Health Benefits of Green Tea
The health benefits of green tea make it a good beverage for treating cancer, heart problems, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol levels, rheumatoid arthritis, infection, tooth decay, etc. Green tea contains an antioxidant epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG) which is helpful in treating a variety of diseases.
Green tea acquires a prestigious place among soft beverages and it is one of the foremost things that come to the mind when the topic is anti oxidants. Within a short time, it has made billions of fans around the world and many lovers of normal tea have switched on to green tea, due to its health benefits. Those who are habituated to normal tea may not like its taste for the first time, but I am sure that it will be their favourite on very soon.
What’s there in green tea that makes it so special and so healthy? How to use it? What are the products available in market that are based on green tea? There are many such questions which we have tried to answer below.
What is Green Tea: Green tea comes from the same plant from which normal tea is obtained. Scientifically, it is known as Camellia Sinensis. In fact, it is the same tea but processed differently. The normal black tea is obtained by fermenting the tea leaves. This fermentation changes its colour, flavour and raises the level of caffeine and tannin in it. Whereas, in case of Green Tea, the tea leaves are dried or slightly steamed but not fermented. This makes it look green when brewed and otherwise.
Constituents: Apart from caffeine, which gives tea its characteristic taste, bitterness and stimulating effect, Green Tea is rich in a group of chemicals, called Catechin Polyphenols (Commonly known as Tannins which contribute to bitter taste and astringency) like Catechin, Epicatechin, Epicatechin Gallate (ECG), Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), Pro-Anthocyanidins etc. They are also known as Flavonoids and are very powerful anti oxidants. Flavonoids, together with some amino acids like Thianine, are responsible for the flavour of green tea. Further, it also contains Amino Acids like Theanine, Butyric Acid & Liganin; Xanthine Alkaloids such as Adenine, Dimethylxanthine, Theobromine, Theophylline and Xanthine; Pectin (also found in fruits); saccharides (sugar), Chlorophyll and Triterpene Saponins. Some vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin C and vitamin E are found in green tea.
- Anti Ageing: The free radicals created in body are responsible for corroding the body, i.e. for ageing and the related symptoms. The main job of anti oxidants is to neutralize the oxidants or free radicals present in the body and green tea is very rich in anti oxidants. The Catechin Polyphenols present in green tea are mainly responsible for the anti oxidizing effects, the most powerful among them being the Epigallocatechin Gallate. Thus, regular consumption of green tea can effectively delay symptoms of ageing.
- Stimulating: The main reason behind acceptance of any kind of tea, be it green, black or Wwwhe, by human civilizations and its popularity, is its stimulating effect. This effect, again, is due to the Caffeine and Tannins present in it. Caffeine & Tannins, despite their adverse effects on health in the long run, are very good as stimulants. That is why; a cup of tea makes you feel fresh and highly energized. Tea is ideal to counter fatigue, laziness, sleepiness and lack of energy and to improve blood circulation. No doubt it is so popular with any kind of professionals, housewives and students.
- Immunity Boosting: Researches show that people who regularly drink green tea do not fall prey to common bacterial and viral infections easily, and even if they do, it is far less frequently than those not consuming it. The message is clear. Green Tea boosts immunity. The Catechins present in green tea prevent bacterial and virus from attaching themselves to cell walls and thus infecting them. These Catechins also counter the toxins released by microbes. This anti microbial property also protects from bad breathe, dysentery, diarrhoea, tooth decay, indigestion, flu, cough & cold, colitis etc. which are caused by microbial & fungal action.
- Astringency: This is yet another benefit from green tea. It triggers contraction in muscles and tissues and tones up muscles and skin. Even if you do not wish to drink green tea, a mere mouthwash with this daily will cause sufficient contraction in gums to keep them firm and tight on teeth and thus prevent loosening and falling of teeth for long. Wash your hair with it and see them grow stronger each day.
- Anti Carcinogenic: Apart from ageing, free radicals are also responsible for causing certain types of cancer. The Catechins present in green tea neutralize these free radicals, prevent formation of carcinogens like nitrosamines and reduce the chances of cancer. Green tea is now being clinically used in prevention of cancer, particularly those pertaining to colon, rectum, pancreas and intestines.
- Reducing Cholesterol: Green tea has been seen effective in reducing cholesterol level to some extent, probably due to its alkaline nature.
- Cardiac & Arterial Health: Certain components in green tea prevents thickening of blood, thereby reducing chances of Arterial Sclerosis, Thrombosis, Cardiac and Cerebral Strokes etc.
- Anti Diabetic: If not taken with sugar, the alkaline nature of green tea helps reduce the blood glucose level. Moreover, the anti oxidizing and astringent nature of its constituents ensure good health and better functioning of pancreas and thereby better secretion of insulin and resultant better decomposing and absorption of sugar. This helps keep diabetes away.
- Weight Loss: You believe it or not, but green tea also helps lose weight by enhancing rate of metabolism and thereby faster consumption of fat storage of the body. Recently green tea has replaced other beverages in the webstern world as its helps in weight loss. Drink a cup full of green tea in the morning and you are sure to lose a few pounds of excess weight.
- Stamina & Endurance Booster: You can prove this yourself. Just have a cup of hot green tea after rigorous exercise and within no time you will be ready for a few more sets. Further, it effectively counters muscular pain due to over exercise of muscles. Haven’t seen any athlete taking this? You must visit Japan & China then, where it is a popular drink among practitioners of Martial Arts.
