Saturday, June 21

Benefits of green tea

For fortune-tellers, gazing into tea leaves reveals the future. For tea-drinkers, the leaves of certain teas may be harbingers of a healthier future. Aside from herbal or fruit-infused teas, most teas come from the leaves of the same tea bush, Camellia sinensis. The benefit of each kind of tea from the Camellia sinensis depends upon when and where the leaves are harvested and how their properties are brewed or extracted. To get to the truth about tea, we need to gaze into the leaves a bit, too. Is any other food or drink reported to have as many health benefits as green tea? The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. In her book Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, Nadine Taylor states that green tea has been used as a medicine in China for at least 4,000 years. Since old times, Chinese are using green tea health benefits as medicine to treat everything from simple headaches to depression. Today, many scientific researches have provided enough evidence for the health benefits of the green tea drinking. To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:
  • cancer
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • high cholesterol levels
  • cariovascular disease
  • infection
  • impaired immune function

Read the leaves: Green tea reigns as the current health superstar of teas. Young leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush are harvested to make green tea, then steamed, dried, and rolled. When brewed, the leaves yield a delicate, grassy flavour. Tons of varieties exist, infused with different flavours, like fruit or toasted rice. Some kinds are handled differently, as with the "gunpowder" variety, in which the leaves are rolled into balls that look like gunpowder pellets used in cannons.

Harvest the benefits: Tea from the Camellia sinensis family contain catechins, a type of antioxidant that can protect cells in the body from oxidative damage that may lead to cancers. Because it goes through less processing than other tea types, green tea contains a higher amount of a certain kind of catechin called EGCG.

EGCG is at the heart of numerous scientific studies researching green tea's potential medical uses and health benefits. Some of its suspected uses include:

  • helping to maintain healthy weight
  • slowing the growth of some cancers and lowering risks of others
  • reducing inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Is all this a tempest in a teacup? Can green tea live up to all of its hype? Most people don't drink enough to get the kinds of results seen in research studies, in which highly dense extracts of green tea may be used. Still, risks of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer were found to be drastically reduced when people drank 5 cups per day (one cup of green tea provides 20-35 mg of EGCG). Drinking 5 cups of green tea each day may work for some, but even one or two a day may give you some of the green tea benefits.

What makes green tea so special?

The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.

Let these ideas steep

Keep the following in mind as you decide whether to add some tea to your days:

  • Tea may contain less caffeine than coffee, but it is caffeine nonetheless. Caffeine has been linked to high blood pressure and can trigger symptoms of conditions, including heartburn and headaches.
  • The tannins in tea may interfere with or decrease the effectiveness of some medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medications can mix with green tea.
  • The tannins may also hinder iron absorption.
  • Women who are pregnant should not drink large amounts of green tea. EGCG can interfere with neural tube development.
  • Mixing tea with citrus may up its antioxidant strength.
  • To get the most of tea's benefits, drink it freshly brewed, rather than bottled. Let tea steep for a few minutes to release the catechins.