Tea is made from the dried leaves of a shrub called Camellia sinensis. Historically, India, China, Japan, and Thailand have been drinking its brew for thousands of years. Because ancient sages realized the health benefits of green tea, it became part of their rituals and ceremonies. Tea drinking is inculcated in the culture of most Asian countries. India and China were the first cultivators of tea and still are today, the largest producers of tea.
It is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, the most important of which are flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate, and proanthocyanidins). Out of these flavonoids, Epigallocatechin gallate is the most significant active compound.Dried leaves generally contain from 8-12% total polyphenols, caffeine (3.5%), theanine (~4%), lignin (6.5%), organic acids (1.5%), protein (15%), and chlorophyll (0.5%). It retains much of its active bioflavonoids, B-vitamins and ascorbic acid because of the way it is processed. It is processed by steam whereas Black Tea is processed by fermentation. Because it is fermented Black Tea has lost much of its antioxidant properties. The essential oil contains more than 300 components including aldehydes, phenylethyl alcohols, phenols, hexenal, linalool, dihydroactinidiolide and p-vinylphenol.
Ancient Chinese and Indian medicine record its use as a stimulant, diuretic (to flush out excess fluids from the body), as an astringent (to control bleeding and help heal wounds), and to improve heart health. It was traditionally used for the treatment of flatulence (gas), for regulating blood glucose levels, promoting digestion, and improving mental alertness.
Extensive medical resesarch on its benefits is showing positive results. Studies indicate:
- Helps protect against a range of cancers. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, polyphenols containing catechins present may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Emerging studies also suggest that polyphenols inactivate oxidants, reduce the number and size of tumors, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. (New Scientist, 20 March 2004). Studies in particular have been conducted on cancers of the bladder, breast, ovaries, esophagus, lungs, pancreas, prostate, skin, and stomach.
- Helps to prevent Atherosclerosis. Antioxidants are believed to suppress the oxidation of LDL or bad cholesterol, and thereby prevent the formation of a fatty buildup in the arteries. They are also believed to reduce the risk of blood clot formation and improve blood flow by helping the blood vessels to relax.
- Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Research indicates that green tea lowers total cholesterol and raises HDL, the good cholesterol in both animals and people. Polyphenols do this by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the gut and helping to quickly eliminate it through excretion.
- Helps control Diabetes. It has been used traditionally to control blood sugar in the body. Studies indicate that it may help regulate glucose in the body.
- Helps protect against Liver disease. It is believed to offer a protective affect on the liver, protecting if from liver damage due to toxic substances, such as alcohol.
- Weight loss. Studies suggest that extracts may boost metabolism and help burn fat. Some researchers speculate polyphenols, specifically catechins, are responsible for the fat-burning effect.
- Relaxation. Due to the presence of the amino acid, L-theanine, drinking a hot cup helps produce a relaxed feeling, increasing alertness of mind.
- Helps to boost the immune system. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital research suggests that theanine present enhances the capacity of Gamma Delta T cells in their fight against disease and helps the body to fight infections.
- Helps to make the digestive and respiratory system strong because it is rich in bioflavonoids.
- It is anti-bacterial and helps prevent dental cavities.
Two to three cups per day (for a total of 240 to 320 mg polyphenols) is recommended. It is best to get the antioxidants from its natural form. But if you don’t like the flavor, or don’t have the time, and would like to make sure your body is benefiting from antioxidants you may want to try Green Tea Extracts or Green Tea Drops. Green Tea Plus is a heavily concentrated form of it. It has an antioxidant value of 7800 units. It has added trace minerals to aid in regular body functions. It can be added to any beverage, even water.