Chinese green tea is brewed from the tender, unfermented leaves of Camellia sinensis. In the East, the health benefits of green tea have been recognised for the past 4 000 years. But does modern science agree? Here’s what you need to know.

Black teas, the world’s most popular beverages, are made also made from Camellia sinensis, but in a process that involves fermenting the leaves. Because green tea is made from the plant’s unfermented leaves, it contains a higher concentration of the plant’s naturally occurring polyphenols. Polyphenols are anti-oxidant compounds that have been shown by medical researchers to help neutralise health-damaging free radicals and reduce inflammation.

We know that free radicals and inflammation are the prime cause of premature ageing, so we reviewed the evidence…

Green tea benefits

  • Anti-oxidants
    Anti-oxidant polyphenols in green tea are purported to slow the effects of ageing and help protect the body against diseases linked to free radical damage (cancers, diabetes, arthritis and others). The polyphenols in teas are called catechins. Green tea contains six primary catechin compounds, the most studied of which is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – the most active. Green tea also contains fluoride, tannins and theophylline, which have a stimulant effect, and L-theanine, an amino acid compound being researched for its calming effect on the nervous system.
  • Heart health
    Other anti-oxidants in green tea, called flavonoids, are said to help promote healthy circulation and cholesterol levels and lower the risk of coronary artery disease. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that green tea helps protect the body against most diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The study followed 40 000-plus Japanese participants aged 40 to 79 for 11 years. Those who drank at least five cups of green tea per day had a significantly reduced risk of dying (especially from cardiovascular disease) than those who drank one cup or less per day. That’s good news for your heart.
  • Reduced cholesterol
    Another of the benefits of green tea, either as a beverage or in capsule form, was linked to modest reductions in total and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. You’d need to drink 10 cups of green tea per day for the full benefit though, so we advise you take Flora Force’s all-natural, full-ingredient Chinese Green Tea capsules, available at http://floraforce.co.za/shop/chinese-green-tea-capsules/ or leading healthcare pharmacies. As always, consult your healthcare practitioner before taking natural remedies.
  • Weight loss
    Some studies suggest that the benefits of green tea increase fat burning and boosts metabolism, lowering your risk of obesity. More research is needed.
  • Cancer
    Researchers believe that the high level of free radical-fighting polyphenols in green tea can help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, although the exact mechanisms by which tea interacts with cancerous cells is unknown. Studies suggest that green tea may help fight and protect against breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer (one study found that men who drank three or more cups of green tea a day were 70% less likely to get prostate cancer) and colon cancer.
  • Asthma
    Theophylline relaxes the muscles that line the throat and is useful as a treatment for asthma.
  • Mental health
    The compound EGCG may support mental health and slow ageing. EGCG helps protect neurons and brain cells, and current research suggests that drinking green tea regularly can help protect the mind and delay deterioration from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and dementia. Other compounds in green tea, L-theanine and caffeine, may help to support brain function, improve alertness, concentration and even memory.
  • Skin care
    EGCG also helps protect your skin against UV-related damage and ageing caused by free radicals.
  • Stroke
    Drinking green tea (or coffee) regularly is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, according to a study published in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. According to the lead author of the study, Yoshihiro Kokubo, M.D., Ph.D., ‘You may make a small but positive lifestyle change to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet.’
  • Type 2 Diabetes
    Green tea may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research is ongoing.

Green tea and caffeine

Green tea is considered one of the world’s healthiest drinks despite its caffeine content – just 20-45 milligrams per cup, as opposed to black tea’s 50 milligrams and coffee 95 milligrams per cup.

Making the perfect cuppa

Green tea can easily become bitter. For the best results, place two teaspoons of high-quality organic green tea leaves per cup in a teapot, and add slightly cooled boiled water. Leave to steep for 1–2 minutes. Pour through a strainer.

Precautions

Green tea has few known side effects or contraindications in adults, unless you have a severe allergy to caffeine, are on blood-thinning medications or stimulant drugs, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a thyroid condition, be aware that tea plants can absorb and store fluoride – although high-quality green teas contain less than other teas. Seek professional advice before drinking any tea if you have a thyroid condition.
Always check with your healthcare consultant before starting any herb or supplement regimen.

We’re green tea fans, are you?

CAUTION

Consult your health practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Always consult your health practitioner before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are taking other medication, and especially if you are pregnant.

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.

References

  1. The principal reference is Wellness Mama’s excellent blog on green tea. Thank you.
    Wellness Mama. Green tea benefits. https://wellnessmama.com/183/green-tea/
  2. Diepvens, K, Westerterp, KR, Westerterp-Plantenga, MS. Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin and green tea. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007;292(1):R77-85.
  3. Kokubo, Y, Iso, H, et al. The impact of green tea and coffee consumption on the reduced risk of stroke incidence in Japanese population. Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. 2013; STROKEAHA.111.677500. https://doi.org/10.1161
  4. Price, Weston A. Nutrition and physical degeneration. Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation. US. 1939, 8th edition.
  5. Taichi Shimazu, Shinichi Kuriyama et al. Dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japan: a prospective cohort study. Int J Epidemiol. (2007) 36(3):600-609. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dym005
  6. University of Maryland Medical Center. Green tea. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/green-tea
  7. Ware, M. Green Tea: Health benefits, facts and research. Could too much green tea be harmful to health? 2016. Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269538.php
  8. Weinreb, O, Mandel, S, et al. Neurological mechanisms of green tea polyphenols in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. J Nutr Biochem. 2004 Sep;15(9):506-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15350981

Photo credits

  1. Photo courtesy of gadost0 / Pixabay.com