4 Ways Tea and Other Aphrodisiacs Spice Up Your Relationship – Part 1

A relationship is like a garden. In the beginning, you plant a few seeds and watch them blossom. As time goes on, though, you need to nurture the garden for it to stay as beautiful as it was in the beginning. Sprinkle a little thoughtfulness and attention, and you’re halfway there. So as to keep things fresh, you can always turn to aphrodisiacs. One of the most effective ones is tea. The consumption of tea dates back to as early as the third century AD. The east was first to reap its benefits, but the rest of the world soon caught on and tea was recognized as the universal problem solver.

Tea has a lot of health benefits for your physical and mental health. Therefore, you should be drinking it on regular basis regardless of how things are in the bedroom currently. These benefits will surely contribute to spicing things up, though. A healthy mind and body are conditions that need to be met if you want your relationship to be more passionate. Simply put, when you’re healthy and content with yourself, you’ll be more open to exploring the bedroom with your partner.

What’s more, some teas can even help with certain issues related to the bedroom. Ginseng tea, for example, contains compounds referred to as ginsenosides. They might not sound like anything special, but they affect gonadal tissue and battle erectile dysfunction.  Even though men might benefit from it more, it still increases the wants and needs of both partners that only they can satisfy together.

Spending years together can cause you either to drift apart or merge into the same person. More often than not, the former happens. In these cases, the question is finding an activity you can do together. You can try the classics like going to cooking or dancing lessons, but those activities can end up being stressful and hard to manage time-wise.

Growing closer should happen on the emotional and physical levels equally. That’s why the perfect activity might be reading and drinking tea together. This will stimulate your brains and your bodies alike. Catuaba bark tea should solve the physical distance, and choosing books for each other can reconnect you emotionally. Throw in a little dark chocolate as a snack and you’ve got a recipe for success. After all, dark chocolate is rich in tryptophan and phenylethylamine, both of which are associated with falling in love and generating more serotonin.

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To be concluded Monday

Crafted Holiday Tea Gifts – Part 2

Continued from yesterday’s post

A few weeks ago I was talking with my mother-in-law about yarn arts. As the weather cools there’s less to do outside (and less motivation to be out in the cold and wet weather!) so it’s the customary time of the year for at-home craft projects. My mom-in-law is a master crocheter and I am a novice knitter, so we’ve both spent many an evening with some yarn and a hook or pair of needles clicking away. She was listing some possible projects that people had asked of her, and I chimed in that I could use a tea cozy to keep the tea in my teapot warm for longer. At the time I considered it a reasonable thing to mention, thinking that it would be an easy Christmas present for her to give me.

Imagine my surprise last week when I got home after work and my mom-in-law was there, gesturing me into the kitchen. I found my teapot on the counter, covered in the most beautiful cozy I’ve ever seen! She’d picked out a yarn that matched the teapot, and found a pattern that was just stunning. I told her, awestruck, that it reminded me of a chrysanthemum with all its layered petals. She laughed a little and confessed that it had actually been an extremely quick and simple project for her, and had been the perfect warm-up for the crocheting season. (And by the way, it works GREAT at keeping my tea hot!)

Here are the final gift ideas that I came up with:

Tea Cozy
There are many ways to make a tea cozy, including crocheting, knitting, and sewing. My mom-in-law used this pattern, but a simple google search for “free tea cozy pattern” and whatever your medium of choice (“crochet” “knit” “sew”) should yield many delightful results.

Tea Light Cup Warmer
For those who are more comfortable in the shop using a drill than by the fire with a hook or needles, this tea light cup warmer is a great option! Made from a wooden board, aluminum rod, and a sheet of aluminum the author of this DIY lists the total cost of components at less than $10 (assuming, of course, that you already own a drill!).

Tea Gift Basket
When all else fails, it takes very little creative energy to put a couple mugs and a few small samples of your favorite teas in a pretty basket (bonus points if the mugs and basket are from a thrift store!), wrap it in cellophane, and add a bow. Or, to stick with our up-cycling and eco-friendly theme, try buying discounted semi-sheer fabric at a craft store and use that instead of cellophane. It instantly adds a touch of class and can be re-used for years.

