Does Tea Help With Anxiety And Depression?

We’ve all reached for a cup of tea at least once in our lives. Tea comes in wide varieties, and while it can be a comforting and warm drink at the end of a long day, tea also has been associated with numerous health benefits, including relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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The history of tea

Drinking tea has been considered a health-promoting habit for centuries. Consumed by two-thirds of the world’s population, tea is made by harvesting and processing the leaves of some plants. There are four main types of tea: green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea.

Tea is believed to have been discovered by the second emperor of China when the leaf of Camellia sinensis blew into his cup of hot water. In 1657, the first tea was sold as a health beverage in London, and in 1953, the world’s first instant tea was introduced.

Benefits of tea

While the health benefits of tea have been passed on for centuries, researchers began to investigate the beneficial compounds and how it aids health conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, in the past decades. 

The main active ingredients of tea are polyphenols. These compounds, including flavanols, have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects while stimulating immune function.

Catechins are among the dominant types of polyphenols, and higher amounts are present in green tea when compared to black tea. Catechins have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and reduce the risk of contracting various types of cancer.

Types of teas used for medicinal purposes

Not all tea is created the same. With such a large variety of teas available on the market, it’s important to distinguish between teas used for medicinal purposes and those that aren’t. The types of teas that may have benefits for a variety of health conditions include: 

  • Ginger tea

  • Mint tea

  • Chamomile tea

  • Jasmine tea

  • Green tea/matcha 

  • Echinacea tea 

The teas that have not shown benefits for medicinal purposes include tea made from fruit preserves or tea “extracts.” These are often full of sugar and other additives without retaining any antioxidants from the leaf. Tea-flavored drinks are also not a substitute for properly processed tea.

Tea and mental health

Tea can promote wellness and improve mental health in several ways. Researchers have found that drinking tea lowers cortisol, a stress hormone that can wreak havoc on our mood and cognition.¹

The catechins present in tea can also evoke mental health benefits. A catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) may contribute to feelings of calm and improve attention and memory.

However, researchers are cautious about overestimating the effects of tea, especially for people who are clinically depressed. While evidence of mood improvements for a healthy population exists, this benefit in people with significant mental illness has yet to be confirmed. 

The best teas for anxiety and depression


Animal model studies have shown that peppermint tea can relax the central and peripheral nervous systems.²


Chamomile tea is widely regarded as a mild sleep inducer. It may be beneficial if you have insomnia due to depression or anxiety. Research has also shown that chamomile may reduce anxiety in patients with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).³


Consuming lavender tea can help reduce depression and anxiety scores, as shown in a clinical trial involving older people.⁴

Valerian root

Research surrounding valerian root has indicated it may help treat sleep problems and anxiety alongside comorbidities like depression.⁵


The benefits of Ginseng have been widely accepted to encompass improved immune function, anti-cancer properties, and insulin secretion modulation. Ginseng tea may also regulate hormonal changes due to stress and suppress anxiety and depression. 

Green tea

Researchers suggest that green tea can exert protective effects against depression by decreasing oxidative stress. Polyphenols present in green tea also have antidepressant effects.⁶

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is generally associated with improvements in mood, cognitive function, and reductions in cortisol. This can induce anti-stress effects in individuals.⁷

What are the benefits of tea for symptoms of anxiety and depression?

Regular tea consumption may reduce common symptoms of anxiety and depression. These mechanisms are thought to be promoted by several compounds present in tea, which function through multiple biological pathways to reduce the risk of depression symptoms.

Common symptoms of anxiety and depression include abnormal mood levels, excess stress, decreased cognitive function, and poor sleep quality. It’s important to note that relieving these symptoms is often associated with reduced caffeine content.

Researchers believe this is due to caffeine interfering with sleep and blocking the effect of theanine, an amino acid in tea leaves that has potent anti-stress benefits. 

What food should you avoid if you have anxiety or depression?

Generally, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet across all food groups is key to maintaining good mental health and well-being. However, considerable attention has been driven to the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with improved mental health compared to the traditional “western” diet. 

It’s widely acknowledged that diet is linked to depressive symptoms, and adhering to the following dietary guidelines may help alleviate symptoms:⁸

  • Avoiding or limiting processed foods

  • Eating more magnesium and folic acid

  • Eating more anti-inflammatory foods (including an abundance of fruits and vegetables)

  • Increasing fish consumption (including fatty fish like salmon and tuna)

  • Increasing consumption of fatty acids from healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, avocados)

Safety and side effects

While drinking tea promotes various health benefits, it’s also recommended to drink it in moderation. Drinking too much (more than 3–4 cups a day) may lead to adverse side effects, including headaches, issues with digestion, and a disrupted sleep routine. You are unlikely to develop any of these effects if you drink less than this amount.

It’s also worth noting that the optimal amount for each individual may vary. Therefore, it is essential to observe how drinking tea makes you feel. You may benefit from writing down a beverage diary, especially if you’re trying out a new type of tea. Also, some teas are higher in caffeine than others, such as green tea.

If you’re particularly caffeine sensitive, avoid drinking green tea too late in the day to prevent your sleep from being adversely affected.

Talk to a health professional if you think you drink too much tea. They will be able to advise you on safe limits and potential medication interactions. 

Does tea interact with medicines?

It’s always better to let your doctor know when you’re trying out a new tea, especially if you’re taking various medications. The potential interactions between drugs and tea polyphenols have been shown in research. The latter can affect drug absorption and bioavailability.⁹

In particular, green tea can interact with cardiovascular drugs by either increasing or decreasing the exposure, potentially leading to an increased risk of drug toxicity or reduced effectiveness.

While not all teas interact with medicines, it’s worth checking to ensure adverse effects are limited.

The lowdown

Various teas have shown promise in easing common symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include improved sleep quality, decreased insomnia, stress-relieving properties, and elevated mood.

While the benefits are vast, more research is still needed regarding tea’s effect on mental health and potential drug interactions. Therefore, tea should be a complementary therapeutic tool alongside other treatment methods prescribed by a health professional.

Frequently asked questions

Can drink tea help depression?

Drinking tea shouldn’t be the primary treatment option if you have depression. However, adding a few cups of herbal tea to your routine doesn’t hurt. Links have been identified between certain types of tea and reduced levels of depression.

Which tea is good for mental health?

Not all teas are the same! Specific teas that have shown promise in alleviating anxiety and depression and improving overall mental health include chamomile, peppermint, lavender, and green tea.

Which is better for alleviating depression: coffee or tea?

Studies have suggested that both coffee and tea can provide some help with reducing symptoms of depression. However, research has indicated that caffeine can increase anxiety levels in specific individuals. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, opt for herbal tea over coffee.¹⁰

  1. The science of tea’s mood-altering magic | Nature

  2. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.) (2006)

  3. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future (2011)

  4. The effect of lavender herbal tea on the anxiety and depression of the elderly: A randomized clinical trial (2020)

  5. Valerian root in treating sleep problems and associated disorders—A systematic review and meta-analysis (2020)

  6. Green tea consumption and depressive symptoms among Japanese workers: The Furukawa nutrition and health study (2022)

  7. Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods (2014)

  8. Evidence of the importance of dietary habits regarding depressive symptoms and depression (2020)

  9. The effects of green tea polyphenols on drug metabolism (2012)

  10. Caffeine intake and mental health in college students (2021)

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