throat, and colds. In addition, nutmeg can help moisten the airways and also reduces drying of the mucus membranes of the throat which can be due to smoking.
Chai tea also contains an ingredient known as star anise. An extract from star anise, known as shikimic acid, is one of the main ingredients of the antiviral Tamiflu drug which is used to treat avian influenza.
3. Chai tea has the potential to help with cancer
Chai tea contains strong antioxidants that can help prevent cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer. We already know that the antioxidant chemicals in tea greatly help in the fight against cancer cells.
But add to that the power of ginger, one of chai’s ingredients, and we have a veritable anticancer powerhouse. Ginger is popularly associated with antioxidant properties which can therefore protect the body from certain cancers, including colo-rectal cancer. It can also be helpful against ovarian cancer. According to a study done in India, ginger has exhibited chemo-preventive properties in various laboratory studies, using different experimental models.
Black tea, which is one of the ingredients of chai tea, is also a strong antioxidant that can help protect body tissues and cells against free radical damage.
4. Chai tea helps in the absorption of other nutrients
Chai tea is also associated with digestive boosting effects. This is why it is often taken after meals. Black pepper, which is an ingredient of chai tea, enhances the ability of the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, which in turn help speed up digestion of heavy foods such as protein and fat.
Black pepper specifically contains the substance piperine. This is known for its ability to enhance the bioavailability of other nutrients, meaning it allows the body to absorb more of the essential nutrients in the drink. Some other studies have found that this same substance possesses antimutagenic properties and the ability to discourage the development of tumors.
Cinnamon is also a well-known digestive stimulant which is widely used worldwide. It is helpful to effectively stop diarrhea and stomach upsets. In addition, cardamom helps relieve gas, nausea, as well as heartburn.
The ginger content of chai tea is also a renowned digestive herb that can help eliminate nausea as well as support healthy digestion.
5. Chai tea is a potent analgesic
Many of the ingredients in chai tea are known to be powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Cardamom, a seed used for flavoring, also lends its unique properties to chai. These seeds have potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities. Cardamom also exhibits antispasmodic properties, which makes chai a good drink for those with pain and similar ailments.
Cloves, which is one of the ingredients of chai tea contains a compound known as eugenol, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that is effective in relieving gum pain as well as general inflammation.
Ginger, an ingredient of chai tea, is associated with broad anti-inflammatory properties which is a useful natural alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
Cinnamon is also associated with anti-inflammatory properties.
6. Chai tea helps prevent hypertension
Among the many effects of black tea is its ability to help lower a person’s blood pressure. This is helpful especially in this modern age where lifestyle diseases are very prevalent. Studies have shown that continuous intake of black tea — the base of most chai preparations — can help manage hypertension and many of its symptoms.
7. Chai tea helps reduce the chance of skin cancer
Aside from the antioxidant levels of black tea, research has also found that it can stop the progress of skin cancer caused by overexposure to ultraviolet light. This adds more credence to the overall anticancer properties of chai.
The cardamom content, a chai tea spice, has been associated with antioxidant effects that can help fight non-melanoma skin cancer. It may also be effective in lowering blood pressure as well as reducing other cardiovascular risks.
- Zhi Y. Wang, Mou-Tuan Huang, You-Rong Lou, Jian-Guo Xie, Kenneth R. Reuhl, Harold L. Newmark, Chi-Tang Ho, Chung S. Yang, & Allan H. Conney (1994). Inhibitory Effects of Black Tea, Green Tea, Decaffeinated Black Tea, and Decaffeinated Green Tea on Ultraviolet B Light-induced Skin Carcinogenesis in 7,12-Dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-initiated SKH-1 Mice.
8. Chai tea helps supply oxygen to the blood
The Indian culture is big on breathing and invigorating the body, and chai also helps with this. Thanks to the ability of black tea to help improve the dilation of the brachial artery, blood can receive more oxygen as blood flow through the heart-lung system gets better.
9. Chai tea helps you lose weight
Cinnamon has long been thought to help trim down the waistline, and research has found that there’s ample truth to this claim. Aside from the fact that it lowers blood sugar (therefore preventing the body from turning sugar into fat), it also helps prevent hyperlipidemia, or the tendency of the body to create excess fat from its resources.
10. Chai tea helps prevent ulcers
Whereas other types of beverages can induce ulcer, the anti-inflammatory compounds in chai’s ginger content helps prevent the onset of this potentially dangerous condition. In some tests, ginger has effectively reduced gastric lesions.
These are some of the most remarkable chai tea benefits that can you can enjoy when you consider trying this spiked drink from India.
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