Originally from Ancient China, people worldwide have been drinking this refreshing and healthy beverage for centuries. Green tea is widely known for having incredible potential health benefits. Green tea products such as green tea extract, green tea supplements, and the beverage itself may assist a person dealing with heart disease, weight loss, and blood pressure and may even promote mental alertness.
How many of those claims are backed up by medical journals, doctors, and wellness professionals? Let's explore the possible health benefits of green tea, green tea history, and why it has become one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. So make yourself a lovely warm and relaxing cup of green tea as we go on a journey into this popular drink.
What is Green Tea?
Green, oolong, and black tea are all harvested from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference between the tea types results from the withering and oxidation process the leaves and buds go through. Green tea leaves go through the least amount of processing out of all other types, which is why it's generally regarded as the healthiest.
You may have noticed that not all green tea tastes the same, and it can go by several different (and creative!) names, like gunpowder, sencha, and matcha. The leaves are grown and processed using various methods to create specific types of tea. Here are a few factors that affect it:
The processing method the leaves go through.
The cultivation methods the growers will use.
The time of the year that farmers harvest the tea leaves.
The environment and climate it is grown in.
How caretakers prune the plant.
If the tea plants are grown organically or with chemical fertilizers.
The method of heat, such as pan-frying or steaming, is used in the oxidation process.
The way manufacturers shape, roll and dry the leaves.
If the leaves are left whole or if you use smaller pieces.
Since the processing is so minimal compared to black or oolong, green tea retains the maximum amount of naturally occurring polyphenols and volatile organic compounds, affecting taste and aroma. This is the reason you have so many green tea varieties available.
History of Green Tea
Green tea legend states that Shennong, Emperor of China, discovered tea as a beverage to consume around 2737 BC when a leaf from a tea tree fell into his cup of recently boiled water. Another story claims that Buddhists around 500 BC discovered this beverage.
Whatever legend you subscribe to, one thing is for sure, green tea started somewhere in East Asia, but its popularity didn't stop there. Over time the plant became so popular that it's grown and produced all around the globe, including in India, Sri Lanka, Japan, New Zealand, and some U.S. states.
Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea
Green tea consumption for the flavor and enjoyment of the drink has occurred for centuries and is known as a traditional medicine in Chinese and Indian culture. From healing wounds to aiding digestion, improving heart health, providing better mental health and clarity to even regulating a person's body temperature, the benefits of green tea are many!
Studies also suggest that green tea helps control blood sugar levels aiding a person in regulating type 2 diabetes. Drinking green tea or taking it in capsule form may also positively affect weight management, weight maintenance, liver disorders, and Alzheimer's disease. It may even help as a remedy to treat skin conditions like eczema!
Among these studies, green tea and the prevention of cancer are gaining momentum as a possible complementary and integrative health practice. However, even though scientists continue to study the many health benefits that green tea and green tea extract provide, more concrete evidence is needed to promote and prove these beneficial effects.
Important note: Before taking any dietary supplements or health products, consult your doctor or healthcare provider to ensure these products are suitable for you. It's important to note that people with drug-induced liver injury or liver disease should be wary of too much green tea. If you experience any uncomfortable side effects or symptoms of liver trouble such as abdominal pain, or jaundice of dark urine, stop taking green tea and consult a health care provider immediately.
Let's explore the various studies and research on green tea consumption and better health.
Green Tea And Cancer Prevention
Countries that have daily green tea consumption tend to have low cancer rates. However, there is not enough evidence through human studies to prove that if you drink green tea, you'll have a reduced risk of cancer.
A recent 2020 review of human experimental studies produced limited evidence that it helped lower cancer risk. The research was conducted using data from 142 studies and 1.1 million participants and produced inconsistent results. Some studies suggest a topical application of green tea polyphenols may promote skin health by protecting it from harmful UVB radiation.
There are several animal, and test tube cell studies that suggest green tea and green tea extracts may have a positive impact on the following types of cancer:
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer occurs when free radicals attack the body's healthy cells. Green tea compounds contain antioxidants, and a diet of foods and beverages loaded with antioxidants is thought to help prevent the attack from free radicals. More research and human studies are needed to prove that drinking the beverage reduces the overall risk of cancer.
There's a buzz about caffeinated beverages, coffee consumption, and how it benefits those trying to lose weight. A review of several studies indicated that green tea catechins and caffeine content might help increase energy metabolism, leading to lower body weight.
A meta-analysis of several different tea polyphenols-induced weight loss mechanisms suggested that these catechins and caffeine together produced the desired weight loss effects. These results were much different than when caffeine was tested alone.
However, like with most weight loss products, overweight or obese adults who consume coffee, green tea, or caffeine, in general, will notice very little weight change if other aspects of their diet and lifestyle are not also changed.
Cutting down on certain types of processed foods, exercise, and a healthier mindset are more beneficial to overall wellbeing and health. So skip the cream in your coffee, cut down on fried foods, have one cup of green tea a day, join a gym, go for a walk, and you may start to look and feel healthier.
Inflammatory Skin Conditions
Green tea has anti-inflammatory properties. In recent human clinical studies, cellular and animal experiments found that its primary component, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), produces anti-inflammatory effects. In 2019, researchers determined that cosmetics and other solutions that included green tea extracts provided anti-inflammatory benefits.
Research suggests that green tea may help reduce cardiovascular disease deaths. The research was conducted over 11 years with over 40,000 Japanese participants aged 40-79. The study concluded those who drank at least five cups of the beverage per day reduced their chances of having cardiovascular disease.
Another 2017 and 2019 suggested that the beneficial polyphenols may help lower blood pressure, improve epithelial function and decrease inflammation in the body. In doing so, the plant may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease, especially in overweight individuals.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) funded research on green tea and its extracts for lowering cholesterol. The study revealed that consuming green tea in capsule form or as a beverage may help reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that's considered as "bad" because it can collect on the walls of your arteries.
Other Benefits of Green Tea Extracts
Other studies have suggested that this beverage is great for several other health benefits, including:
Better oral health by preventing dental cavities.
Reduced risk of chronic fatigue and stress.
Improve arthritis by reducing inflammation in the body.
Nutritional Value Breakdown
Unsweetened brewed green tea contains less than three calories.
It has less caffeine than coffee. Caffeine levels will vary based on the amount of time you steep it and the quantity used.
It is loaded with antioxidants.
Green tea phytochemicals contain high amounts of antioxidants.
It is a source of the amino acid L-theanine, which can produce a relaxing effect.
Summary: Green Tea Extract And Your Health
Is green tea good? Green tea may have several health benefits, but more research is needed to determine the full potential of Camellia sinensis. One thing is sure: people everywhere enjoy the health effects they get from refreshing each cup. Whether you prefer loose-leaf tea or tea bags or like sweetened or unsweetened green tea, this warm and inviting drink offers a relaxing way to unwind after a long and stressful day.