Health Benefits of Chai-Flavored Black Tea

Chai simply means "tea" in India, and there, what we think of as chai is called masala chai, or "spiced tea." Tea was mostly used as a medicine in India before colonization by the British. After that, tea-drinking was popularized in India, and, with the help of Ayurvedic medicine, masala chai became prevalent. Chai is now a drink loved all around the world, partly because it is delicious, and partly because of its healing properties.

Black Tea

The black tea of chai is itself a powerful antioxidant and imparts health benefits. It contains flavonoids such as catechin, theaflavins and the arubigins, which can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Fluoride in tea is good for building strong bones and teeth. The caffeine in tea can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Chai Spices

The various spices add to create a chai-flavored tea can vary, but they commonly include ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, fennel and star anise. Each of these has it's own health benefits. Cinnamon increases circulation and libido, and levels out blood sugar. Black pepper and ginger increase circulation. Cardamom positively affects such organs as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Cloves are pain-relieving, and nutmeg and ginger both aid digestion. Star anise, besides freshening breath, can help with a cough, and finally, fennel is known for healing laryngitis and curing kidney and ocular problems.

Adding Milk

While milk can bind to flavonoids, there is no evidence that the milk traditionally used in chai detracts from the benefits of black tea. Milk, if it is organic and so doesn't contain harmful antibiotics and hormones, can be a welcomed addition to chai-flavored tea. It adds protein, vitamins and minerals to the drink.

Soothing Effect

Both the milk in chai tea and the ginger can have a soothing effect on the drinker, even though this drink contains caffeine. Because chai is flavored with spices, it is possible to make a good-flavored tea with less than the usual amount of black tea. It is suitable for drinking in the evening for those who are not overly sensitive to caffeine. Decaffeinated chai teas are also available.

Chai in Ayurvedic Medicine

Chai is from India, and its popularity has roots both in India's colonization by the tea-loving British and in the Ayurvedic traditions of India. Ayurveda attempts to heal by balancing various physiological aspects of a person (such as air, bile and phlegm) with the use of special flavors (such as sweet, astringent and bitter). The chai flavor, made up of many spices, milk and black tea, is a great stress reliever and tension soother.