Health Benefits of Tea
The name tea applies to any brew made from the leaves, leaf buds, and stems of different varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant, and is second only to water as the most commonly consumed beverage in the world.
Tea is more than just a hot beverage to enjoy; for centuries it has been recognized for its amazing medicinal benefits and it has been used to treat everything from headaches to infections. Scientific research is ongoing and there is growing evidence that tea has cancer fighting abilities, decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps to stimulate the immune system.
The healing power of tea comes from chemicals found in the Camellia sinensis plant called polyphenols, which give tea its antioxidant properties. Polyphenols, like other antioxidants, help protect cells from the normal, but damaging, physiological process known as "oxidative stress." Although oxygen is vital to life, it's also incorporated into reactive substances called free radicals. These can damage the cells in our body and have been implicated in the slow chain reaction of damage leading to heart disease and cancer.
Apart from polyphenols, tea also contains a variety of other ingredients that are beneficial to one's health. These include theanine, an amino acid unique to tea that detoxifies the body and boosts the immune system, vitamins C, K, B12, B6 and E, and minerals such as riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, magnesium, potassium, manganese, fluoride, carotene, iron, zinc, chlorophyll, and calcium. Some teas, including green tea and black tea, rival fruit and vegetables as a source of flavonoids which, as well as acting as powerful antioxidants, help control allergy symptoms, reduce inflammation, and suppress bacterial growth, which can help prevent food poisoning and can kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Tea, especially green tea, has long been recognized for its anti-aging benefits. Green tea's powerful combination of biological compounds and natural antioxidants are extremely effective in destroying free radicals which can help reverse the aging process. Studies show that these same compounds applied topically may protect against, and even reverse, sun damage. Increasingly, skin preparations containing green tea, from deodorants to creams and lotions, are starting to appear on the market.
White, green, red (oolong) and black, all teas come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and all teas contain polyphenols. What sets the teas apart is the degree to which they are processed. White tea, which has a higher ratio of buds to leaves, is rapidly steamed and dried. Green tea, which consists mainly of leaves, is steamed or fired prior to the leaves being rolled. Oolong and black teas get their dark color and strong flavor from additional processing where they are partially dried, crushed and fermented. It is the fermentation which results in many of the more potent polyphenols becoming oxidized or being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.
Teas brewed from loose leaves have more antioxidants than that made with bagged tea, which tends to be lower quality, powdered leaves. Depending on the tea, allow it to steep for three to five minutes to allow the maximum amount of antioxidants to be released, you should drink tea freshly brewed as some polyphenols break down quickly. To ensure the best tasting tea, use distilled water as the minerals in water can change a tea's flavor, and the chlorine in tap water can lower antioxidant levels if it is not brought to a full boil first.
Herbal teas are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant and most are not teas at all, they are infusions made with herbs and spices, flowers, roots, and leaves of various plants. The correct name for this type of beverage is "tisane". Although tisane does not contain the same amount of polyphenols as tea, it does contain other compounds and active ingredients to promote many other desirable health effects.
With virtually no calories, fat, or salt, tea is a beneficial addition to your diet. As well as being a satisfying, aromatic beverage, here are just a few of the conditions that are thought to benefit from the curative and preventive properties of tea.
- Anti Aging
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Diet and Weight Loss
- Heart Disease
- Immune Function
- Skin Conditions