Green tea is quick becoming one of the most popular drinks in homes, at trendy coffee bars and in restaurants. In fact, tea is the number two most commonly consumed beverage in the world, second only to water.
But the modern spike in green tea’s popularity is not only due to its authentic, earthy taste, but also a result of the drink’s many healthful effects on the human body. While it is a fact that all tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, green tea is processed and harvested differently, which accounts for its unique nutritional properties.
Here are just a few of the health benefits of drinking green tea:
- A natural chemical in green tea, called L-theanine, improves cognitive performance. It also acts to tamp down the “caffeine rush” that is so common in coffee beverages. L-theanine still allows caffeine to enter the bloodstream, but at a slower rate. Besides, green tea contains only about a third of the caffeine that coffee does, so one ends up with a slower release of much less caffeine after drinking green tea. (Buddhist monks in Japan and elsewhere drink green tea in order to stay awake during long bouts of meditation without getting too “wired,” which would be the effect from drinking coffee before meditating).
- Besides acting as a natural memory enhancer, green tea typically induces a sense of calm. Both effects are the result of the L-theanine that is part of the tea leaf. In fact, current research is underway to find out whether green tea can act as a preventive against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
- Because green tea is not processed the same way as black tea, there is no fermentation that takes place with the leaves that end up as green tea. That means there are far more vitamins and minerals left in the leaf, and thus the tea, for human consumption. Polyphenols in green tea usually increase a person’s fat-burning metabolism, and thus can help with weight loss.
- Because the entire human metabolism is regulated by the polyphenols in green tea, it may have a beneficial effect on glucose levels, preventing an insulin surge in people who suffer from diabetes.
- Research has shown that green tea contains natural substances that can help prevent blood clots and that can make blood vessel walls more elastic. The latter is a key way that the body can stave off high blood pressure and strokes.
- Green tea has been shown to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels in healthy people and in those who have a history of cholesterol maintenance problems.
- The catechins in green tea are thought to be effective virus and contaminant fighters. Green tea’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria accounts for its use as an influenza treatment.
- Because it contains an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as an abundance of anti-oxidants, green tea is a common ingredient in many natural skincare products. In fact, most high-end salons now offer green tea facials for customers who want a quick wrinkle treatment. Topically applied green tea can help reduce sun damage on skin that has already been overexposed.
- The catechins in green tea do much to prevent viruses in the lungs, chest and throat. Even tooth decay can be defeated by drinking green tea. The catechins work to kill bacteria that can lead to cavities and associated dental conditions.
- Green tea has been shown in research studies to cut the risk of esophageal cancer. Research is being conducted to determine whether green tea can actually kill cancer cells without harming the surrounding tissue.
- Green tea has been shown, in research studies, to assist the human body’s inherent ability to rid itself of toxins and other dangerous environmental pollutants and chemical impurities.
- Green tea’s ability to bolster the human immune system comes from the catechins that are a natural component of the leaf. Other immunity-boosters in green tea include potassium, calcium, protein, iron and vitamins A and C. Recently, major studies have shown that green tea may even be able to fight HIV infections in certain populations. Green tea also contains vitamins A, B-complex, E, C, K and numerous trace minerals. Other components of the natural green tea leaf include polyphenols, chlorophyll, catechins, as well as the amino acids L-theanine and theophylline.
- Green tea does not require artificial sweeteners, even though many people use them as a matter of habit. Most green tea enthusiasts report that the drink has its own sort of sweetness that becomes more apparent with regular consumption.
- The natural flavor of green tea mixes well with other ingredients, which is why the beverage is so popular at bars and in restaurants. The natural, earthy taste of green tea is a good complement to sweet foods and desserts, which is one of the most common times that it is served. In Asian cultures, green tea is taken by itself or in combination with sweet treats. Of course, it is also served with meals as a common, everyday beverage.
- Green tea has been used as a medicine in many Asian countries for thousands of years. A particular kind if green tea called matcha was considered a potent form of medicine in ancient China and Japan. Even today, Japanese tea ceremony makes matcha green tea the centerpiece of the entire ritual.
- As a form of skin care with green tea, there are now even bath soaks and shampoos being offered that are “green tea” enhanced, which means about a teaspoon of tea leaves have been added to the product. Green tea bath soaks are not only good for the skin but are relaxing because trace amounts of the catechins are able to be absorbed by the skin.
Considering all the beneficial effects of green tea, it is no wonder the tasty beverage is giving its major rivals, black tea and oolong, a run for their money. There is also a brisk market developing in the green tea supplement category, as health food stores and big-box retailers are offering a way for non-tea drinkers to avail themselves of all the good that comes from green tea.