You’ve probably heard blueberries called a “super-food” by nutritionists and researchers. This is for good reason as they are packed full of antioxidants that destroy harmful free radicals. Fresh blueberries are also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, but they are often expensive to buy and sometimes unavailable if they are out of season. However, drinking blueberry tea provides some of the health benefits of the fresh fruit without the high cost or unavailability issues.
Blueberry tea is made from various parts of the blueberry bush, including the fruit, leaves and stem. Most commercial brands contain a little bit of everything, so read the label to determine exactly what is in that tea bag. Avoid brands that use artificial flavors. If the tea contains some fruit, it will likely be dehydrated, which is fine because freeze-dried fruit contains most of the nutrients as fresh. Blueberry tea sometimes contains actual tea leaves, either black or green varieties, which add some caffeine to the beverage. If no tea leaves are added, then the blueberry tea is technically called an herbal infusion and is caffeine free.
Most parts of the blueberry bush, particularly the fruit and leaves, are rich in strong antioxidants called anthocyanidins. Anthocyanidins help protect tissues such as blood vessels from damage and deterioration caused by free radicals, which are end-products of certain biochemical reactions. The fruit and leaves are also very good sources of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant and antimicrobial. In order to preserve the anthocyanidins and vitamin C in blueberry tea, avoid using boiling hot water because the high heat will destroy them. Instead, use slightly cooler water and let the drink steep for about 20 minutes.
Vitamin C also boosts the immune system because it stimulates the production and activation of specialized white blood cells. White blood cells are the “soldiers” for your immune system as they directly attack foreign invaders, such as viruses. Vitamin C is also a good antibacterial and mild anti-parasitic, and helps to reduce the risk of infection, which allows the immune system to spend more energy on other disease-fighting tasks. Other antioxidants in the leaves and fruit protect the liver by destroying the hepatitis C virus, which is linked to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Drinking blueberry tea, especially if it’s entirely herbal and caffeine free, is a tasty way of meeting your daily water needs and preventing dehydration. Many health professionals recommend drinking 64 ounces of water per day, which is difficult for some women, especially those who are used to flavored and sweetened drinks. Blueberry tea with a little honey added is so good that you’ll certainly struggle less in reaching your daily water requirement.
Try making your own blueberry tea at home by picking fresh blueberries and their leaves and adding them to hot -- but not boiling -- water. Let them steep and then strain them before drinking. Squeezing blueberry juice into a mug of green tea is another healthy and delicious option. Planting a small blueberry bush in your home close to a window might not provide you with lots of fruit, but it could still be a good source of beneficial leaves.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Human Biochemistry; Charles Dreiling
- The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements and Herbs; Nicola Reavley
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.