These are just a few ideas that I have either given, received, or seen. Have you ever given or received any interesting tea-related gifts? I would love to hear more ideas!

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Crafted Holiday Tea Gifts – Part 1

Earlier this year I gave my younger brother a tea-related gift, inspired by his asking me about loose-leaf tea over bagged: A teapot that came with a strainer for loose tea. It was no plain, simple teapot, however, as I spent fourteen hours carefully painting seven delicate and colorful koi on the surface of the teapot.

With the previous in mind and knowing we’re going into the holiday season, I thought I would list a few holiday tea gifts that can be crafted or assembled yourself for that special, personal touch.

Painted Teapot, Tea Set, or Mug
There are always numerous teapots, teacups, saucers, creamers, sugar dishes, and mugs to be found at thrift stores. Plain or fancy, you can add whatever embellishment you like or think the recipient would enjoy. This isn’t limited to drawing, either: Words or phrases such as “Joe’s Tea” “Special Blend” “Morning Survival” or “Sophisticated Addiction” are easy to do as well. I personally used these paint pens (though there were only eight colors when I bought them, leaving me a bit more limited) for easier and cleaner application. And remember that stencils work great if you don’t want to draw or write it yourself! Be sure to use a paint or pens that are food-safe, and follow the instructions for how to best ensure the paints are permanently dry before gifting. For the ones I used, it needed to air-dry for one day and then I baked it in the oven to set.

Custom Tea Blend
For those of us who enjoy blending their own tea or tisanes, it’s always an option to give a custom blend as a gift! Most loose herbs are very cheap and not too difficult to acquire. Small holiday tins or jars can be found at many stores–including thrift stores!–and can easily be labeled and decorated with a ribbon. I’ve made tea blends as gifts (sometimes even by request), and my biggest advice would be: Make sure to write down the recipe you end up using! I still wish I could remember everything I put in the chocolate and licorice black tea I made for a girlfriend to give her father years ago.

Doilies or Table Covers
If you have the amazing ability to make lace by hand (or are game to teach yourself the art using YouTube videos or whatever resources you have available) you can always make delicate lace doilies or table covers. Another option is to crochet them with a fine thread or yarn. A fun alternative would be to sew them out of many pieces of cut fabric like one would a quilt! Doilies and table covers add a touch of class and pomp to tea’s presentation and can make the everyday that little bit more special.

Personalized Tea Ball
While I generally consider tea balls to be too much effort, they can make a simple but practical gift for many people. All you need to do is find a cheap basic tea ball and remove the weight from the end of the chain by snipping the ring holding it on with wire cutters. Then affix a charm or charms that the recipient will like. The easiest way to add charms is to use a split ring (think of the kind of ring typically used for keys on a keychain). Carefully separate the ring with a butter knife (or whatever method you use for keys) and slide the charm or charms onto it. Both split rings and charms can be found online or at your local craft store.

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To be concluded tomorrow…

Lettuce Leaf Tea……..? – T Ching

Every once in a while I come across something new, and lettuce leaf tea is a good example. I’ve never heard of it before. I found a few resources that give information about the amazing health benefits of this leaf, and when it’s organic it’s even better. So join me in learning about this interesting tissane.

Lettuce was first grown by the ancient Egyptians, thousands of years ago. It was considered to be “sacred”  due to its perceived healing benefits. Today, we can find lettuce in most every market around the world. Its use as a medicinal tea, however, has not yet become mainstream here in the U.S.

Health Benefits of Lettuce

There appear to be at least eight health qualities of the lettuce leaf that we should familiarize ourselves with.

