Peppermint or Chamomile?

You might think that one herb tea is very much like another, but you could be missing out on their potential to improve your wellbeing. In this recent study from Northumbria University, researchers have looked at how various herbs affect your mood and your memory:
And they’ve come up with some interesting results. In one experiment, volunteers were asked to choose between peppermint tea, chamomile tea and hot water. Tests carried out before and after having the hot drinks showed that while the chamomile drinkers were calmer, their prospective memory – the ability to remember to do something at a given time – was worse. The peppermint drinkers, on the other hand, found their memory improved and their mood enhanced.

This tells us several things. Both herbs help your digestion, and both are used to settle an upset stomach or ease wind and bloating. But beyond that, the hidden bitterness in peppermint is a wake-up call not just to your liver – it stimulates the release of bile – but to your brain as well. If you suffer from anxiety, chamomile may serve you well, but if you are depressed, peppermint might be a better choice. And if you can’t sleep, a cup of chamomile tea at bedtime might help, whereas peppermint might be too stimulating.

Obviously, the situation isn’t always clear-cut. Suppose you’re taking a driving test or sitting an exam? You don’t want to be a bag of nerves, but you do want to be alert and able to recall useful information. Only you can decide where heightened awareness shades into disabling anxiety, and use your herbs accordingly.

And if poor memory or anxiety are long-term problems for you, then you need to go deeper. The herb teas as used in the experiment are a kind of first aid, but changing long-held habits will take more than that. Herbs have a part to play here, too; not so easy to ‘prove’ in scientific terms, but potentially even more useful.