The Science Behind Your Calming Cup of Tea

Just to let you know, this post was written before I started the paleo diet to help ease my psoriasis. Nowadays I eat a more allergy-friendly diet, but leave these older, pre-paleo posts up in case they are useful to readers, as I know not everyone eats the same as I do. Thanks for your understanding. 

A lady, out shopping, slips on some ice in the street - the nearest shop-keeper brings her out a cup of tea. Your friend comes round, red-eyed and visibly upset. What do you do? You flick the kettle on. We've come to view tea as something soothing - a fragrant hot drink that can either pick you up if you're feeling tired or calm your nerves if you're anxious. But it seems there's more to it than we think. The science behind our cuppa reveals that a cup of tea really could be beneficial to our health and our minds...

 cup of green tea

Drinking green tea helps the brain release the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine

A study published in 2009 found that camomile tea actually helped calm people. The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmapsychology, found that subjects that consumed camomile tea  over an eight-week period showed less anxiety than those who didn't. Green tea also contains L-theanin, which is thought to release dopamine into the brain and research found that you'll enter a more relaxed state 30-40 minutes after drinking it. (Source: Livestrong)

Black tea could help fight stress... and be good for your blood

Much is usually made of green tea, camomile tea and Rooibos tea, for example, but we don't usually hear about the benefits of good old-fashioned black tea. However, research conducted by University College London in 2010 changed all that. They found that when they observed tea drinkers vs a placebo group (the placebo drink had no real tea in it at all), and subjected them to stress, the tea drinkers returned to their calmer, pre-stress levels quicker. They also found that blood platelet activation (responsible for the risk of blood clots and heart attacks) was lower in the tea drinking group. Mine's milk, no sugar, please...

Three cups of tea a day could reduce your chances of having a stroke

According to research by the UCLA, at least three cups of either green or black tea drunk every day could reduce your risk of having a stroke. Tea drinkers were 21% less likely to experience a stroke than those who didn't drink tea, and the risk was reduced even further (another 21%) as tea consumption went up.   

I'm off to put the kettle on...

What do you think about this? Do you feel calmer after a cup of tea? Let me know in the comments below...


  1. Makes total sense to me. I volunteer at a brain injury centre and we use our tea sessions as a form of creative therapy. We've now started to write poems about the biscuits that we eat with our tea . Tea is something so familiar and comforting, I'm convinced it unleashes creativity too - any science to back that up?

    1. Interesting! Although I would think that if you're more relaxed after a cup of tea, creativity would follow :) Thanks for your comment!

  2. Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory makes tea for upset friends and colleagues because it is a recognised 'social protocol' (ie, it's just what people habitually do). But I've always thought there was more in it than that. By giving a cup of tea to someone, you are letting them know they can relax, they can have 5 minutes to regroup. I think that's why it works to calm, relieve and even improve creativity, as your commenter above notes. What do you think, Jo?

    1. Definitely Snigdha, there's got to be an inbuilt association too, as in we always drink tea when we are stressed or need a break and so the associations of this lead to us feeling more relaxed when we drink it, etc. This reminds me of a recent Heston Blumenthal programme on breakfast where he found that the scent of coffee alone is enough to actually make us feel more alert, because our brain associates it with the caffeine, even before we've taken a sip of it. But it's got to be a bit of both - the science tells us that, for example, green tea helps release dopamine into the brain, for it to start to work in the first place - interesting points you raise there!


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