  1. Neuroprotective features. There is animal based research to suggest that lettuce leaf extract can protect neurons in the brain from dying. It is believed that neuronal death causes memory loss which is the hallmark of a variety of forms of dementia.
  2. Reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the new issue that the alternative community is focusing on. The belief is that inflammation is the root cause of almost ALL diseases, both chronic and acute. In experimental models, lettuce leaf has been shown to impact inflammation.
  3. Aides in sleep. “One of the major traditional uses of lettuce in Unani medicine was as a sleep inducer. Research into the extracts of lettuce resulted in the isolation of a depressant chemical. This chemical, when administered in experimental animals, showed significant sedative effects. A 2013 research report, suggests that the main component(s) responsible for this effect in lettuce is most likely to be the non-polar agent(s),which are found in the n-butanol fraction (NBF)of this plant. [source] Decreased heart rate and ventricular contractions were also observed. This particular chemical acts by blocking the excitatory signal processes of muscular and neural tissues.”
  4. Reduces anxiety. There is some animal research that suggests that lettuce leaf has anxiolytic properties. When we consider how much money is spent annually on anti-anxiety medications, it’s certainly reasonable to consider this natural remedy. Apart from possible allergic reactions, which are possible with any food, there are no apparent side effects.
  5. Cholesterol lowering. Although there is some controversy regarding high levels of LDL cholesterol and its impact on heart health and stroke, there is evidence that lettuce leaf can lower cholesterol.
  6. Reduces the risk of certain cancers.
  7. Rich source of antioxidants. “Studies have shown that lettuce possesses antioxidants with significant free radical-scavenging capabilities. [source] Antioxidants are a wide range of biochemicals mostly found in our diet; they are also very necessary for human health. Antioxidants act as barriers to free radicals, which are produced during cellular metabolism. These free radicals attack healthy tissues, cells, and the DNA inside them. They can often cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer cells. The result is the development of various diseases. Antioxidants, on the other hand, counteract these free radicals and neutralize them before the free radical attacks take place.”
  8. Antimicrobial properties. I know that white tea has been shown to have an abundance of antimicrobial properties. It appears that lettuce leaf does as well.

Given all the evidence of potential health benefits, I think it’s reasonable to add this healthy plant into our wellness routine. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen lettuce leaf tea for sale, but fortunately, we have google to lead the way. Remember that with all plants and food products, organic is always best.

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Blast From the Past: Tea and its unique synergism of caffeine and L-theanine

Over the years, there have been many studies looking at the effects of caffeine and – more recently – L-theanine on human performance and mood.  However, I have noticed a growing body of research looking at the synergistic effect of both as found in tea.  Most recently, I read a study, sponsored by The Journal of Nutrition which looked at the effects of caffeine and L-theanine on cognitive performance.

I’m sure all readers are familiar with caffeine, either from personal experience or reading.  For those of you, however, who are not familiar with L-theanine, just a few bits of information.  L-theanine is found only in tea in any significant amount.  It is an amino acid that has a relaxing effect physiologically and subjectively.  This is further supported by research that shows distinct increases in the alpha brain-wave frequency.  Alpha, as many of you may know (especially if you were of college age in the 1960s), has been long associated with a relaxed, but alert state, of consciousness.

Without going into too much detail about how the study was set up, they looked at 44 young adults who consumed a RTD tea beverage, concocted for this study, that contained 40 mg of caffeine and 97 mg of L-theanine, along with sweeteners and lemon flavor, in a powder form combined with water.  The beverage used for the placebo group contained the same ingredients, except the caffeine and L-theanine.  The normal ratio of caffeine to L-theanine found in tea (35–61 mg of caffeine and 4.5–22.5 mg) was jacked up on the L-theanine side for this study because they were more interested in looking at what L-theanine adds to caffeine.  The subjects were given a variety of performance tasks related to attention and speed of processing and had their blood pressure and alertness/tiredness periodically monitored.

The results showed that the synergistic effect of caffeine and L-theanine specifically improved attentional functioning on challenging, complex tasks vs. previous findings on caffeine showing attentional improvement on more simple tasks.  In addition, as you might imagine, the combination also showed an increase in perceived alertness and reduction in fatigue as reported by a subjective measure completed by participants.  The final results also showed that, although there was a slight increase in systolic blood pressure, it was smaller than what is typically found in studies looking at the effects of caffeine alone on blood pressure.  The authors further pointed out that previous meta-analyses of the effects of tea on blood pressure suggest that long-term consumption appears not to increase blood pressure and, in fact, has shown to be protective of stroke incidents.

