There are two sorts of teabloggers in the world. Those who mindlessly regurgitate the purported health benefits of tea, and those who scoff.
Ok, that's a bit of a simplification. I know. And it's not fair for me to disparage every single person who writes about this, because there are health benefits. And that's likely one of the things that first attracts many people to tea. That or peer pressure. For example, you live in a tea-drinking culture, and you simply want to fit in. Sounds like an above-average culture to me.
But the thing that sticks in my craw is the ridiculously over-the-top claims that are made. 'This tea will not just cure your inoperable cancer, but miraculously make your mother-in-law adore you'. Although those are exaggerations, the things I regularly read that tea can cure or prevent are wildly speculative.
Let me just say again: I know tea drinking can be good for you. Some of the things can be empirically proven, and the others are written in a way that you can't exactly disprove them. 'This tea might very well make all your dreams come true'. That sort of thing.
So imagine my delight when I found a list of the medical benefits of tea, while reading Alan & Iris MacFarlane's The Empire of Tea recently. Translated from a Chinese source by Member of Parliament T. Povey in 1686, here are all of the things this magical elixir that we call tea can do for you:
- It purifyes the Bloud of that which is grosse and Heavy.
- It Vanquisheth heavy Dreames.
- It Easeth the brain of heavy Damps.
- Easeth and cureth giddinesse and Paines in the Heade.
- Prevents the Dropsie.
- Drieth Moist humours in the Heade.
- Consumes Rawnesse.
- Opens Obstructions.
- Cleares the Sight.
- Clenseth and Purifieth adults humours and a hot Liver.
- Purifieth defects of the Bladder and Kiddneys.
- Vanquisheth Superfluous Sleep.
- Drives away dissines, makes one Nimble and Valient.
- Encourageth the heart and Drives away feare.
- Drives away all Paines of the Collick which proceed from Wind.
- Strengthens the Inward parts and Prevents Consumptions.
- Strengthens the Memory.
- Sharpens the Will and Quickens the Understanding.
- Purges Safely the Gaul.
- Strengthens the use of due benevolence.
Let's start with number 1: This is good, right? Who doesn't want purified blood? Is blood gross and heavy? Well, I suppose it is. I haven't weighed mine. Not lately, anyway.
2. Vanquishing heavy dreams is good. No-one wants heavy dreams. Just remember: have a little tea right before bed, and you'll have only fluffy and light dreams. Not too much, though. One thing drinking a lot of tea will undoubtedly do for you is make you need to make frequent trips to the toilet.
3. I have no idea about this one. Is your brain weighed down by over-sized Damps? What on earth is a Damp? Can't imagine that it's all that good.
4. This one says it takes away headaches, which is good, but do you really want to be cured of being giddy? I'm not sure I want it eased. I'm so rarely giddy. I want it to last as long as possible.
5. Dropsy? I had to do a search to find out what this might be, and it appears it's only something which afflicts fish. Here: if your fish have come down with it, you can go to Dealing With Dropsy to solve all your Dropsy-related problems. If you're a human with Dropsy, you need only drink tea.
6. What is it with people and their moist heads? Really. Were earlier people so dehydrated? I'm glad tea will solve that. Thank you, tea.
7. This one is most appreciated. Rawness needs to be consumed. Cooking things is over-rated. We should all really embrace the consumption of raw things. Or rawness in general.
8. The way I see it, obstructions are begging to be opened. It's the natural order of things. It is, isn't it? You build an obstruction, and something or someone is going to do his damnedest to break it down. In this case, that thing will be the power of tea.
9. Tea will make blind people see once more? That's good news, isn't it?
10-11. What's an adult humour? And a hot liver? They don't sound good. The same goes for defects of the bladder and kidneys.
12. I don't think I want my superfluous sleep vanquished. I get very little of that. I'd like more, actually.
13. Nimble and valiant...and no longer dizzy. This'll be good news for some dizzy people I know. If any of you want a bit more nobility and/or valiance in your life, you might consider drinking more tea.
14. If you drink tea, you'll no longer be afraid. Those fears will be driven away, if they've not been driven away already. Enjoy a fearless life from here on out.
15. Ok, the wind-produced colic? They're talking about flatulence here. Maybe I'm not drinking enough tea. I drink a lot of tea, but this affliction has yet to have been cleared up. One can still hope, right?
16. Inward parts...wait a minute. This one could be taken so many ways. I think my inward parts are plenty strong, but because there's mention of consumption...well, I suppose it means something different. I saw La Boheme. I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the consumption.
17. Tea does a lot of things, but memory strengthening isn't one of them. At least not in my case. Maybe I'm drinking the wrong tea.
18. My will is rather sharp, but I wouldn't mind a bit quicker understanding. This is like the memory improvement. It's not getting better because of tea drinking. If anything age has slowed my understanding.
19. My mother had Gall Bladder surgery when I was a little boy, and from what she said, it hurt like hell. Just think: if she'd drunk a lot more tea, no need for surgery. At this point, you're probably relieved that I have nothing to do with the medical profession.
20. Finally, my very favourite one. And I quote: 'Strengthens the use of due benevolence'. I like to parse sentences, and this is a wonderful opportunity. We're not talking about improving all benevolence. Only the earned sort. The 'due' benevolence. That means if I deem you don't deserve it, my benevolence for you is non-existent. Nada. Niente.
So, what have we learned here? That tea will cure everything...all of it. What I was talking about at the beginning of this post was misguided. The truth is that any time someone touts the health benefits of tea, you should believe them whole-heartedly. Dreams coming true and all.
You can tell them I said so.