Chai has been drunk by Indians for centuries to maintain good health and for peace of mind, and because it tastes so damn good. But as we learn more about this amazing combination of tea and aromatic spices, we learn more about its exact health benefits too.
There are many variants of chai but essentially, it’s comprised of black tea with added spices. The most common ingredients include ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and cardamom. Milk and a sweetener are then often added.
The benefits of chai, therefore, depend on the quality of the blend and the types of spices. Here, we outline the main health benefits of each popular chai ingredients; all of these are found in Prana Chai’s signature Masala blend.
Black tea: the base of masala chai
Black tea is awash with good antioxidants. These are known to remove free radicals and decrease cell damage in the body caused by aging. The family of antioxidants found in black tea are called polyphenols and studies have indicated that these can reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Remember that black tea has caffeine, although not as much as coffee. Caffeine can improve memory, decrease fatigue and improve mental cognition. But naturally, it’s important not to drink too much if you’re pregnant or have heart issues.
The benefits of cinnamon in chai
Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices. It has been mentioned in the bible and at one point was considered more precious than gold. Cinnamon contains manganese, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and zinc and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds, nausea, diarrhoea and menstrual cramps.
Evidence from modern studies suggests cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar and offset sugar cravings, making it a helpful aid for those with type 2 diabetes. Other studies also highlight its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties.
Cardamom: an all-around godsend
The third most expensive spice in the world after saffron and vanilla, cardamom has a wealth of health benefits, most notably that it aids digestion and supports the immune system. It also has great antioxidant properties to help detoxify the body and improve blood circulation.
It is reported that cardamom also protects heart health – studies report that cardamom lowers heartbeats and controls rhythm and hypertension – and possesses anti-depressant properties.
Benefits of star anise in chai
Aside from looking cool, star anise has a number of health benefits when consumed, including but not limited to antioxidant properties – a 2007 study on animals found the development of cancer was inhibited in animals given star anise – anti-fungal and anti-bacterial uses.
Star anise has been used in South East Asia and China as a remedy to indigestion, bloating, constipation and abdominal cramps, as well as to ease coughs and soothe sore throats.
Soothe your soul and body with ginger
Perhaps ginger’s greatest claim to fame is as a remedy to nausea and as a digestive aid. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits that can help muscle soreness. Moreover, ginger has gut-boosting properties, which bolster our defences against colds and other common viruses.
Relatively new research suggests ginger may be a powerful anti-diabetic; a recent 2015 study found that ingesting 2g of ginger powder a day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12% on average. Other studies conclude that ginger may lower cholesterol levels too.
The lowdown on cloves
Although small in size, cloves pack in a lot of great benefits. They help digestion by relaxing the lining of the GI tract, thereby alleviating nausea, vomiting, gas and stomach aches, and are a natural painkiller and antibacterial.
Australian honey: our chai secret weapon
Apart from tasting great, honey has so many unique qualities. The flavonoids it contains are antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Honey is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, particularly useful to good skin health, and is probiotic.
Honey does contain sugar, hence its use as a sweetener, but its fructose and glucose ratio can help the body regulate blood sugar levels. Many honeys also have a low hypoglycaemic index so won’t jolt blood sugar levels either.
With its all-natural ingredients, premium Australian honey, warming capabilities and delicious taste, a bag of Prana Chai can keep you feeling healthy and at your best.