Tea has been cultivated for centuries, beginning in India and China. Today, tea is the most widely-consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. Hundreds of millions of people drink tea, and studies suggest that green tea (Camellia sinensis) in particular has many health benefits.
The use of tea leaves probably first originated in the southwest ‘area of China more than 3,000 years ago and was likely initially used by people just for chewing and eating, in just the same way that coffee was first used by people eating the beans directly in Ethiopia. Over time, the use of leaves and buds from the tea tree gradually expanded as people began to use in cooking and when added to boiling water to flavor the water they drunk.
Green tea is an un-oxidized tea that is named – obviously! For its green colored leaves and green tinged color when brewed. Being by far and away China’s most commonly drunk tea, it is the most commonly grown type of tea and also has the biggest representation in the list of China’s most favored top ten teas – that include Dragonwell (Xihu Longjing), Dongting Biluochun, Huangshan Mao Feng, Lushan Yunwu, Liu’an Guapian and Xinyang Maojian. First recognized outside of China in the early 1900’s, Chinese green teas quickly became very popular overseas and in 1915 Xinyang Maojian won a gold medal for ‘best tea in the world’ at the Panama World Expo.
Health benefits of Green Tea
Full of Antioxidants
Antioxidants, why are they good for us anyway? Well, when we eat, our bodies have to turn food into energy. As a result, this generates some byproducts within our bodies called free radicals. These chemicals are pretty awful, and can severely damage our bodies through a process called oxidation. Free radicals are also, theoretically, the main driver in aging. But have no fear, we can combat the negative effect of free radicals by consuming antioxidants, and one great way to do this is by drinking green tea.
In clinical trials published by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, scientists found that numerous studies suggested that the consumption of tea may bring positive health effects. The hypothesis behind these benefits stems from the high levels of flavonoids, antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. Benefits of flavonoids include, but are not limited to:
- Fighting Viruses
- Helping Prevent Cancer
- Preventing Inflammation
- Helping with Allergies
Green tea has been shown to activate our internal detoxification enzymes which may hinder tumor growth. Many teas are packed with antioxidants, but the direct mechanism of cancer prevention hasn’t yet been fully established. The good news is there is a relationship between cancer prevention and tea consumption.
According to livescience.com, an ongoing study of women with breast cancer showed that polyphenols in green tea may slow down proteins that are part of tumor cell growth.Dr. Katherine Crew, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, also conducted a study in men with prostate cancer and found that green tea drinkers had markedly lower prostate-specific antigen, which is linked to prostate tumor growth. Evidence suggests that both sexes can enjoy the cancer-fighting benefits of green tea.
Well, according to a study from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Basel Switzerland, sipping on green tea enhances memory. Until last year, the effects of green tea on cognitive function were speculative, but with the improvements in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Dr. Stefan Borgwardt could view the increased connectivity in the cortices of the brain after consumption of green tea. Specifically, green tea drinkers showed increased connectivity in key parts of the brain associated with memory.
The study used healthy male volunteers and found that when given a soft drink containing green tea extract, those consuming green tea extract not only showed increased connectivity in parts of the brain but improved performance on working memory tasks as well.
Many of us have heard the disadvantages associated with high cholesterol, and the risks associated with it. At present, many people around the world are trying everything they know to reduce it. Additionally, it is really difficult to think of life beyond fast food, and too many unhealthy snacks and drinks. However, a very valuable option would be to replace at least some of these with green tea. It has a strong anti-oxidant known as EGCG, which can absorb cholesterol from the intestine. As per survey carried out by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, more than 1100 participants showed improvement after consuming the drink. Those that took it 5 times a day, showed a significant reduction of cholesterol from the body.
Anti-Anxiety and Relaxation
Green tea comes packed with l-theanine, and l-theanine may help you to relax and avoid anxiety.
A study published in the Journal of Trends in Food Science & Technology by Dr. Juneja and team states that theanine acts as a neurotransmitter that increases alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are considered to be an indicator of relaxation. Human volunteers were given 50-200 mg of l-theanine and were shown to have increased alpha waves without drowsiness. So it appears you can drink green tea to help mellow you out, without falling asleep.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, Japanese adults who drank more than five cups daily were at 26% lower risk of heart attack or stroke. Studies show that green tea can improve some of the main risk factors for these diseases. This includes total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Green tea also dramatically increases the antioxidant capability of the blood, which protects the LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, which is one part of the pathway towards heart disease. Given the beneficial effects of risk factors, it is not surprising to see that green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se”. This was said by Dr. Abdul G. Dulloo, author of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
If you look at the ingredients list for any fat burning supplement, chances are that green tea will be on there. This is because green tea has been shown to increase fat burning and boost the metabolic rate, in human controlled trials. In one study in 10 healthy men, green tea increased energy expenditure by 4%.
Another study showed that fat oxidation was increased by 17%, indicating that green tea may selectively increase the burning of fat. However, I’d like to point out that some studies on green tea don’t show any increase in metabolism, so the effects may depend on the individual.
Caffeine itself has also been shown to improve physical performance by mobilizing fatty acids from the fat tissues and making them available for use as energy. In two separate review studies, caffeine has been shown to increase physical performance by 11-12%, on average. Another piece in the Journal of Advances in Nutrition mentioned that a number of studies have witnessed how green tea can improve fat burning.
While overall research is still limited, given the health benefits of green tea, if it is a fat burner to boot, why not? We already know that green tea is full of antioxidants, is good for both the heart and brain and can help fight cancer, so why shouldn’t we drink it?
Green tea can kill bacteria, which improves dental health and lowers your risk of infection. The catechins in green tea have other biological effects as well. Some studies (including a study recently published in the Journal of Periodontology) show that they can kill bacteria and inhibit viruses like the influenza virus, potentially lowering your risk of infections. Streptococcus mutans are the primary harmful bacteria in the mouth. It causes plaque formation and is a leading contributor to cavities and tooth decay. Studies show that the catechins in green tea can inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans.
Green tea consumption is associated with improved dental health and a lower risk of caries. “Another awesome benefit of green tea, multiple studies show that it can reduce bad breath”. So, the catechins in green tea may inhibit the growth of bacteria and some viruses. This can lower the risk of infections and lead to improvements in dental health, a lower risk of caries and reduce bad breath.
Lowering Risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Not only can green tea improve brain function in the short term, it may also protect your brain in old age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in humans and a leading cause of dementia.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and involves the death of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Multiple studies show that the catechin compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on neurons in test tubes and animal models, potentially lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
According to a review of 7 studies with a total of 286,701 individuals, green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic.
Green tea is rich in skin-rejuvenating vitamins and minerals. Everyone wants younger looking skin, and green tea may be the answer. Green tea contains vitamin B, manganese, potassium, caffeine, amino acids, folate, and phytochemicals that are fantastic for your skin. Green tea improves the skin’s complexion by flushing out toxins in the body and reducing inflammation. The antioxidants found in green tea also help reduce puffiness and the appearance of dark circles.
Tone your skin and draw out impurities with green tea. Simply brew a strong cup, allow it to cool, and pour it into a spray bottle to spritz the face and give your skin a beautiful glow. Green tea can also help treat acne and skin conditions, such as rosacea, due to its anti-inflammatory properties and antibacterial agents.