WRITE 28 DAYS: MEDITATION RESPONSES – DAY 13 & Day 14: Drinking Tea Meditation & Washing Dishes Meditation

I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Meditation Challenge again this year, and my plan for this blog series is to write a poem or reflection on each day’s practice. You can find all the responses on the landing page.

beloved Bubba Louie (2011-2022) mug

I have two large Bubba Louie tea mugs, identical, which I alternate during a week. On winter days, between the time I get up and about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I drink six, eight, rarely even ten cups of hot tea (our house is chilly). In the summer, perhaps four or five cups before switching after noon to water or something else cold.

My hot teas are primarily herbal or green, my favourite right now a jasmine green by Rishi, whose ingredients are listed as simply “organic green tea with jasmine.” I also like Two Leaves & A Bud jasmine green tea, but it’s harder for me to find lately. And I like Tealyra’s Jasmine Yin Zhen Silver Needle, which is white tea and jasmine petals, a loose tea with a subtle flavour, but I don’t have it around at the moment.

Most of these teas are bagged, a few are loose. As you’ll see, their ingredients overlap to a high degree, other than the jasmine. I’m getting my fill of ginger, turmeric, lemony herbs, and licorice (see massive sidebar below; I’ve italicised it in my list of teas). Current favourites are bolded.

  • jasmine green (Rishi), which is organic green tea with jasmine
  • lemon ginger, two or three varieties by Pukka and Yogi, which may also include licorice root, black pepper, peppermint, sweet fennel seed, elderflower, lemon verbena, turmeric root, lemon myrtle leaf, honey flavours. A three-ginger Pukka tea I like but don’t have on hand at the moment also contains galangal root (and licorice root)
  • turmeric ginger (Rishi): ginger root, turmeric root, licorice root, lemongrass and orange peel — very flavourful
  • purely peppermint (Yogi), consisting only of peppermint leaf
  • relaxed mind (Yogi): gotu kola leaf, sage leaf, lavender flower, skullcap leaf, chrysanthemum flower, blackberry leaf, stevia leaf, boysenberry flavour, lemon myrtle flavour, lavender flavour
  • calming (Yogi): chamomile, gotu kola, licorice root, hibiscus, fennel seed, cardamon pod, lemongrass, orange peel, rosehip, plum, toasted brown rice, lavender
  • detox dharma blend (Buddha Teas): ginger root, turmeric root, burdock root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, cardamom seed, fennel seed, and black pepper
  • pure prana (Paper + Tea): lemongrass, ginger, liquorice root, citrus peels, peppermint, black pepper
  • peaceful heart (Avena): lemon balm, linden flowers and leaves, milky oats, pink rose petals (Rosa damascena), and holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
  • le hammeau tea (Belloqc): lemongrass, lemon verbena, chamomile, lavender, rose petals, mint, sage, and “natural essence.” It’s the light rose aroma that I love. Perfect afternoon tea.
  • herbal cold care, elderflower spice version (Traditional Medicinals): 5 mg of methol per cup, “as it naturally occurs in peppermint leaf (mentha x piperita),” plus rose hip, cinnamon bark, yarrow flower, ginger rhizome, safflower petal, elder flower, clove stem, hyssop, and licorice root dry extract
  • throat comfort (Yogi): licorice root, fennel seed, wild cherry bark, cinnamon bark, orange peel, slippery elm bark, cardamom pod, ginger root, mullein leaf, clove bud, and black pepper
  • cold season (Yogi): ginger root, licorice root, eucalyptus leaf, orange peel, valerian root, lemongrass, peppermint leaf, tulsi leaf, cardamom, oregano leaf, clove bud, parsley leaf, yarrow flower, black pepper, cinnamon bark
  • wild cherry bark tea (Buddha Teas), made with only wild cherry bark (from the black cherry tree, prunus serotina)

I generally drink the cold care, cold season, throat comfort, and wild cherry bark teas only when needed.

One or two brews of the total per day might be a black tea, usually PG Tips and lately also a “Christmas” spiced tea (Taylors), which contains unspecified “natural flavours” and safflowers, lemon peel, orange peel, and a little cinnamon. Also occasionaly a Comfort & Joy (Republic of Tea), with “fine black tea, cinnamon, natural flavors, cloves, licorice root, and apple bits.”

Most of my teas are chosen for their scent — jasmine, citrus, and rose being favourites — though some also for their herbal or medicinal properties.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) sidebar

sidebar might be the wrong word

I’ve noticed recently (when a guest asked for an herbal tea without licorice several months ago) that many, so many, teas contain licorice somewhere in the ingredient list, though I haven’t chosen them for that, at all. I think licorice is used so often because it’s very sweet, 50x sweeter than sugar, so a small amount can be used as an effective sweetener and they can claim that they don’t use any sweeteners! That? Oh, that’s just an herbal root that happens to be extraordinarily sweet.

Unfortunately, ingesting licorice root at high levels, including through “chronic use,” uh-oh, can lead to glycyrrhizin accumulation in the body, which can increase the stress hormone cortisol and mimic the hormone estrogen, increase blood pressure, increase fluid build-up, and it can also lead to abnormal heart rhythm and decreased potassium levels. WHO and the European Scientific Committee of Food (SCF) both recommend limiting glycyrrhizin intake to no more than 100 mg (.0035 ounces) per day. WebMD says that “5 grams [a little more than a teaspoon] or more daily for several weeks can cause severe side effects including heart attack.” Yikes.

