I’ve always been a serial tea-drinker. Black tea. And mostly, black tea from northern India or Kenya. In the twilight of my student years I began to experiment with other teas. Green tea, chamomile and some of the then less popular berry-based teas that were slowly starting to encroach on the supermarket shelf space of the dominant black tea variants. These days, the shelves are full of all manner of herbal, fruit, spiced teas, and the humble black tea is sometimes hard to find among its more exotic brethren.
Only recently have I begun drinking peppermint tea, so I was particularly interested in a study published in the UK that found peppermint tea to be a little more beneficial to the drinker than being just warm and wet.
The study, undertaken at Northumbria University, analyzed the responses of 180 individuals who were randomly assigned one of three types of hot drink: peppermint tea, chamomile tea, or hot water. The group who took the peppermint tea exhibited improved long-term memory, alertness and an enhanced mood.
Interestingly the study found that the chamomile tea drinkers exhibited the opposite: significantly slowed memory and attention speed compared to both peppermint tea and hot water. This tallies with recollections from my student days where it was popular among some trendy student cliques to partake of chamomile tea in order to calm anxieties during the exam season. In retrospect, these budding herbalists may also have been unknowingly underperforming owing to the effects of the chamomile tea.
Now is it the peppermint, the tea, or the combination that provides the observed effect? Peppermint is available in all manner of products, notably chewing gum. I’d speculate that the combination is responsible. Judging by the amount of gum residue in these parts, few if any gum chewers exhibit the mental alertness to dispose of their gum in an hygienic manner.