Green Tea: Ancient Beverage, Modern Health Brew
Around the globe, tea holds an exalted place among beverages. Actually, next to water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. Among the different types of tea, Green tea is one of the richest natural sources of antioxidants. Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, but they are processed differently, which is what sets Green tea apart. The secret of Green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a very powerful antioxidant with many known health benefits, and how these antioxidants are preserved is by steaming the tea leaves (which creates Green and White teas) instead of fermenting the leaves (which produces black and oolong teas). The fermentation process causes the EGCG to be converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.
History of Green Tea:
According to Chinese legend, the story of Green tea began in 2737 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung, who was known as the ‘Devine Healer’, always boiled his water before drinking it for better health. One afternoon, as he knelt before his boiling water, some leaves from a nearby shrub blew into the water. The Emperor noted a delightful aroma and, upon sipping the beverage, proclaimed it heaven-sent.
For many years in ancient China, tea was a costly drink, consumed only by royalty and the wealthy. However, following the fall of the Mongolian Empire back in 1368 AD, the whole population of China began to experience the wonderful consumption of tea, including the much-prized Green tea.
In the early 1400s BC, Chinese seamen roamed the seas and took with them their Green tea to ward off the illnesses that plagued European sailors, such as scurvy. This amazing tea became a trade-good eventually, sought after for its delicate taste and health giving benefits, and found its way around the world.
Interesting note: A book titled “The Book of Tea” was written by Lu Yu in 780 AD, in China. Lu Yu described numerous health benefits of Green tea, and was given the name the “patron saint” of tea.
Health Benefits of Green Tea:
Green tea and multiple health benefits should be synonymous!
- Weight Loss: According to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Green tea appears to accelerate calorie burning – including fat calories. The six-week study showed that the participants who took Green tea extract with their typical ‘western’ diet that consisted of 40% fat, burned more calories during the day than the caffeine and placebo groups. Green tea induces a thermogenic effect that is helpful in burning fat, which is why it is widely available as a dietary supplement, in diet pills and weight-loss plans.
- Heart Health: One study found that one of the active compounds in Green tea is as effective as aspirin in keeping blood platelets from clumping together, which improves circulation and may prevent hardening of the arteries. Drinking Green tea regularly helps protect the heart against a range of medical conditions including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and reduces LDL (the bad cholesterol).
- Combat Arthritis and Osteoporosis: A study done at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio found that the antioxidants found in Green tea, known as polyphenols, effectively reduce the incidence and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s interesting to note that people in India, China, and Japan (large consumers of Green tea) have a much lower rate of rheumatoid arthritis than elsewhere around the world. A surprising discovery by British researchers is that tea helps prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
- Cancer Preventative: Polyphenols, the powerful antioxidants in Green tea are thought to be more powerful than vitamin C & E in their ability to mop up potentially cancer-causing free-radicals and destroy cancer cells without adversely affecting normal cells. Prolonged consumption of Green tea has been linked to greatly reduced risks of developing many forms of cancer, including cancer of the esophagus, stomach and the bladder.
The beneficial effects of Green tea on health are so numerous and diverse that a comprehensive description of them is likely to run into dozens of pages and we simply don’t have the space in this article. However, we urge you to do further reading and research on Green tea and enjoy a cup of the brew while you’re doing it. It’s not just for Royalty anymore!