The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, has long been considered a healing agent, from Asia to Europe to the U.S.. Many claims have been made about its antioxidants, polyphenols, and even EGCG, the catechin said to combat leukemia, HIV, and other illnesses.
But there is a deeper healer in tea, one that scientists in laboratories cannot find through their dissection of the components of tea. This element is what traditional healers would recognize as the spiritual aspect of the tea plant.
Humans and plants have responded in congruence for thousands of years. Since the beginning of human history, plants have served not only as our food but as our medicine. Traditional healers around the world agree that the plant world is suffused with spirit and personality, and each plant species has its own unique gifts to share. Whether you agree with this premise or not, the tea plant will freely offer its medicine to you. Here are some of the ways in which the spirit of tea acts as a healing agent:
Tea Inspires Intimacy & Compassion: In nearly every culture of the world in which tea plays a dominant role, tea is the centerpiece of any gathering, whether a neighbor-to-neighbor afternoon chat or the celebration of an arriving dignitary. Tea acts as a social tranquilizer, providing a feeling of harmony and safety which inspires openness and sharing. Heads of state in Asia often offer tea to their counterparts in other countries, as Chairman Mao did to Richard Nixon in 1972. Through the expression of goodwill and the sharing of life stories and experience, the healing power of mutuality and compassion can occur, providing deeper connections between individuals, and even governments.
Tea Inspires Presence: Tea’s origin is found in China, and for several thousand years, remained in China alone. When Buddhist monks arrived from Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) to study with Chan Chinese monks, they discovered an amazing plant that assisted their colleagues in meditation and helped lead them to clarity and wisdom.
Some people say that “tea is liquid wisdom.” Tea heals by providing a state of restful, relaxed awareness. And it is this state of mind that practitioners of meditation in any tradition–whether Christian, Buddhist or otherwise– seek to attain. It is also only in this state of mind, Presence, that people can achieve revelation and epiphany. Anyone who has had a definitive moment of realization in his or her life will attest to the healing nature of such an event.
Tea Offers Relief: The consumption of tea offers a feeling of relief and well being. This is why we are instinctively inspired to put on the tea kettle when a friend comes over to share a problem, or someone we care for is in a state of grief. We innately understand that tea is an agent of healing through the quality of relief that it provides, even in the most dire circumstances. Tea was thought to be indispensable in war for European as well as Asian armies. On the deepest level, leaders know the power of this plant to heal and revitalize anyone suffering from fatigue, grief, or lack of morale.
These are just three of the ways in which the tea plant acts as a healing agent. While scientists may offer a wry smile in response to these words, they too will reach for their stash of tea when their heart pounds or aches with grief.