It is for the above reasons that tea has had such a propitious history in helping people improve performance (and health), whether for meditation or figuring out complex mathematical equations.  Drink your tea and live life to its fullest.

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This post first published November 2010 by Sandy Bushberg.

Harding Intsik in Manila – T Ching

Harding Intsik, an obscure attraction inside Manila’s vast Rizal Park, is a Chinese garden designed and gifted decades ago by the Taiwanese government.  A set of postage stamps featuring two of the most notorious dictators in Asia–namely Philippines’s Ferdinand Marcos and Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek–commemorates the garden’s completion in 1967.

Though not as splendid as Chinese gardens elsewhere, Harding Intsik incorporates the essential elements – zigzag bridge over pond, pavilions and corridors, statues of literati, lush vegetation, etc.  It could be the only oriental garden, on Planet Earth, adorned with giant palm trees!  No tea house or tea service onsite though.

 Before arriving in Manila during an eight-hour layover, I was warned numerous times about the city’s traffic congestion, which restricted my adventure to only the must-visit Intramuros – Spanish Colonial Period’s Walled City.  Manila is endowed with a sizable Chinatown and the peculiar Chinese Cemetery, neither of which piqued my interest.  It was during the drive to Intramuros that I stumbled upon Harding Intsik.

Those who were at the garden that rainy afternoon appeared to be university students.  They found shelter to escape the unpleasant mishmash of rain and heat; I could picture them sitting at the same spot, reading the same book in any sunny day though. Whatever they were drinking to quench thirst and combat humidity was either coffee or water, not tea.  Most tourists graded the garden lackluster, even a waste of time.  Certainly it was not built for tourists.  Its construction aimed to attain political goals, which fortunately entertain residents of a cacophonous, over-populated metropolis.

This is my tenth year contributing to T Ching.  I decided to write about Harding Intsik while reading in one review, after my trip, that although the Taiwanese government, more specifically, the Nationalist Party’s exploitation of taxpayer money, funded the entire project, all “evidence” such as commemorative plaques had been removed or replaced since the so-called “Rise of China.”  My tour guide photographed me holding an umbrella in front of the winding corridor.  How I wish I had turned around to inspect one plaque pinned to the corridor pillar, as shown in the photo, but there is really not a need.  Due to pressure from China, Taiwan is not admitted to not only the United Nations but also organizations such as the United Nations’ information-distributing, humanitarian agency WHO (World Health Organization).  At China’s request earlier this year, major airlines deleted references to Taiwan in their flight schedules.  The East Asian Olympic Committee barred TaiChung, Taiwan’s second largest city, from hosting the East Asian Youth Games.  All had been a struggle for the oppressed during the past ten years, and the struggle persists in the coming ten years when the oppressor wields power regardless of the sophomoric, trite propaganda and implementation.

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Blast From the Past: Time for moving on

Coffee and I had an ugly divorce.
“Bad for you,” the doctor said,
“Too much caffeine for your heart. Try green tea.”

Rather than marvel that a trained Medicine Man was endorsing
tea, I grieved. Suffered.
Woes of unrequited love. Anger. Denial. Deal-making.

The trappings of my failed marriage were lined up on the counter:
grinder; espresso maker; the finest muslin filters. A dozen message mugs.
Half-empty bags of beans.
All victims of a relationship turned sour.

My first dates with tea were blind. Bags.
I almost had one of those internet flings after
flirting with the likes of Twinings and Harney & Sons.

Rescued from the brink by T Ching, I am in love again.

No regrets.

