Legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shennong, discovered tea when a tea leaf accidentally fell into the cup of hot water he was drinking. Originally, people drank only green tea, and there was no black or Oolong (Wu Long) tea. Tea was initially said to be accessible only to the rich. Today tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. There are three main extracts of tea – green, black, and Oolong. All of these come from the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis. The difference in the teas lies in their processing. Oolong is a semi-fermented tea, in which the leaves are processed directly after picking. Black tea is made by fermenting the leaves for longer before roasting. Green tea on the other hand is not fermented, but lightly steamed and then dried.
Medicinal uses of Green tea
Green tea is made by lightly steaming freshly picked leaves so that they don’t ferment. They are then dried. The leaves undergo minimal oxidation while processing, which helps retain the active ingredients in the plant. Fermenting the leaves leads to the loss of EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate). Green tea originates from China and has been used in China for medicinal purposes for nearly 5000 years. Due to its antioxidant properties, it is said to protect against heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals. Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols especially the EGCG. Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or prevent some of the damage they cause. It is believed that free radicals contribute to the aging process, as well as a number of health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Studies show that the polyphenols present in green tea, are far more potent in suppressing free radicals than Vitamin A or Vitamin C.
Health benefits of Green Tea
Green tea health benefits for Cholesterol
Research shows that green tea lowers total cholesterol. It raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol in both animals and people. One study found that men who drink green tea are more likely to have lower total cholesterol than those who do not drink green tea. Polyphenols in green tea are said to block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and promote its excretion from the body. It also inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots. This is particularly helpful, as thrombosis is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.
Green tea health benefits for Cancer
Scientific research has shown that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly 60%. Emerging clinical studies suggest that the polyphenols in tea, especially green tea, may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop their progression. In China and Japan where high amounts of green tea are consumed daily, cancer rates are statistically lower. The Mayo Clinic conducted a small study using four patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Three of the four patients showed significant regression of CLL after taking green tea extract for a period of a few months. The fourth patient’s prognosis was improved, but not significantly. There is now growing scientific research from reputable sources that show promising results as to how the active ingredients in green tea extract might be responsible for lower rates of various kinds of cancer.
Green tea health benefits for diabetes
When researchers tested green and black tea on diabetic rats for three months, they found that it inhibited cataracts and also had a blood-sugar-lowering effect. Animal studies show that green tea can lower blood sugar in diabetic mice without altering the insulin levels, enhance glucose tolerance and protect insulin-producing cells from the damage that may cause diabetes. New human studies have shown that green tea may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Green tea health benefits for Liver Disease
Green tea is said to help attain a lean liver. People who drink green tea are less likely to develop disorders of the liver. Green tea also seems to protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances such as alcohol. Animal studies have shown that green tea helps protect against the development of liver tumors in mice. One of the polyphenols present in green tea, known as catechin, may help treat viral hepatitis which is inflammation of the liver from a virus.
Home remedy for Weight Loss
Green tea revs up your metabolism and hence the rate at which your body burns calories increases. Catechins in green tea result in low-fat absorption and fat storage. The blood sugar-regulating effects of green tea lead to a loss of appetite. It is also low in calories. Hence it is believed to aid in weight loss
Green tea for the Brain
Studies on mice have shown that the catechins in green tea delayed brain aging, reduced degenerative changes to their brains, and in fact reversed their mental degeneration and improved memory-related learning ability. One study on humans found that the more green tea they drank, the less problem they had related to thinking and memory.
Green tea health benefits for the teeth
Green tea plays an important part in fighting bacteria in the mouth. It freshens the breath, warding off cavities. It inhibits the production of plaque, and reduces the ability of bacteria to produce enamel-eating acid, and hence is an effective home remedy for protecting the teeth. Tea is very rich in fluorides, the mineral that interacts with tooth enamel and hardens it so that it does not decay.
Green tea and food poisoning
Green tea deters food poisoning. As green tea has the ability to kill bacteria, consumption of strong green tea, is often recommended as a treatment for diarrhoea. Research has shown that catechin is a powerful sterilizing agent for many types of bacteria that cause food poisoning.
How to make Green Tea?
Making green tea is quite simple. It is important to not over brew it as it can taste quiet bitter. It is advisable to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
The best way is to steep the tea in hot water for about 2 – 3 minutes. Heat the water. It should not be boiling hot. Place the tea leaves in a pot and pour hot water in it and cover. Leave it to steep for 2 – 3 minutes. Strain and drink with or without sugar according to your preference.
People with heart problems, kidney disorders, stomach ulcers, and psychological disorders (particularly anxiety) should not take green tea.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid green tea.
People who drink excessive amounts of caffeine (including caffeine from green tea) for prolonged periods of time may experience irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations, and dizziness.
If you are being treated with any medications, you should not drink green tea or take green tea extract without first talking to your doctor.