“Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence”
– Samuel Johnson.
A cup of tea makes a world of difference…for your health. The health benefits of tea or Camellia sinensis, has been recognised about 4700 years ago in China. A cup of tea is a soothing, aromatic and delicious beverage that has wonderful health benefits and healing properties, especially green tea. The properties are understood scientifically too.
Tea contains high levels of polyphenols (flavonoids) which has antioxidant properties which is high in green tea, lesser in white tea and present in varying levels in Oolongs and black tea. It also contains caffeine and nutrients.
Drinking tea offers you a number of tangible health benefits:
- Tea enhances the immune functions
- Aids in digestion and metabolism
- Helps lowering LDL(Low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels
- Helps increasing HDL(High-density lipoprotein ) cholesterol levels
- Helps in reducing blood pressure
- Prevents dental cavities and gingivitis
- Aids in thinning the blood, thus reducing the risk of a heart attack and of strokes
- Reportedly reduces the risk of cancer
- Helps longevity and life expectancy
What’s in tea?
Tea contains catechins. This type of antioxidant is found highest in white and green teas. Black tea owing to its oxidative preparation contains lower concentration. But the US Department of Agriculture suggests that levels in black and green tea don’t differ much. Antioxidants or free radicals harm molecules of our body through a process known as oxidative stress.
Tea also contains types of phenolics and tannin but not tannic acid. ( Tannic acid is not an appropriate standard for any type of tannin analysis because of its poorly defined composition ). Tea has theanine and caffeine content at approximately 3% of its dry weight. It also contains theobromine and theophylline. But only a little quantity is required to brew tea and so is the intake.
Caffeine found in varying amounts in different teas benefits us by its ability to stimulate metabolism and brain function. The compound theophylline found in tea stimulates heart, kidneys and the respiratory organs.
Potential therapeutic properties
- Tea is rightly believed to have anti-biotic and anti-carcinogenesis properties. Various studies have pointed favourably to the therapeutic properties of tea, especially of green tea. Even the NHS services of UK in their website have featured in their health news, the positive effects of tea.
- Tea also improves metabolic rates and oxidation. It improves thermogenesis and energy expenditure besides improving glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Drinking tea can help prevent diabetes. Found in green tea is the amino-acid called L-theanine which can boost mental alertness.
- Researchers have also found that elderly people who drank tea have less cognitive decline. Only coffee consumption of the highest level showed similar properties. Research also showed tea can lower the cortisol stress hormone.
- The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology stated EGCG in green tea can help inhibition of HIV binding.
- Tea extracts are effective in treating bacterial infections and fungal infections.
- Melanin extracted from black tea (MEBT) showed antivenin activity against various venoms which can help in life-saving treatment for snakebites.
- In the treatment of anogenital warts, the Sinecatecin extracted from green tea was found effective. Tea also helps reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.
- A lower ratio of depressive symptoms can be attributed to the consumption of tea as found in a Japanese study. Green tea extract helps fight obesity and lower LDL Cholestrol.
A Â Leaf in History
Historically China, the homeland of tea, apparently has the earliest record of tea drinking, dating back to the period of the Han Dynasty, falling in the first millennium BC. Tea shrubs were found as early as 5000 to 6000 years back in China. Cultivation dates back to 2000 years. Tea is cultivated in vast areas of China and exported even today. About 40 countries in the world produce it and predominantly in Asian countries which produce 90% of it.
Tea was brought to Japan around the 9th century, by monks who studied in China. The Japanese tea ceremony is also named the Way of Tea, and is one of the representative arts of Japan. The tea drunk by Japanese is green tea or Matcha and is in powder form. The ceremony involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, the powdered green tea. The ceremony was influenced by Zen Buddhism.
Tea found its way to British shores in the mid 17th century. Curiously enough tea was introduced by British Coffee Houses. Research has found tea to be indigenous to northern and eastern India. However it was the British East India Company that started large-scale cultivation and commercialised it.
[box type=”note”]Environmental pollution owing to aluminium and fluoride is found to occur in tea, owing to its sensitivity and absorption. But the positive points outweigh other things in a cup of tea. So to enjoy good health, enjoy your cup of tea, an elixir brewed out of ancient tradition and ingredients.[/box]