Why you should Drink Hot Tea on a hot day~ Old Fashion Tea Time August 02 2015
Before I go into a long winded explanation about all the amazing reasons that we should consume herbal teas every day of our earthly lives, let's talk ice!
Right now it's summer and culturally we are convinced that ice water, iced tea, ice cream, and the general ingestion of anything cold is what we need to cool down our body temperature from the intolerable heat that is going on outside. The truth is that the more ice we consume the hotter these summer days will feel and the more digestive complaints we may have as a result. Drinking hot tea increases hydration, supports healthy digestion, and keeps you feeling cooler. If you think I’m crazy now, let me explain the madness to my method.
In the immediate moment that we consume icy cold stuff it feels amazingly refreshing, but it only takes a bit of time to feel the digestive fire die down and a sudden drop in vital energy levels. We quickly begin to feel sluggish. Laying on the couch begins to sound more appealing than digging in the dirt to tend a garden, take a hike, or go outdoors to play sports.
Cultures that live without refrigeration have less digestive complaints and are more adjusted to hot weather. Ms. Beatrice Waight was an herbalist and third generation Mayan healer from Central America. She talked about this concept quiet often. In Belize refrigeration did not come into her cultural existence until she was already practicing in herbal medicine. She saw the dramatic change in her clients as the cold drinks and popsicles made their way into the local population. Those who consumed the newly introduced iced foods were coming in complaining of stomach aches, headaches, heat exhaustion, and what she called a ‘jumping rabbit pulse’ that could be felt in the solar plexus. She would often come to find out that these symptoms were the result of consumed ice products. There was a new refrigerator at the village market in her early twenties and they sold iced popsicles, coca cola, and other frozen goodies that became all the rage with the local children. The addition of ice changed Ms. Beatrice’s client complaints and her cultural digestive reality.
In Ayurveda the digestive fire is a primary function of health and measures overall vitality. It is known that the stomach maintains a temperature of somewhere about 100 degrees. This is a function that allows us to process and digest food by literally cooking it, often for a second time, and braking it down into the basic nutritional building blocks. In Ayurveda most foods are to be served warm to assist in digestion and support the stomach in not having to work so hard to break down nutrients for proper absorption. Eating food that is already the temperature of the internal organs is assimilated more easily and with less strain on the digestive system. This helps the stomach not have to work so hard. The same story is true with water. Hot, warm, or room temperature is better than icy cold.
When we add ice into the mix, our digestive systems have to work double time to heat back up to a functional 100 degrees in order to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients. When your internal organs are working this hard to override ice consumption the stomach spends even more energy to heat up in an over compensation of getting back to normal. This is what makes a hot day feel even hotter. Your inside temperature doesn’t match your outside temperature. A cold gut thinks that an outdoor surface temperature of 98 degrees feels like its way more than your body temperature. It’s sort of like placing the oven right next to the refrigerator in your kitchen with both of them running at the same time. Both have to work extra hard to do their job. A massive cold shift in the gut’s thermostat quells the digestive fire, turning a roaring furnace into a pile of smoke and ashes. This is where cramping, stomach aches, and multiple digestive complaints start to kick in, and also accounts for a decreased absorption of nutrients, as well as resulting in unexplained headaches.
Now imagine that your insides are the same temperature as your outsides. Say its 99 degrees outside and you want to go work in the garden or play sports. You are one with your environment. Your body temperature, your gut, and the weather are all in homeostasis. Your acclimation allows you to function efficiently in the heat while the ice-drinkers run for AC.
Think for a minute about a farm worker in Central America who performs heavy manual labor all day in 100 degree weather. His drink of choice is often a hot cup of coffee. His water jug has no ice in it, and when he goes home at the end of the day the tequila is no colder than his back side. He can work harder, faster and longer than most North American’s in what we consider intolerable heat.
Modern culture is addicted to ice. When we describe a moment of long deserved relaxation it often includes an ice cold beer. Children bounce with excitement over ice cream. There is something exciting about icy treats on hot days, but this excitement has only been around for somewhere close to the last 50 years. What on earth did we get excited about before then? I would put my vote on a proper British tea time. Summer or winter, tea time was always an exciting moment of respite in the day. Traditionally (meaning before refrigeration), tea was served hot.
This drinking of cold things that causes digestive dysfunction and heat exhaustion can also result in the common headache. This was very clear to Ms. Beatrice who never took a physiology class in her life. She saw that the tension and constriction in the head was a result of the tension and constriction of the gut. In Chinese medicine they call the stomach the second brain, expressing the direct link between digestion and brain function. Even modern western medicine acknowledges the gut/head connection with a long list of digestive disorders that result in manifested headaches or migraines. A throbbing head typically accompanies ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or diverticulitis. When the digestion is corrected the headache goes away.
So who knew that drinking hot tea on a hot day could be so life changing? Perhaps you’d like to try a warm spiced chai on a hot summer day. India has done it for thousands of years. The warming and diaphoretic spices in chai tea balance internal temperature and push excess internal heat out the periphery there by cooling off the skin’s surface temperature. Plus it tastes good which makes you drink more, keeping you hydrated.
Hydration is super important. With increased perspiration comes an increase in water and mineral loss. General increasing of fluids is a good idea. On a really hot day increasing fluid absorption into the cells and tissues is even more specific. This is where adding some herbs to your water can increase overall hydration. Yup, more reasons to drink tea! Adding nutritive and demulcent herbs to your water increases cellular hydration, replaces mineral loss from sweating, and cools you down better. Nutritive herbs are high in readily available minerals. Demulcent herbs allow for proteins in cell membranes to uptake the passage of water across the membrane more efficiently. These herbs increase water absorption and prevent excessive water loss through sweat and urine. Simply adding a squeeze of lemon to your water can also offer these effects, and feel as refreshing as ice.