While tea isn’t a treatment, some types may be able to offer you relief from some of your symptoms.
If you have depression, you might spend time exploring different ways to relieve your symptoms. One method that might have caught your eye is drinking tea.
Maybe you’re looking for ways to supplement your treatment methods and wondering whether tea can help with any depression symptoms.
Maybe a friend who also has depression mentioned that they find tea to be a useful addition to their routine and you’re curious to try it yourself.
Or maybe you just really like tea and want to know whether certain types come with any mental health benefits.
Whatever your reasoning, the question remains the same: Does tea help with depression? Tradition and science point to the possibility that it does.
People have been using tea to fight illnesses and boost overall health and well-being for thousands of years.
But modern scientific interest in tea has begun more recently. While clinical research doesn’t date back quite as far, studies from the past few decades support the idea that tea has physical and mental health benefits.
In relation to depression, research suggests that drinking tea regularly may:
The potential antidepressant effects of tea may be due to certain compounds naturally present in some types of tea.
But these potential effects aren’t entirely certain. According to the authors of a 2022 research review, more randomized clinical studies are needed before health experts can establish a cause-and-effect relationship between tea and depression relief.
The same review reports that studies have primarily been conducted on people without depression. This means that, based on current research, we can’t say for sure whether the potential antidepressant powers of tea have the same impact in people with clinical diagnoses.
The fact that clinical research into tea needs more work shouldn’t be discouraging — far from it! It’s just a reminder that tea isn’t a substitute for depression treatment. Rather, tea is an additional element you can incorporate into your treatment regimen.
A small 2016 study involving people with major depressive disorder illustrates the possibilities of complementary treatment methods.
The researchers compared two groups of participants: those who took only their antidepressant medication and those who took supplements of L-theanine (an amino acid naturally found in green tea) in addition to their medication.
They found that those who took L-theanine and their antidepressants experienced a greater improvement in depression symptoms.
You can think of drinking tea as a lifestyle habit that may help your mind and body — just like exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy and balanced diet, reducing stress, and taking screen breaks. While these practices are beneficial to mental health, they aren’t treatments for depression in and of themselves.
For many people with depression, therapy and medication are the primary and most effective treatment methods. But you can certainly supplement those methods with other potentially healing practices, such as drinking tea.
With all this in mind, here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine which teas may best suit your unique needs.
If you have a hard time sleeping, you may want to try teas made with chamomile and St. John’s wort. Both of these plants have traditionally been used in herbal infusions to promote or facilitate sleep.
You might want to try drinking a cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bedtime as part of your nightly wind-down. You can brew your tea using dried or fresh flowers.
However, St. John’s wort can interact negatively with certain medications, including antidepressants. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor first if you’re interested in taking St. John’s wort as a supplement or drinking tea made from it.
Lemon balm tea has traditionally been used for several purposes, including to improve mood.
Lemon balm may help boost your emotions when you’re feeling down, reduce stress and anxiety, decrease feelings of anger, and improve your ability to think. If any of these sound like what you’re looking for, lemon balm tea could be a good option for you.
You can brew lemon balm tea using dried leaves. Adding the tea to your morning or midday routine gives the herb time to work its magic throughout your day.
Maybe coffee makes you feel too anxious, too jittery, or too stimulated and you’re looking for a different way to get a kick of energy. If this is the case, green tea just might be the answer.
Like coffee, green tea contains caffeine, so it can give you a boost of energy. But unlike coffee, green tea has calming effects, due in part to the amino acid L-theanine.
Numerous studies have suggested that L-theanine may reduce feelings of tiredness while helping to decrease stress and anxiety and slow down heart rate. The relaxed wakefulness you may feel after drinking green tea could be just the right counterpoint to coffee-induced jitters.
Keep in mind that green tea is a caffeinated beverage and there is such a thing as too much caffeine. Experts recommend drinking no more than 8 cups of green tea per day — although you can certainly drink less than that.
Try drinking green tea in the morning or early afternoon and limiting consumption later in the day, particularly if you have trouble sleeping at night.
If you want to kick-start your concentration, green tea may once again be the choice for you. Evidence suggests that green tea may help boost attention and focus and improve cognitive function.
L-theanine may play a role in this green tea power too. When combined with caffeine, L-theanine may help increase alertness and attention. A 2011 study even found that L-theanine was particularly beneficial to people with high anxiety levels, helping to improve their visual attention performance and audio reaction time response.
Lemon balm might also boost focus and thinking ability. For example, in a 2014 study, participants who took lemon balm performed better on tasks involving memory and focus. And a small 2004 study found that lemon balm improved participants’ mathematical processing speed.
Drinking tea may have multiple mental health benefits, such as helping you sleep better, improving mood, and boosting focus and alertness.
But keep in mind that tea is not a replacement for clinical methods of depression treatment, such as talk therapy and medication. More studies are needed to find out whether and how tea can help relieve depression symptoms.
Still, drinking tea may be an effective complementary method of easing certain depression symptoms, similarly to other lifestyle strategies such as getting regular exercise, maintaining healthy sleep habits, and eating a balanced diet.
Medically reviewed on October 12, 2023
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