This month, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain celebrates her 90th birthday. She has served longer than any other British monarch. Indeed, long-lived is the Queen.
I was in Hong Kong in 1977 — when it was still a British Crown colony — during the huge “Silver Jubilee” celebration to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s near-record 25 years on the throne at that time. It seems like ages ago now.
Those around the Queen say her energy is undiminished — even as she enters her 90s. She still rides horses, gives speeches, and keeps a busy schedule fulfilling her duties as Queen. So, of course, it got me thinking. What does she do to take care of herself?
The answer could lie in the tea she drinks, made with a natural ingredient known to promote heart health.
Order up several shades of (Earl) Grey for year heart
It is said Queen Elizabeth’s favorite beverage is Earl Grey tea. And that makes perfect sense, given the Queen’s continued energy for life.
Earl Grey tea originated in England at the time when Queen Victoria came to the throne. (She subsequently became the longest-reigning British monarch up to that point in history.)
The tea is named for Charles Grey (1764 – 1834), the second Earl Grey, who inherited his title from his father who had been bestowed baronetcy in 1806 as a leading military general during the American Revolutionary War. The second Earl Grey led the Whig Party in Britain from 1806 to 1834 (at the same time we still had such a party in the early U.S.). He also served as the British Prime Minister during the early 1830s.
Earl Charles Grey created the tea by adding bergamot oil to black tea (fermented green tea) to hide the alkaline taste of the local water at his estate near Newcastle, which was famous for its coal mining.
Bergamot oil comes from a pear-shaped citrus fruit — probably a hybrid between a lime and an orange — grown in Calabria, in the boot of Italy. It is too bitter to eat or drink as juice, but as an extract it has proved to be a popular flavoring.
Lady Grey tea is another variety of the tea, which adds lavender and Seville oranges. French and Russian Earl Grey teas are also available today. The French version includes rose petals and the Russian variety boasts citrus peel and lemon grass.
But let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of the original, bergamot Earl Grey tea.
Bergamot contains plant flavonoids — typically found in the white, fibrous pith of citrus fruits — which support heart health. In fact, recent research from Italy shows bergamot is an important, active ingredient. It balances blood lipids, lowers blood sugar, controls chronic inflammation, and improves cardiovascular health. In my view — it’s a natural trifecta for heart health.
The Italian study followed 77 men and women with high cholesterol and triglycerides. They divided the participants into four groups. The first group took a placebo. The second group took Crestor. The third group took a bergamot supplement. And the fourth group took bergamot plus Crestor.
Bergamot naturally slashes cholesterol
After just 30 days, men and women who took a bergamot extract reduced their cholesterol by nearly 100 points — from 289 to 191 mg/dl. The results were so good, the heart patients taking bergamot plus the stain drug Crestor were able to cut their drug doses in half. The researchers also found the participants who took bergamot improved their “good” cholesterol, reduced fatty deposits in the liver, and lowered their blood sugar. In my view, the benefits for blood sugar and the liver were more significant than cholesterol.
The researchers did emphasize that pursuit of cholesterol as the sole culprit of heart disease is out-of-date and simple-minded. It misses the point about the delicate natural balances of lipids (fats) and other metabolites in the blood for heart health. Most heart health advice also ignores the importance of controlling chronic inflammation, as well as the critical role of energy-suppliers like CoQ10, which the heart muscle needs every day to efficiently use the oxygen. This activity is especially important in patients with coronary artery heart disease who have reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.
Some of my favorite herbal ingredients, including South African aspal, support CoQ10 production. On the other hand, statin drugs actually deplete critical CoQ10!
Interestingly, bergamot lowers cholesterol as do statin drugs — but it doesn’t appear to interfere with CoQ10 production. So it acts differently and naturally compared to the metabolic toxicity of statins.
Now — the Italian study used a standardized extract called ResVitale Bergamot. But you can get your bergamot by simply drinking Earl Grey tea. Just be careful of the possible contaminants in tea bags, and other ways of brewing teas, as I explained in the April 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.
You too could be like the Queen of England (or as they say in Italian, the proverbial “Reigna di Inghilterra”) and go on to celebrate your silver, gold, and diamond jubilees.
- “Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia,” International Journal of Cardiology December 10, 2013; 170(2): 140–145