Originally posted in November 2008 by uncredited

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Benefits of Tea for Your Mental Health – Part 2

In conclusion from yesterday’s post

  • Green tea. As illustrated by the discussion above, green tea is by far the most beneficial beverage when it comes to mental health improvement. The L-theanine, caffeine, and catechins in its composition prevent cognitive decay, enhance memory and alertness, and ward off depression and anxiety. However, other varieties have their benefits as well.
  • White tea. Clinical trials carried out in 2015 on lab rats showed that the caffeine contained by white tea maintains the health of the cerebral cortex when the beverage is consumed daily. Of course, this caffeine has other benefits as well, all of which have been presented in the previous section of the article.
  • Sage tea. The effects sage has on brain health are well-documented within the medical community. It can revert some of the damage done by Alzheimer’s disease, as well as enhance mood, memory, and mental function. One way to incorporate sage extract into your diet to achieve these benefits is by making it into tea, of course.
  • Lemon balm tea. Lemon balm is another herb with positive consequences for mental health and cognitive function. Mood, mental performance, and memory function are just a few examples of what can be improved with the help of the beverage. In addition to this, the drink promotes a sense of calmness, decreasing stress and anxiety levels.  
  • Gotu kola. The ancient Indian medical practice of Ayurveda hold the gotu kola herb quite dear, as it is a typical compound in many healing teas. Its bitter and pungent, yet sweet aroma isn’t useful only for spicing up the aroma of the hot drink, but also for your mind. Gotu kola keeps your brain sharp and your attention focused on what matters during the course of the day.
  • Rosemary. Anyone who is fond of cooking, meat in particular, knows what’s up with rosemary. The savory and appealing aroma of the herb is often used to condiment steaks and oven-fried vegetables, but did you know that it’s also quite relaxing? Rosemary tea is an effective treatment for stress and anxiety, as it helps you unwind after a long and busy schedule.
  • Ginkgo biloba. Everyone is familiar with the advantageous outcomes of gingko biloba on memory. Supplements advertise it all the time, but you don’t need to take it in pill form to achieve this. The herb makes for a great tea, and it works wonders for both young people, as well as older individuals with neurodegenerative conditions.

Tea can positively impact your mental health in many ways. Green tea is by far the most efficient beverage from this point of view due to compounds such as caffeine, L-theanine, and catechins. However, other types of traditional teas and herbal infusions help in areas such as memory, focus, or stress relief. The beverage is an overall win on the wellbeing front.

Image source: DepositPhotos

Author Bio: Mike Jones is a Boston-based health and beauty writer. His work is featured mostly on HomeRemedyShop, but he usually contributes to multiple authoritative websites on the web. Through his writing, Mike constantly encourages everyone to embrace the healing power of nature.

Benefits of Tea for Your Mental Health – Part 1

Guest Contribution by Mike Jones

Tea is the quintessential health-boosting drink. Due to the increase in popularity of the organic living trend, more and more people nowadays have taken a liking to it, and it has to do with more than just its pleasant aroma and soothing warmth. One major benefit includes the positive effect it has on mental health.

L-Theanine and Caffeine

There are many reasons behind this. First of all, tea contains an adequate dose of caffeine, which increases alertness and improves mental focus. However, when its effects wear off, there are other compounds which work on relieving your mind from the damaging effects of stress, anxiety, and even depressive episodes.

For one, a 2008 study has uncovered that L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid that coexists with caffeine solely in teas, is a great way to relax without becoming drowsy. Research conducted one year before showed that the two by their powers combined reduce mental fatigue, while at the same time enhancing memory function and reaction time.

What is more, L-theanine and caffeine have beneficial effects over time as well, as detailed by a study conducted more recently in 2011. The participants in the clinical trial were administered green tea throughout the course of 16 weeks. At the end of the investigation, they exhibited significant cognitive enhancement.

Thus tea, and especially green tea, not only improves your overall mental state for the day, but it can make a positive impact on the long-term too. On top of that, these are merely the outcomes of the action of L-theanine when combined with mild doses of caffeine. There are even more useful compounds in tea that we should consider.

Antioxidant Catechins

Catechins are an antioxidant that is present in green tea, and its outcomes in the case of achieving better mental health have been demonstrated by several studies. A study performed back in 2004 on animal subjects and published in the Experimental Gerontology journal proved this hypothesis with the help of at-risk mice.

