By: Anna Simoes

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People commonly think of tea as being another way to get your caffeine fix, or some gross mixture your grandma makes when you’re sick. But now, more and more people are re-discovering the health benefits that tea can have on the body. And it actually tastes good!

That is what doctors Andrew Cummins and Mara Davidson came to tell the WestConn community in their presentation this past Wednesday in White Hall. The workshop, which was the second to last in the Wellness Wednesday series, touched base on what specific botanical teas can be beneficial for and which botanicals each individual may need depending on their conditions.

First up to speak was Dr. Davidson, a Naturopathic Physician at Southport Natural Medicine, alongside Dr. Cummins. To start off, Dr. Davidson gave a little educational background on herself and her colleague. Dr. Davidson received her N.D. from the University Of Bridgeport College Of Naturopathic Medicine while Dr. Cummins received his N.D. from the National University of Health Sciences, just outside of Chicago.

“Before every presentation we give we like to give a little disclaimer that this is meant for informational and educational purposes only, and nothing is meant to substitute for medical advice,” Dr. Davidson made clear before delving in.

In big, bold letters on the PowerPoint, Dr. Davidson tried to break the ice with a little pun, “HIS-TEA-RY,” which resulted in a delayed soft chuckle from the audience. That did not stop her, however, as she brushed off the small reaction and moved on. She continued on with a few fun facts about tea’s history, including containers of teas found in tombs dating back to the Han Dynasty, how tea was initially introduced to Japan by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study, and how tea was first introduced into Europe by the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Dr. Davidson fast forwarded to modern day as she discussed the medical and scientific research that has been done on how tea can maintain one’s health. Tea can help with relaxation, detoxification, upset stomach, heartburn, blood sugar support, heart health, flu, or overall immune support; the list goes on. Before trying anything, Dr. Davidson explained how the amount of tea you drink, how long you steep it, and the temperature of water really affects if the medicinal aspects of the tea are released. This information was constantly shown throughout the presentation for each example to help the audience understand its importance. Always research each individual herb to make sure you are getting the most out of it and that it’s safe to mix with other possible health problems.

Dr. Davidson then spoke about adaptogens, which are herbs that help with normalizing the body and dealing with stress and its symptoms. This is important for any college student out there who may need a little extra help regularizing their stress levels so they don’t reach a breaking point. The two tea examples given by Dr. Davidson of adaptogen teas were rhodiola and ashwagandha. Other categories included relaxation teas such as  lavender and chamomile, and immune support teas such as echinacea, elderberry, and thyme.

Dr. Cummins tag-teamed with Dr. Davidson and spoke up after each set to describe the root causes of each problem, and why suppressants used in Western medicine don’t always work. “We see a lot of symptom suppression. It’s kind of like why we have the opioid epidemic we do with the over-prescribing of the prescription pain killers…they’ll just be given a pain killer because they’re just trying to address the symptom of pain,” said Dr. Cummins. “But what we do as naturopathic physicians–functional medicine–is we’re always looking at…the underlying cause. So, if we look at something like pain, what’s causing that pain? Why?”

Dr. Cummins went on to describe the grey area between sickness and health, the power that cortisol imbalance has on the body, and a condition called “leaky gut.” Dr. Cummins talked about how high cortisol levels, which are linked to stress, can break down the gut lining by removing its necessary amino acids. This damage can be the origin of conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, OCD, auto immunity and thyroiditis.

“Again, we’re never looking at anything in isolation. We want to assess what are the stress hormones, what’s going on neurologically with someone, what’s going on with the digestive health, and if toxins are affecting your body. Always bring it back to that because it’s really important we look at the body as a whole,” Dr. Cummins said.

Dr. Davidson and Dr. Cummins ended with a powerhouse herb: green tea. They talked about its antioxidant properties, immune system boosters, anti-cancer agents, and lowering of cholesterol levels. The list of benefits almost seemed endless.

This event was run by Christel Autuori, the Director of the Institute for Holistic Health Studies at WCSU. Make sure to check out the final Wellness Wednesday Workshop on April 18thas Sarah Poulin talks about traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and the monthly Mudra meditations every second Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Warner Hall 103.