Chai tea is a delicious, spicy beverage that can be enjoyed year-round. In the winter, a steaming mug of chai will fill you with warmth, but it can also be served chilled during the summer.
While many chai beverages have artificial flavors and questionable ingredients, making chai out of real tea and spices gives you a drink with fantastic wellness properties.
Here's more about the top health benefits of chai tea and how to make your own herbal version at home.
What Is Chai Tea? The Secret Ingredients
Chai tea is a very fragrant beverage that combines sweet and spicy flavors perfectly. It originally hails from India but is now enjoyed in many countries around the world.
The word 'chai' actually translates to 'tea', so calling it chai tea is basically like calling it 'tea tea'. However, that's the name that caught on in western countries and has stuck. Still, you can also refer to the same drink simply as 'chai' or 'masala chai'.
There's no single recipe for chai tea, but it's typically made with black tea and a variety of spices.
Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper frequently feature in authentic chai. Other possible ingredients include coriander, fennel seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and allspice.
All of these spices contribute their own health benefits and together make a very powerful and tasty drink.
Top Health Benefits of Chai Tea
Good for Digestion
Many of the spices in chai contribute to optimal digestion and can even help to calm an upset stomach or nausea.
One of the best examples of this is ginger root, which is known to have powerful anti-nausea properties and can speed up a sluggish digestion. Cinnamon and cardamom also aid digestion and can help relieve gas and bloating. (1)
Supports Your Immune System
The same spices that benefit your digestion also have an immune-supporting effect, which makes chai tea a great drink to consume during cold and flu season.
Both ginger and cinnamon can boost your immune system, and both also have antimicrobial properties that may help ward off infection. Cardamom has a small amount of vitamin C (a great nutrient for immune function) and particularly supports your respiratory system. (3)(4)
Cloves are yet another immune-boosting ingredient that also have antiviral properties. In fact, they are so powerful they were once included in the legendary thieves blend (supposedly used to ward off the plague). (5)
Warming for Your System
As a whole, one of the most noticeable health benefits of chai tea is its warming nature that comes from the spicy ingredients.
Warming spices have a lot of good things going for them. Generally, they improve circulation and can make you feel less cold physically. Some can also help with congestion and may make you feel less stuffy.
While warming spices do have plenty of good qualities, they can be too warming for some people. If you need to, balance out the warmth with a little milk or a cooling herb like marshmallow root.
Good for Heart Health
Cinnamon and black tea, two staple ingredients in most chai tea recipes, are particularly good for heart health.
Studies have shown that cinnamon may be able to lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels- two big factors when it comes to a healthy heart. Black tea contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that are protective of heart health. (6)(7)
Ginger, cardamom, black pepper, coriander, and nutmeg aren't too shabby for your heart, either!
If you find yourself feeling happier and more energized while sipping a cup of chai tea, don't be surprised.
Cinnamon is one of the most well-loved flavors around the world and can make you feel happier just with its fragrance. Both cardamom and nutmeg are considered aphrodisiacs and have general mood-lifting properties as well.
Black tea also has mood-boosting effects and can help you feel calmer and more contented. This is thought to come from a combination of L-theanine and caffeine. (8)
High in Antioxidants
One of the reasons there are so many health benefits of chai tea is because it packs in the antioxidants.
Cloves are at the top of the list of highest antioxidant substances on earth and beat out all other herbs and spices. For reference, they have at least 30 times more antioxidant capacity than blueberries. (9)
Cinnamon is also very high on the antioxidant scale, and black tea is particularly rich in flavonoids.
May Reduce Chronic Inflammation
In part because of the impressive antioxidant content of chai tea, drinking it may help to reduce the bad kind of inflammation: chronic.
Chronic inflammation is often the result of stress, environmental toxins, and other factors. It keeps building up within your body unless it's addressed and can eventually contribute to chronic diseases.
Nearly all the ingredients in chai have some kind of anti-inflammatory properties: ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper. Black tea also contributes to reducing inflammation, leading to a very powerful beverage! (10)
Helps Boost Brain Power
All of the antioxidants in chai tea are great for your brain, and the caffeine in black tea can boost your mental energy and alertness.
Unlike with coffee, the caffeine in black (or green) tea is balanced out by an amino acid known as L-theanine. Basically, L-theanine helps to prevent common "side effects" of caffeine, like jitteriness and a caffeine crash. (11)
The end result is that sipping chai can help you get a little extra brain power, while still giving you a sense of calm.
Let's not overlook one of the best "health benefits" of chai tea- it tastes delicious.
A homemade or authentic chai will have wonderful flavor and a perfect balance of spiciness and sweetness. This makes it easy to enjoy all the other benefits of chai- as long as you aren't drinking a version that has artificial flavoring and other suspect ingredients.
Yet another reason to make your own!
Simple Chai Tea Recipe
Because chai tea can have a variety ingredients, feel free to change this recipe up based on what you have on hand and your flavor preferences.
Also, you can swap out the black tea for green tea or leave it out all together for a completely herbal and decaffeinated drink.
- 1 cinnamon stick or 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon chips
- 1 teaspoon chopped or grated ginger (fresh)
- 3-4 cardamom pods, crushed
- 3-4 whole cloves
- 1-2 coriander seeds, crushed
- Dash of black pepper
- 1-3 teaspoons loose black tea
- Put all of your spices (except the black tea) in a saucepan and cover with 10-12 ounces of water. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and add the loose leaf black tea. Cover the pan and let it steep for about 5 minutes.
- Stain out the spices and tea leaves. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup if desired, and feel free to add a splash of warm milk. Cheers!
Enjoy the Tasty Health Benefits of Chai Tea
Now that you know about the benefits of chai- and how to make your own- you might want to start drinking this potent and healthy beverage more often.
If you want to try a twist on the classic chai, try this Herbal Chocolate Chai for a dessert-like drink. And don't forget to make it yourself as much as possible to ensure that no toxic ingredients sneak into your drink.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.