- De intoxicating: Green tea is the best cure to get rid of hangovers and fatigue caused by consumption of alcoholic beverages and lack of sleep due to late night parties. A big glass of green tea with lemon, and lo, feels as if there was no hangover at all. Green tea with Lemon juice is a very good and popular remedy to cut effect of alcohols effect instantly.
Types of Green Tea: Green tea has four main varieties, prepared in Japan, which depend upon its leaf-length, method of processing, season of harvesting etc. They are as follows;
- Gyokurocha: In this case, the tea leaves are plucked from the tip of the branches. When brewed, the colour is clear green. Being picked from the tip, this variety has the best taste and fragrance. This is also considered best in terms of health and is less bitter, as it contains less tannin and caffeine, the leaves being younger and budding. The only drawback it has is that it is very costly. But then, there is price you need to pay for every good thing.
- Sencha: Sencha Comes from the same plant, but this time, the leaves are from middle of the branch and are bigger, older and less tender than Gyokurocha and gives a clear, light green tea on brewing. Naturally, it is bitter and stronger than the former variety. Being of less noble origin (middle of the branch) and having more caffeine and tannin, it is cheaper and more popular than Gyokurocha.
- Bancha: Bancha is made from the tender twigs of the tea plant and but obvious, it is very strong and bitter. When brewed, it gives a golden brown tea. This is further cheaper.
- Matcha: It is the leftover powder of green tea, also called “Dust”. It makes a beautifully green coloured tea and forms a lot of foam (froth) as well, but has a lesser aroma than the leafy varieties. This variety of Green Tea is very popular in the Ceremonies, sometimes also called Ceremonial Green Tea. It is far less bitter than its formers and hence when you sip it, it feels as if it is sweeter than them.
- Houjicha: Also spelled as “Hojicha”, it is not a pure or absolute green tea. Rather, it is mixture of green tea and powdered roasted cereals such as wheat, barley, rice etc. The quality and price of this variety depends upon the percentage or ratio of green tea to cereals. The better ones, having more tea in them, are costlier and give greener tea; while those, having more grains, yield a golden brown colour and are cheaper.
- Genmaicha: Like Houjicha, it is not a pure tea either. It is mixture of green tea and roasted brown rice. On steeping, it yields a golden yellow tea, very nice in taste and aroma, due to presence of roasted brown rice in them.
- Decaffeinated Green Tea: If not a variety, but it is also worth mentioning here. Any of the above varieties can come in decaffeinated form.
- Other Varieties: The chief varieties mentioned above are blended with different combinations to produce many more varieties with different names, not necessary to mention here.
Risks: The risks associated with green tea are same as those associated with any other kind of tea (common black tea, White Tea etc.) and are primarily due to presence of Caffeine and Tannins in it. The contraindications may vary with the percentage of caffeine and tannins in it. Most of you might be familiar with these adversities, still, let me summarize the components responsible and the associated risks here;
- Triterpene Saponins: These compounds destroy the Red Blood Corpuscles (Erythrocytes) and thus may aggravate situations of anaemia, cause fatigue etc.
- Caffeine: Everybody knows that it is an external stimulant and raises blood pressure, actually toxic in nature (it may be fatal for lower animals), addictive and in the long run has adverse effect on liver and internal organs. But then, it is the thing in tea which makes it energizing and refreshing.
- Tannins: Tannins interfere with the breaking down of complex proteins into simpler proteins and their absorption in the body.
- Xanthine Alkaloids: There are possibilities that they aggravate formation of uric acid in the body and thereby may trigger off and aid formation of stones in gall-bladder and kidneys, rheumatism etc.
- Other Risks: Long term consumption and in greater quantities may give rise to problems such as insomnia, restlessness, annoyance, irritability, headaches, hypertension, abnormal heart-beats, loss of appetite, spasms, constipation and acute addiction to it. Many a times it is seen that people who are addicted to it do not feel motion and suffer from acute constipation, irritation and lack of concentration on anything in absence of green tea.
Availability of Green Tea: Asian countries like Japan and China are the biggest producers of green tea (they produce the best quality too) and are also its biggest consumers. So, green tea available in other markets is in far lesser quantity than black tea. Moreover, it is still gaining its popularity, as barring a few Asian Countries; people around the world are more acquainted with the black tea. Still, these days you can get it at any reasonably modern shop. You can also order it with the local tea supplier, over phone or over internet. It is almost invariably imported from China (bit cheaper) and Japan (bit dearer), packed in sealed packs of 200grams, 250grams, 500grams etc. It is better not to go for the bigger packs if it is easily available around you. Please also check the date of manufacturing and packing before you buy.
- Industrial Process-1: In this, green tea leaves are treated with Ethyl Acetate, which drains out most of its caffeine (of course, with a lot of its anti oxidant Polyphenols and vitamins too).
- Industrial Process-2: This involves processing of tea leaves with water and carbon dioxide and is better in retaining the Polyphenols.
- Domestic Process: This is a very simple process. It needs repeated steeping of tea in hot water and throwing away the water (you may use this tea to serve those who don’t mind having caffeinated tea). The more you do so, the less caffeine left in the tea, but so is the taste and flavour. So, don’t over do it. Twice or thrice is reasonably good. After all, you want tea and not plain hot water. Isn’t it?
Additional Information: Did you know what the term “Cha” means in names of various qualities of green tea such as Gyokurocha, Sencha, Bancha, Matcha, Houjicha etc? It simply means “Tea”, and tea is popular all over India as “Cha” (In Bengal & adjacent states) and “Chai” in the rest parts. Isn’t it worth knowing it? So, that was all folks, see you next time.
This article is written by Aparup Mukherjee.
Source of Photo: Leena and PhotoXpress.com