Health Benefits of Tea
A recent article in New Scientist Magazine states that numerous studies have shown that green tea protects against a range of cancers, including lung, prostate and breast cancer.
EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) is a powerful anti-oxidant which is abundant in green tea.
The health effects of tea has been studied since its discovery in China almost 5000 years ago. It’s no wonder why it has always had a place in traditional medicine. The World Health Organization defines traditional medicine as:
“The health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.”
Tea has been used for centuries for a multitude of health purposes. Most importantly, it has been used to prevent illness and maintain well-being. Below, the various health benefits of tea will be explained.
What is Tea?
Tea as we commonly refer to it can take many different forms. However, the term tea actually refers to the tea plant, otherwise known as Camellia Sinensis. The leaves that are produced by the many variations of this plant, produce the teas that we know as black tea, white tea, green tea, and oolong tea. Many other teas are available such as herbal teas, African Rooibos Tea. the South American Yerba Mate Tea and so on. And while these other teas are not derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant, they are still commonly referred to as tea.
Why is Tea So Healthy?
The reasons for tea being so healthy, in some ways can be endless. The reasons are endless simply due to the endless types of beneficial teas, herbs, fruits, flowers, etc. in the world, naturally occurring and available to us. Many of these teas and herbs contain essential minerals, compunds, enzymes, and antioxidants that are extremely beneficial to the human body. Many studies have been conducted that backup claims that tea provides benefits to body and mind.
The Health Benefits of Tea (Camellia Sinensis and The Battle of Free Radicals)
Black, green, white, and oolong teas derive their leaves from a warm-climate tree known as Camellia Sinensis. The leaves of this tea tree contain a potent antioxidant called polyphenols. Numerous studies have demonstrated the anti-cancer and anti-aging properties of polyphenols. Some studies have shown that polyphenols may reduce the risk of many different types of cancers. Polyphenols do this by fighting off the naturally occurring byproduct of our bodies known as free-radicals.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a free radical as follows:
“An atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive. In human tissues, free radicals can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related diseases.”
Without bringing you horrible flashbacks of Chemistry 101, we know that the human body is made up of many different types of cells. Those cells are made up of different molecules, which in turn are made up of atoms connected by chemical bonds. Atoms have a nucleus, neutrons, a number of electrons, and a number or protons. Typically bonds don’t split leaving an odd unpaired electron. However, when a weak bond is split, leaving an atom with an unpaired electron, a free radical is born. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, stealing its electron. When the attacked molecule loses its electron, it also becomes a free radical, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started it can multiply, resulting in the disruption of a living cell.
Free radicals are produced in our bodies for a variety of reasons such as immune response, metabolism, natural aging process, and disease. A plethora of outside factors such as radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and various chemicals and herbicides also produce free radicals in our bodies. The human body can handle a certain amount of free radicals using anti-oxidants, however as we age the amount of free radicals in our bodies increase. The antioxidant polyphenols found naturally occurring in tea are amazing at defending our bodies against free radicals. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron stealing reaction. The antioxidants are nutrients that themselves don’t become free radicals by donating an electron, because they are stable in either form. They act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage, disease, pre-mature aging, and cancer.
In a nutshell, free-radicals in our bodies do damage to our cells. Damage that can cause pre-mature aging, sickness, disease, and cancer. Our bodies are introduced to free radicals from both internal and external factors. Anti oxidants found in tea can prevent the damage of cells due to free radicals by stabilizing them in our bodies.
More Great Health Benefits of Tea
Anti-Cancer – Multiple studies have shown that the antioxidant compounds in tea have cancer fighting characteristics. Tea also provides inhibitory effects on DNA synthesis of leukemia cells and lung carcinoma
cells. Tea has been linked to being both preventative and combative against many different types of cancer.
Anti-Heart Disease – Green tea has been shown to fight obesity and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol-two risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Tea has also been shown to improve blood vessel function.
Anti-Stroke – Research presented at the International Stroke Conference in February 2009 found that drinking three or more cups of tea per day can reduce the risk of suffering a stroke by as much as 21%. The research, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that drinking green and black varieties of teas has a significant impact on the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Anti-Arthritis – Tea has been shown to provide rheumatoid arthritis prevention and relief.
Increased Mental Awareness – The amino acid L-theanine, which is found almost exclusively in the tea plant, affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and increases alpha brain-wave activity. The result is a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind.
Weight Loss – In clinical trials conducted by the University of Geneva and the University of Birmingham it was found that tea raises metabolic rates, speeds up fat oxidation and improves insulin sensitivity. In addition, green tea contains catechin polyphenols that raise thermogenesis (the production of heat by the body), and hence increases fat expenditure.
Immune System – L-theanine may help the body’s immune system response when fighting infection, by boosting the disease-fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells.
Lowered Stress Levels – Drinking black tea can lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Blood platelet activation, which is linked to blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks has also been shown to be lower for tea drinkers.
Oral Health– Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago conducted a study which revealed that polyphenols found in tea help inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath, and can inhibit the creation of dental cavities.
Cardiovascular Health– Research has shown that black tea improves blood vessel reactivity, reducing both blood pressure and arterial stiffness, indicating better overall cardiovacular health.
Tea seems to be a natural and pleasant way to increase whole body health and well being, both mentally and physically. In addition to the studies conducted revealing the great health benefits of tea…the mere act of making a cup of tea…and sitting down to enjoy it, seems to have a profound effect on body, mind, and soul. This effect maybe isn’t something best measured by science. Rather, it is just something that we feel.