Health Benefits of Tea
The tradition of drinking tea to maintain good health goes a long way back. In early Buddhist texts and Chinese manuals on healing herbs, Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) is consistently described as being a potent medicine for promoting good health and longevity, as well as keeping the mind alert and sharp and treating many ailments, from indigestion to the common cold. In our modern society, we are learning that there is quite a bit of scientific evidence to support many of these ancient claims. Medical and health care professionals agree that drinking tea has many benefits and is a healthy addition to any diet. All types of tea, white, green, oolong and black, are beneficial, though research has shown that some types may contain higher levels of certain polyphenols than others. For example, green tea is higher in catechins than black tea, though black tea contains theaflavins that green tea does not, due to the higher oxidation. Ideally, one would try to consume a variety of teas to be able to reap the unique health benefits of each type.
Ingredients-A Scientific Approach
Following new scientific developments, research into the health effects of green tea has advanced significantly. Studies have shown that green tea is made of several main components that contribute to its character: catechins (texture), caffeine (bitterness), and theanine (flavor), as well as various vitamins and minerals. Present in large quantities of green tea, catechins (including EGCG) are a type of polyphenol that is also a component of red wine. Catechins also give green tea its signature texture, and as a potent antioxidant, hinders dangerous free radicals in the body. Caffeine gives green tea its bitter taste, while increasing alertness, and relieving fatigue. Theanine, an amino acid, gives green tea its taste and acts as a mild relaxant. Theanine helps to relieve the jittery effect that caffeine can sometimes produce in sensitive individuals. This makes it a great alternative to coffee which not only has higher levels of caffeine, but does not contain theanine to regulate the unpleasant physical side effects. These are the main research properties included in green tea. Green tea contains a well-balanced mix of these ingredients. Please download our PDF to learn more.
White Tea is the least oxidized of all types of tea. Because of this and the higher proportion of young bud leaves, white tea is usually very low in caffeine, which makes it a good choice for people who are watching their caffeine intake. Many people believe white tea to be even better for you than green tea because it has been processed less. Research has shown that white tea contains the same free radical fighting catechins as green tea. White tea may help to prevent heart disease, cancers and stroke, as well as helping to treat diabetes. High levels of calcium and fluoride may help maintain healthy teeth, gums and bones. White tea is an excellent addition to your daily routine.
Oolong Teas are unique because they span an oxidation range of 20-80%, where some are closer to green teas, and others are more similar to black teas. Caffeine levels vary accordingly, where greener oolongs will have less caffeine content and darker oolongs will have higher caffeine content. Oolong teas, because they have higher oxidation levels than green tea, will also have lower catechin levels, although catechins are still present. However, although catechins decrease with oxidation, theaflavin and thearubigin levels increase. These polyphenols may help in defending the body against stroke, dementia, heart disease and cancer. In addition to this, oolong teas have long been believed to aid in digestion, so have a cup with or after your next meal.
Black teas contain the highest levels of caffeine among all types of tea. For someone who is looking for an efficient energy boost, this would be a great choice. However, for caffeine sensitive individuals, consumption of black tea should be moderate. Black tea does contain low levels of catechins, but is noted for having the highest levels of theaflavins and thearubinins. As more research is showing, these compounds may be just as effective as the catechins in green tea in preventing heart disease, stroke and cancer, and lowering cholesterol. So don’t think that that your morning black tea isn’t as healthy as your cup of green tea in the afternoon. You are just consuming a different variety of healthy compounds.
The unique processing of Pu-erh teas, where the leaves are literally fermented and aged, chemically changes the makeup of the tea. Pu-erh tea has varying, but generally low levels of caffeine. It also contains very high amounts of flavonoids, which are aggressive in lowering LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Studies have shown that pu-erh has the ability to break up fats, which makes this tea especially effective at aiding digestion after particularly heavy or greasy meals. Traditionally, this type of tea was also believed to aid in weight loss, and is now included in many “slimming” tea formulas. Recent studies have shown that this type of tea may decrease body mass and increase metabolism. While it may or may not aid in maintaining a healthy weight, the other benefits to the heart and body are important enough to consider trying this unique tea.
Herbal “teas” or tisanes are not true teas, because they do not derive from the Camellia sinensis plant, however these tisanes have some virtues of their own. Most notably, these infusions do not contain caffeine, which makes them acceptable for young children, the elderly or for evening tea drinking. A specific example, rooibos, a red bush from South Africa, has high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as being caffeine free. Lavender has been used for generations to promote relaxation and to calm the mind and body. Chamomile, while also having strong calming powers, has been used as a natural pain reliever when prepared in strong infusions. Peppermint is used by many traditions, especially in Moroccan culture, as a tea to help aid in digestion and to clear the sinuses. These herbs, while not having the super powers of the Camellia sinensis plant should not be overlooked, as they do have their own more subtle benefits and can be enjoyed by anyone at any time of the day.