The advantageous consequences of catechin therapy include the prevention of cognitive dysfunction, as well as the development of better memory skills. In addition to this, the antioxidant impedes negative brain changes from occurring, which can counteract neurodegenerative conditions in the long run.

Furthermore, one catechin known as theogallin has anti-depressive effects on the brain when working together with the L-theanine in tea. All in all, the main mental health benefits of the beverage are a result of all the health-enhancing compounds that go into it working together.

Image source: DepositPhotos

Author Bio: Mike Jones is a Boston-based health and beauty writer. His work is featured mostly on HomeRemedyShop, but he usually contributes to multiple authoritative websites on the web. Through his writing, Mike constantly encourages everyone to embrace the healing power of nature.

Rose Hip Tisane – T Ching

The Nootka rose, a species of wild rose native to the United States

A few weeks back, my husband went for a walk in a forested area and brought me back a surprise: Freshly-picked rose hips! He knows that I’m always excited to receive ingredients to use for medicinal purposes, and rose hips are a powerhouse of healthful benefits.

Rose hips are the name for the fruit that grows on the rose plant after the flowers have faded. Many people might not realize, but roses are in the family Rosaceae and therefore related to apples, pears, cherries, apricots, and almonds! Rose hips ripen to a bright, cheerful red and are a very healthy fruit. I would only recommend caution when gathering rose hips that you be certain you know what conditions they were grown in, as many domestic roses are sprayed with bug sprays or other chemicals. You certainly don’t want that unexpected ingredient in your tisane! If wildcrafting, you might want to double-check that you are allowed to harvest the fruit at that location, as some federal parks do not allow it. Finally, while all rose hips are edible, the tartness and amount of flavor can vary.

The Nootka rose hips once I finished scooping the seeds out

Drying rose hips is quite simple. Carefully cut off the very top and the very bottom so all that’s left is the bright red fruit. Next, spread them out in the open air for a few days to begin drying. Then cut them in half and scoop out all of the seeds! The seeds can be used to grow more roses, but the hairs on them can be irritating so it’s not advised that they be eaten. Then simply allow the halved, seeded rose hips to dry for a few more days until they are completely dry. Then they can be either chopped or not, depending on your preference, and placed in an airtight, light-proof container.

Nootka rose hip on bush

The hips that my husband brought me are from one of the local wild rose plants, rosa nutkana or the Nootka Rose. Every part of the Nootka Rose was used by the local Salish peoples, for food or for medicine. The hips were traditionally eaten fresh, mixed with salmon eggs. They are also still used today by locals in the same manner as any other rose hip: made into a tisane, jam, or syrup.

The best-known medicinal purpose of rose hips is that they are an excellent source of Vitamin C, so they’re recommended for preventing colds and boosting the immune system. However, both the drying process and age cause the quantity of Vitamin C to depreciate over time, so they’re not something you want to keep on your shelf for long periods of time: The fresher the better! They’re also traditionally considered to be useful for digestive problems and used topically in lotions and oils for improving skin elasticity.

Research has shown that taking a rose hip product 3-4 times per day reduced pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Some early research has shown tentative results for slightly reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and that it can be helpful for improving some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Early research has also shown that applying a cream containing rose hip oil (and some other ingredients) twice per day was helpful in reducing or preventing stretch marks during pregnancy.

The major precautions against ingesting rose hips are all related to the Vitamin C content: Pregnancy and breast-feeding, arthritis, kidney stones, iron-related disorders, stroke, blood clots, et cetera. Likewise contraindications with any medications that can be affected by Vitamin C. (If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist!)

When used in a tisane, rose hips should be steeped for at least ten minutes in freshly boiled water to help get the maximum benefit from the fruit. The flavor is light and fruity. I often mix it with rose petals and catnip for a floral/herbal/fruity blend that I find to be a delightful combination of both flavor and medicinal benefit!

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Wikipedia: Rosaceae
A Selection of Pacific Northwest Native Plants Traditional and Modern Harvest and Use (PDF Document)
Salish Harvest: Nootka Rose (Rosa Nutkana)
WebMD: Rose Hips