Ever since Emperor Shen Nung discovered the leaves of the Camellia sinensis more than 4500 years ago in ancient China, the health benefits of tea have been known to the Chinese. Books have been written and songs composed to propagate the beliefs about the health benefits of tea. Chinese emperors, for whom tea was nothing less than a tribute, used to even decree royal proclamations as to what form the tea should be presented to them, so that they may derive the maximum from the supposed medicinal properties of the tea leaves. In fact, other than being a rejuvenating drink, the Chinese also claimed that tea was useful for curing lethargy, bladder ailments and tumors.
However, most of these claims were unknown to the world outside China until the late nineteenth century. Even then, they were passed off as rumors and unfounded claims. Recently, though research conducted on tea, especially green tea, have started giving results proving that tea for health might not be that bad an idea after all! In these recent studies, it has been claimed that tea may have anti-cancer properties, it may be able to slow down the spread of HIV in the body, it definitely increases the metabolic rate and mental alertness, and it can also help reduce stress.
Let us have a look at some of the studies done on the composition of tea which show whether really tea is good for health:
· Effects on HIV – Studies have been conducted and found that epigallcatechin gallate (EGCG) found in tea helps boost one’s immune system. Therefore, this helps in throttling the spread of the HIV virus in the body. However, researchers have made it quite clear, that though tea helps in reducing the spread of HIV in the body, it should always be used along with conventional medicines.
· Effects on Metabolic Rate – Tea, especially green tea, have been known to speed up fat oxidation and in crease the metabolic rate. Along with caffeine, the catechin polyphenols present in tea helps speed up the rate at which calories are burnt, thereby increasing substantially the energy consumed.
· Effects on Mental Health and Immune System – Tea has been found to contain amino acid L-theanine which improves the body’s ability to combat diseases by giving a boost to gamma delta T-cells. The L-theanine found in tea also helps keep the brain in an alert state of relaxation by increasing alpha wave production in the brain.
· Effects on Hormone Levels – It has been found that tea, more specifically black tea, can reduce stress hormones in the body and thereby help a person recover more quickly from stress. Also it has been seen that the risk of heart attacks and blood platelet activation are a lot lower in tea drinkers.
· Effects on Alzheimer’s – The epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) can also protect the brain and fight Alzheimer’s disease. It helps prevent buildup of abnormal levels of beta-amyloid plaque which is responsible for causing the Alzheimer’s disease.
The above illustrated examples are only some of the many benefits of drinking the various varieties of tea. Besides these, tea is also rumored to be beneficial in fighting diabetes and preventing cognitive impairment, though these are yet to be effectively proven through studies. Still, there is no doubt that tea for health is no longer just a marketing strategy of tea companies, but a reality!