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Photo of Ms. Melody Smith @melody_is_outside
Photo credit: Ms. Cindy Harter Photography @cindyharter
Tea is such an important part of our Indian culture that it is almost something we take for granted. When we delved into learning more about the health benefits of tea, we were amazed to learn about all its wonderful healing powers. Tea is an ancient beverage that has been interestingly used as a full body tonic in Chinese culture for thousands of years. It contains hundreds of beneficial molecules including polyphenols (tannins or antioxidants), amino acids (like L-theanine), alkaloids (like caffeine), and a variety of other nutrients and minerals that help preserve the mind and purify the body.
The polyphenols in tea are magical with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory properties. This means that they help reduce cell damage and inflammation in the body. It has been found that polyphenols are beneficial to multiple organs in the body and improve dental hygiene, bone, skin, gut, heart and brain health and wellness. Polyphenols in tea may help with weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and likely also decrease risk of heart disease. They might also prevent memory loss! Polyphenols have been shown to prevent cancer in animal models, but studies in humans have been conflicting.
L-theanine is an over the counter medication that many people take to help with stress and anxiety. Interestingly, its origins are in tea! It is actually an amino acid that is found in tea and certain types of mushrooms. L- theanine has been found to improve mood and relieve stress. Also, L-theanine balances the excitation caused by caffeine and together they create a “Focused Calm”. So one is alert, but also calm at the same time and we definitely think that is a great state of mind to be in!
Have you ever used coffee to get you through a hard day but found yourself jittery and unable to concentrate after your third cup, followed by a crash and headache later on. Well, tea does contain caffeine but it also has tannins (polyphenols) and they help regulate the release of caffeine so that the feeling of alertness lasts much longer without the “crash”.
Being firm believers in wellness as well as accurate scientific information, one of our important goals was to get the correct evidence. We scored through numerous research articles and books and concluded that there is definitely a benefit of having tea! It is definitely preventative and possibly might have some restorative benefits. We have compiled the data and will leave it to make your own conclusion.
Tea extracts (polyphenols, amino acids, pigments and polysaccharides) have proven antioxidant effects. They can scavenge free radicals and reduce DNA damage thereby slowing down the aging process. Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron, they try to bind to other atoms which can damage cells, contribute to the aging process, and can lead to more degenerative conditions. Free radicals build up over time as our body loses the ability to fight them, this in turn accelerates the aging process. are also able to regulate inflammation in the body. Catechin polyphenols found primarily in green tea, and theaflavins polyphenols found primarily in black tea have similar antioxidant effects. The primary green tea catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is 100 times more effective than Vitamin C and 25 times more effective than Vitamin E in its antioxidative properties and preventing cell damage. EGCG has also been thought to have good anti-viral properties based on a few studies, but needs validation. It is also thought that tea can help the body fight food borne bacteria as well as promote gut health and good bacteria.
Polyphenols, especially EGCG, have been shown to promote weight loss by inducing fat oxidation. However, the optimal dose and duration of consumption of EGCG has not been established. Multiple studies have shown that drinking 1-2 cups of green tea a day can decrease body mass index (BMI) and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol in a person, that can later lead to heart and brain disease.Tea also helps decrease blood sugars levels in the body by inhibiting α-Glucosidase enzyme in the intestine.
A majority of studies have shown that tea consumption supports cardiovascular health. There is a decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL), blood pressure and also improvement in the inflammation of the blood vessels. The exact dose is not known, but studies suggest that consumption of 2-6 cups of green or black tea a day has been shown to be beneficial.
Studies have reported cancer preventing effects of tea consistently in animal models but less consistently and even conflictingly in humans. This could possibly be because higher doses of tea and its extracts were used in animals. Therefore, it is unclear if tea decreases the risk of cancer in humans. As for the actual mechanism of any anti-cancer activity of tea, mechanisms that help decrease cancer risk include- antioxidant activity, induction of phase II enzymes, inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and inhibition of angiogenesis. In lay terms, tea can prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous and can suppress growth of cancer cells.
Tea may have positive benefits in the prevention of memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be a result of accumulation of amyloid beta protein in the brain that results in oxidative damage and the death of nerve cells. Tea extracts including catechins, GABA and theanine likely protect the nerve cells from damage. The mechanism is thought to be through gene regulation- deactivation of genes that promote cell death and apoptosis and induction of genes that induce protective protein kinase C in the neurons. The frequency of tea drinking was found to be directly proportional to its neuroprotective effects, with daily tea drinking found to be most beneficial. Women were also found to have more benefits than men.
Tea is thought to be an antidepressant through multiple pathways in the human body. Components of tea that have shown to have antidepressant properties include polyphenols and their byproducts (catechins, theaflavins, teasponin) and L-Theanine. There is an increase in serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which improve depression and uplift moods. There is also decrease in the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and increase in inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA which helps calm the brain. Tea contains caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system. However, the polyphenols in tea regulate and slow the release of caffeine, so that the feeling of alertness lasts much longer. L theanine promotes alpha waves in the brain which relaxes the mind and decreases anxiety. Therefore, the combination of theanine and caffeine in tea leads to a “Focussed Calm.”
Catechins in green tea have shown to increase bone density and decrease degeneration, thereby decreasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Fluorine in tea helps strengthen the teeth and flavonoids in tea help maintain healthy bacteria in the oral cavity and decrease plaque formation.
Antioxidants found in tea can help to regenerate and repair cells and protect the skin from harmful free radicals. Although tea has caffeine which is a weak diuretic, tea is very hydrating as it is mainly water.
Oolong tea and black tea has long been used as a post-meal digestive drink. Pu’er is particularly good for digestion as it has probiotic properties.
Now that you know all about the health benefits of tea, why not make it a part of your daily routine to reap its most benefits? I recommend starting your day with one of our chais, whole leaf black or green teas, possibly trying an oolong or artisanal blend in the afternoon and likely ending your evening with a white tea or herbal tisane! Over time, we are sure this whole body tonic will work wonders in preserving your mind and purifying your body.