In the middle of winter, it can be very hard to keep our spirits lifted. We all go into hibernation mode, when the days are short, natural sunlight is in short supply and we may feel low and depressed. This is entirely natural, and there is a simple and delicious solution! Drink more of the right tea! That means Pukka tea, formulated by herbalist and Pukka co-founder Sebastian Pole. Sebastian has transformed herbal teas. He taken them from dull and tasteless to sophisticated, and delicious. At last we are embracing the Chinese approach to good health and drinking tea to supercharge our wellbeing. Organic green tea and turmeric tea are great ways to increase our uptake of antioxidants, sip our way to calm and reduce inflammation.
Top London nutritionist, Cassandra Barns explores five of her favourite stress-busting and mood uplifting Pukka teas and we also look at the stress adaptogen Ashwagandha for its ability to gently boost mood, raise energy levels and aid restful sleep.
Editor’s note. Ashwagandha is my go to Ayurvedic stress buster. Based on hundreds of years of Ayurvedic wisdom, it really does work. I recommend it to all my friends. You can order Pukka organic and Ayurvedic teas and supplements through our magazine shop. Every purchase from our shop helps to fund more of our #media4good journalism. AJ our Editor also offers one to one consultations to discuss your wellbeing and we are a distributor for Pukka organic teas and supplements Please visit the shop or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil is a herb with a particular affinity for the brain and mood. It’s said to stimulate circulation to the brain to improve concentration and help clear brain fog. It also has a calming effect on the nerves and acts as an adaptogen – a herb that helps us cope with and adapt to stress. These different actions can combine well to help lift our mood, particularly when stress or anxiety are involved. To investigate how well it works, researchers in India tested the effects of holy basil supplements on 35 patients with anxiety, finding that it did seem to relieve their anxiety, stress and depression.
Holy basil makes a great herbal tea and also comes in capsule form for a more concentrated dose. Try Pukka’s Three Tulsi tea (£2.49 for 20 sachets) or Wholistic Holy Basil capsules (£16.96 for 30 capsules).
Popular as a tea for aiding sleep, chamomile is an amazing ‘nervine’ – a herb that calms the nerves. It can also help relieve digestive cramps and spasms that accompany stress or anxiety. If your priority is to get more calm in your life, soothe frayed nerves and sleep better, then chamomile could be a great choice for you. Drink it as a herbal tea before bed, but also throughout the day to help calm you down – it shouldn’t make you feel tired.
Try: Pukka’s Three Chamomile tea, or Relax tea – a soothing blend of chamomile, fennel and marshmallow (both £2.49 for 20 sachets).
Matcha green tea
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, turning to coffee for a boost may do more harm than good. High doses of caffeine and other stimulating substances in your ‘cuppa joe’ can cause your body to make more stress hormones, increasing the draining effects of stress on your mind and body.
Instead, try matcha green tea. Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine to give you an energy lift, but also contains theanine, which can have a relaxing effect on the mind, reduce anxiety and help with focus and concentration. Matcha green tea in particular is said to contain a high percentage of calming theanine2.
Try: Pukka’s Supreme Matcha Green tea; or for an extra energy boost, go for Ginseng Matcha Green tea (both £2.79 for 20 sachets).
Like holy basil, ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, helping to balance the effects of stress on our body and mind. It’s known for its calming, anti-anxiety effects, but also for helping to restore energy and vitality. So if you’re feeling tired or run down as well as suffering the winter blues, ashwagandha could be the herb for you. It can be good for libido, too, which often suffers when we’re feeling miserable!
Take ashwagandha in capsule form: Pukka Wholistic Ashwagandha – £16.96 for 30 capsules.
This golden super-spice is associated with a multitude of health benefits. These include helping to protect the brain and memory, via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity –in fact, it’s even shown potential to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease3. But turmeric may also have a direct benefit for mood: because depression is thought to involve excessive inflammation, the anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric may help bring things back to normal.
For a warming winter lift, try Pukka’s Turmeric Gold tea (£2.49 for 20 sachets). Or for a stronger effect, go for Pukka’s Wholistic Turmeric capsules (£16.96 for 30 capsules), a concentrated turmeric extract.
Five more tips to beat the blues
1. Cultivate some ‘hygge’ in your life. The Danish concept of hygge is about cosiness and togetherness – spending time with friends or family in a cosy environment such as a warm, candlelit room, just enjoying each other’s company without the distraction of a phone or TV. It’s an ideal way to relax on a winter evening, and is a key ingredient that’s missing in our technology and social media-fuelled lives. Make a date with your friends and start buying in candles… and plenty of warming herbal teas, of course!
2. Get as much daylight as possible. Bright light entering our eyes stimulates production of serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’. So, the short days and lack of sunlight are a prime reason we tend to feel extra-gloomy in January. Get outside as much as you can, as electric lights in the home don’t come close to the brightness of daylight, even on an overcast day. If you can’t get outside much during the day, try a light therapy box.
3. Go for healthy comfort foods. Warming, hearty stews are excellent for making you feel good on a cold winter’s day. Make them with lots of root vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, turnip and sweet potato, which are not only comforting but also nutritious, providing vitamins and minerals that help to make good-mood neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and fibre to help balance blood sugar for steady mood and energy.
4. Don’t skip your exercise. It’s one of the best ways to throw off a low mood, boosting your circulation, relieving stress and releasing lots of feel-good endorphins. If you’re having difficulty sticking to exercise as a New Year’s resolution, then try exercising with others in a class – the music and the company of others can be a great additional motivation as well as a mood-booster.
5. Do something creative. Engaging your mind in something creative that you enjoy can be very beneficial for mood and wellbeing. Whether it’s drawing, photography, baking, quilting, woodwork, or restoring antiques, find something you love … and preferably something that involves spending time with others.
1. Bhattacharyya D et al. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9.
2. Mason, R. (2001). 200 mg of Zen. Alternative & Complementary Therapies.
3. Lee WH et al. Curcumin and its derivatives: their application in neuropharmacology and neuroscience in the 21st century. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013 Jul;11(4):338-78.
4. Chandrasekhar K et al. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62.