From the morning black tea, steeped for two minutes and swallowed as a quick pick-me-up, to the ceremonial matcha, delicately hand-whisked and savored after hours of ceremony, the many benefits and joys of tea drinking have made their way around the world. But despite the widespread consumption of tea, few people understand the full medicinal benefits of tea drinking.
Tea therapy, a method of caring for physical and psychological health, is more than simply drinking any tea. Its science is rooted in the five element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has been used since the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC) to diagnose and treat illness. The five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, and water – are the basis for everything in the material world. They maintain balance and harmony through their relationships to one another and are indispensable to nature.
The Five Elements and Organs
In TCM theory, the five elements correspond directly to five bodily organs: wood corresponds to the liver, fire to the heart, earth to the spleen, metal to the lungs, and water to the kidney. Just as the relationships between the five elements maintain balance in nature, the relationships between the five organs maintain balance in the human body. If any given organ enters an imbalanced state, known as having either too much or too little qi, this is manifested in physical or psychological symptoms.
The Five Elements and Seasons
The five element-organ pairs each correspond to a season, as well. Wood, characterized by growth, corresponds to the spring. Fire, characterized by warmth, corresponds to the summer. Earth, characterized by transformation, corresponds to the late summer. Metal, characterized by descent, corresponds to autumn. And finally, water, characterized by coldness, corresponds to the winter. As each of these seasons wax and wane, so do their respective elements and organs.
Tea therapy is perfect for treating unnatural imbalances and seasonal changes in the body because it is completely customizable. The main ingredients used in tea therapy are edible flowers, herbs, dried fruits, and mild medicinal materials, but the specific formula depends on the intentions of the therapy.
Five Flower Tea (五花茶)
Five Flower Tea is a classic and easy tea to start your tea therapy journey with. It is often drunk in the summer season, as it helps cool the body, alleviate dampness, and remove toxins. As we are still in the summer season, right now is the perfect time to give Five Flower Tea a go.
As the name suggests, this tea is brewed with five different flowers. Though there is no strict recipe, some common flowers used include:
- Kapok flower
- Sophora flower
- Magnolia flower
How to Brew
- Measure about 2 grams of each of the dried flowers and soak them in water for 10-15 minutes to get rid of dirt.
- Drain the water and pour 1-1.5 cups of boiled water over the flowers
- Steep the flowers for 10-15 minutes
- Strain out the flowers
- Sweeten to taste using honey or Chinese brown sugar
Whether it is different seasons, lifestyle changes, everyday stressors, or major life events, every single thing around us impacts our qi. As our qi ebbs and flows through highs and lows, it is crucial to listen to our bodies so that we can provide the proper nourishment needed. Tea therapy is one of the most effective and easy ways to ensure a stable and healthy body and mind. Whether you’re an avid tea drinker or an amateur one, give tea therapy a go and you will no doubt reap its wonderful benefits.