Math ahead: I have no idea how much licorice root I’m getting in each cup of tea. I’ve tried here to work it out, cursing the absolute dearth of information provided by most tea sellers; rarely, rarely, do they list amount or percentage of each ingredient, and usually not even weight or measurment of plant/herb in each bag or in a loose serving. The best I could come up with was this:

Yogi tea bags — Yogi’s website provides number of milligrams of herbs per bag for each kind of tea — contain between 1700-2300 mg of plant material per bag, based on my non-exhaustive survey of dozens of their tea varieties, so there’s maybe? roughly 2,000 mg average plant material in a given tea bag. Then, now using Pukka’s website, since they randomly offer some percentages for their teas on their website, I deduced from the incomplete ingredients percentages given for their Three-Ginger tea — “Ginger root (52%), galangal root (28%), licorice root, turmeric root (4%)” — that the licorice percentage is 16%, and thus the amount of licorice root in a bag of this tea is 16% of 2000 mg or about 320 mg.

More math: the percentage of glycyrrhizin in licorice root is estimated (by Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism journal) at 2-25%. (Other sites, equally sciency, say glycyrrhizin represents 5-9%, 10%, or 6-14% of licorice root, but I’m going with the largest interval with the most concerning top number, which may represent the percentage of glycyrrhizin in licorice root extract, but that’s not for me to know)

So, drumroll please, if I drink let’s say 4 cups of tea containing licorice root per day, or 1,280 mg of licorice root roughly (4 cups x 320 mg per cup based on our example), and this is very rough, since I have no idea if 16% is a common amount of licorice in these herbal teas or a small or large amount; based on the prominence of licorice in the ingredients list of a few teas here, I’m betting 16% is underestimating, but I’m done mathing for today), then my ingestion of glycyrrhizin looks to be anywhere from 26 mg, pretty minimal, to 320 mg, three times the WHO/SCF recommended dosage per day.

So, LSS, I’ll be looking for some new teas without any licorice to add to my tea rotation and I’ll be reducing my intake of teas that contain licorice root as a top or near-top listed ingredient. That’s what I get for paying microscopic attention to my tea drinking. /s

By the way, licorice root — traditionally medicinally used as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, demulcent, and expectorant — has lots of potentially positive benefits, too, though research results are mixed and often reliant on small-population or non-human subject studies. Some potential benefits include reducing eczema, reducing acid reflux, treating peptic ulcers, treating oral mucositis and canker sores, slowing or preventing cell growth in skin, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers (on the other hand, because it acts like an estrogen in the body, it’s also contraindicated for breast and prostate cancers!), relieving asthma, protecting against dental cavities, improving blood sugar levels, aiding with hepatitis C, and possibly reducing menopause hot flashes.

I won’t ditch teas containing licorice entirely. I’ll proably still have one most days. But pregnant people and people with some medical conditions — congestive heart failure, hormone-sensitive cancers, fluid retention, high blood pressure, arrythmias, adrenal gland tumours, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, low potassium — and taking some medications (lists vary widely) are advised by medical websites to forgo products containing licorice root.

Also, although many herbal teas do use or claim to use actual licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), be aware that many products marketed in the U.S. as “licorice,” especially candy, don’t actually contain any licorice root but are made instead with anise oil, usually derived from Pimpinella anisum. (Though black Twizzlers and Good & Plenty do apparently contain a very small amount of actual licorice root extract.) Pimpinella anisum (anise) has its own medicinal uses and drawbacks which I’ll leave you to discover.

Additionally, DGL or deglycyrrhizinated licorice does not present the same health risks that regular licorice root does (it may not confer the same potential benefits, either, for some conditions); I haven’t seen deglycyrrhizinated licorice listed as an ingredient in any tea yet.

Anyhoo, yesterday, for the tea drinking meditation, I drank the Yogi Purely Peppermint tea because I had already had a cup of Rishi Jasmine and a cup of Pukka Lemon-Ginger-Honey before getting to that point in my morning. Honestly, the straight-up aroma of the peppermint was sub-pleasing, but the flavour was just the right minty for me. (A little mint goes a long way for my taste buds/olfactory sensors.)

Today, for the dishwashing meditation, I cleaned my two stained tea mugs, using a lot of baking soda and a little white vinegar, plus some rigourous scrubbing with my Dobie non-scratch sponge (made of a yellow polyurethane core surrounded by a nylon mesh or netting; don’t eat it). The stains, all around the mug’s interior sides and on the bottom, beige trending toward brown, looked so integrated into the ceramic that they might have been painted on, but actually, they fell away pretty quickly once I started cleaning them. Remarkable.

doesn’t it look nice?

The Rishi turmeric-ginger tea is quite staining, as anyone who’s used turmeric spice might guess. But so are the green and particularly the black teas.

Scrubbing mugs is not my favourite activity but today I paid attention to it and sort of enjoyed it, probably most because of the result, much cleaner mugs (should have taken a before photo), but also because I enjoyed watching the baking soda foam up when I added the vinegar, and the scrubbing felt slightly cathartic.

Math wore me out so I got a ChatBot to write a little haiku about it:

Tea stains remain stuck,
Scrubbing with all my might now,
Shiny mug, at last.

I didn’t have to use all my might, or even half my might, but the mug is indeed shiny, at last.

And now, to find some new and exciting but not too exciting teas.

Featured photo: jasmine tea, Stoneleaf Tea House, Middlebury, Vermont, Nov. 2010.

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