The answer to that question is that they both reduce inflammation and slow down the ageing process whilst providing you with a true taste of India! Even drinking tea can have beneficial effects, but the tea or the ‘chai’ needs to contain these beneficial polyphenols.
So, what are polyphenols and what actions can they have on us?
In a nutshell and put in simple terms, polyphenols are scavengers. They provide the protective properties of antioxidants to help prevent tissue damage, inflammation and the progressions of diseases.
Polyphenols also protect the cardiovascular system and provide anti-cancer properties.
I’ve recently come across this new product, Amala Chai which is based on the traditional recipe used by street sellers. This is known as Chai Walas and the spices used in the masala chai mix is packed with polyphenols in the aromatic spices of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper. Each of these spices has profound beneficial effects of the levels of inflammation found internally (Inflammageing is a term used to describe hidden inflammation associated with ageing). In addition, the black tea leaves used to brew the perfect chai contain numerous antioxidant properties and health benefits.
My travels and education as a Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist took me to the spice farms of India and the Ayurvedic hospitals where I was privileged to witness traditional Ayurvedic practices of preparing and mixing herbs, spices and teas for medical purposes.
India as a nation has access to some of the most amazing herbs and spices, and their traditional medicine known as Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years. Ayurvedic principles work on the three ‘doshas’ or constitutions – namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The Doctors provide medicines made from herbs and spices to balance these doshas.
Typically if a person has a hot, inflamed condition then they may have too much pitta – too much ‘fire.’ The herbs and spices mixed will be designed to rebalance the pitta and dampen the fire. In the Westernised approach to medicine and health we refer to their ‘pitta’ as ‘inflammation.’ Inflammation, sadly is on the increase with many different heath conditions starting earlier and earlier in life.
Typical inflammatory conditions include skin problems, heart problems, brain problems, immune problems, joint problems, metabolic problems and weight issues, mood disorders and autoimmune diseases.
The other doshas – Vata – can refer to a person’s constitution as being ‘dry’ and ‘cold,’ with a tendency to higher levels of anxiety and depression. An Ayurvedic approach would be to prescribe herbs that improve the circulation, give back the ‘agni’ or digestive fire and eating warming foods. They are often restless and easily distracted.
And Kapha – is often indicated in people with dampness, people have sluggish digestions, slower metabolism meaning they have a tendency to gain weight, hold onto water retention – excess mucus or catarrh, skin conditions that are damp in nature. But the common theme with all aspects of Ayurvedic medicine is inflammation.
To measure our levels of inflammation we can look at the balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in our cells. A simple test can establish these levels very quickly showing that if you have a ratio higher than 3:1, then you are in danger of developing inflammatory conditions or diseases.
Now, research shows that in India and South-East Asia, these ratio’s can often be 100:1 because of the lack of access to cold water fish and the high levels of Omega 3 oils. But, the traditional Indian diet, however, contains huge amounts of spices which contain very high levels of polyphenols. Anyone who cooks Indian food will know that we use a pinch or a teaspoon of spice; Indian chefs use them by the tablespoon and it is the power of these polyphenol rich spices that make it possible for the Indian communities to avoid inflammageing and the many diseases associated with it.
So it is essential to call in and say ‘Hi’ to your local Amala Chai Wala and make sure you take in the amazing health benefits and nutritional effects of Amala Masala Chai. I know I will be placing a regular order!