Tea on tap
Revée Barbour poured herself another drink from a vat floating with ice, mint and lime. “I don’t feel drunk,” the naturopathic physician based in Sacramento, California, told the party host (and mixologist), “I feel very relaxed.” That was the point: The concoction’s base wasn’t gin or vodka; it was hawthorn tea, which dilates blood vessels to the brain, heart and other parts of the body and “makes you feel a little loopy,” says Barbour. Other herbal and fermented beverages are gaining mainstream attention as alternatives to alcohol. These beverages can provide good options to people who want to cut down on their alcohol consumption as well as those who are in recovery from alcohol misuse. “People are trying to find a way they can enjoy their food and drinks … without causing those long-term effects,” Barbour says.
Before saying “cheers,” keep in mind that even non-alcoholic and minimally alcoholic drinks need to be purchased and consumed responsibly. Companies that sell herbs, for example, aren’t regulated in a way that guarantees what you see is what you get, so it’s important to do your research and look to established manufacturers before buying (often potent) products. Talk to your doctor, too, to make sure the herbs won’t interact with your medications. And, as with alcohol, know your limits. “People think more is better,” says Summer Ashley Singletary, an herbalist and associate communications manager at Traditional Medicinals, “and that’s not always the case.” Try these varieties sensibly:
The popularity of matcha tea — a type of green tea — has soared in recent years. Matcha tea, like other types of green tea, is made from the plant Camellia sinensis, but is grown slightly differently. The difference is the amount of exposure to sunlight, which results in matcha tea having higher chlorophyll and amino acid content. Also, the whole leaf is utilized, resulting in higher amounts of caffeine and antioxidants compared with other types of green tea, says Courtney Barth, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
Research suggests that consuming matcha tea is associated with an array of health benefits, such as:
— Improved heart health.
— Better liver function.
— Weight loss.
For example, research published in 2016 in the journal Anti-Inflammatory & Anti-Aging Agents in Medical Chemistry suggests that drinking green tea could be helpful for reducing inflammation, too.
Matcha tea can be easily made by sifting 1 to 2 tablespoons of matcha powder in a cup of 2 to 4 ounces of hot water, Barth says. “You can adjust the dosage based on the consistency that you want,” she says. “When shopping for a good powder, it may be wise to choose a certified organic brand and consume in moderation.”
If you crave the refreshing fizziness of beer, you’ll feel satisfied sipping on kombucha, an easily accessible fermented drink typically made from black tea, sugar and “scoby” (an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) — a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. “The byproduct is this awesome probiotic-rich drink” that contains B vitamins, glucosamine and other nutrients that support liver and immune health, Barbour says. And because kombucha can contain a small amount of alcohol and caffeine, you may notice a slight — albeit fleeting — buzz. Cap your intake at two cups daily. “It’s not about numbing yourself, it’s about drawing attention to the areas that need the most support,” Barbour says. “That’s where these beverages shine.”
You’ve heard of eating like a caveman, but what about drinking like one? “Mead … is one of the most ancient beverages humans have been consuming,” Barbour says of the sweet, carbonated drink that can go down like cider. Made from fermented honey, mead has antifungal, antibacterial, immune system-supporting and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as varying levels of alcohol, though it’s typically about half the alcohol content of wine. To keep things light, try mixing a low-alcohol variety with club soda, mint and rosemary for a refreshing — and health-promoting — summer beverage, Barbour suggests.
Ever brush some stale rye bread crumbs into the trashcan? Next time, hold on to them — those seemingly worthless scraps form the basis of kvass, another fermented beverage, this one with roots in Russia. Typically more sour than mead, the drink boasts B vitamins, fiber and protein. “It’s an overall health tonic” that can be found online, in some stores and even some bars, Barbour says. You can also make it at home; Barbour recommends finding a starter kit. “All of this stuff you can make yourself — you don’t have to go somewhere to get it,” she says.
Crataegus is another name for hawthorn, the same herb in Barbour’s mixologist friend’s mocktail. Sometimes used to treat heart conditions since it helps open up blood vessels, hawthorn can also be used to heal emotional wounds, Barbour says. “If someone comes to me and they’re getting over a broken heart or getting over huge loss in life, it’s a fabulous thing to give,” she says. Try infusing 1 tablespoon of a hawthorn mixture that contains both the berries and flowers into 1 cup of water, and then dressing it up with an orange slice or honey. “It’s a nice refreshing drink that chills you out,” Barbour says. Don’t throw back more than two.
Are you stressed out about a work assignment or can’t shake the tension from an argument with your spouse? Linden — an herb a bit more bitter and savory than hawthorn, which is sweeter since it comes from the rose family — might help. “I usually prescribe this for folks that have nervous tension,” says Barbour, who recommends using 1 to 2 teaspoons in one cup of water, and limiting yourself to 1 to 2 cups a day. While you can order such herbs in bulk through companies like Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals, you can also test the waters by looking for these ingredients in teas at your local grocery store, Barbour says.
Low-fat and fat-free milk
There are a number of ways to enjoy low-fat or fat-free milk, either of which can give you a boost of energy. You can enjoy a cold glass of either type of milk straight or use it in hot tea, coffee or with cereal. “Low-fat and fat-free milk is a good source of protein and carbohydrates which provide the body with calories to be used as energy,” says Kaylee Jacks, a registered dietitian with Texas Health Sports Medicine in Dallas.
When people order a warm drink made with beet root from Alchemy, a juice bar and cafe in Columbus, Ohio, its pink hue can make them feel better before even taking a sip. “The self-care movement really (promotes) looking at food as more of an experience, as opposed to fuel or energy or fiber,” says Alexis Joseph, a registered dietitian and the cafe’s co-founder. Once they slurp, customers can feel more relaxed, too, thanks in part to beet root’s blood vessel-opening effects. Warm drinks of many varieties can warm your body, Joseph adds. “They have that warming, calming, soothing feeling about them,” she says, “and they happen to be really healthy.”
Know that feeling of lightness after a deep meditation or massage? That’s similar to the feeling Singletary gets after sipping a drink made with Cup of Sunshine, her company’s tea that includes kanna, a strong, earthy South African herb. “That to me, out of the herbs we sell in tea form, feels the most akin to the buzz-like feeling,” she says. Try pairing it with milk and a sweetener. “It tastes reminiscent to the earthy notes of a chai tea; you could even add in some powdered cinnamon and cardamom for extra flavor,” Singletary says.
To recap, here are nine drinks that give you a buzz without the hangover:
— Matcha tea.
— Low-fat and fat-free milk.
— Beet root.
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Update 04/29/21: This slideshow was previously published and has been updated with new information.