You’ve been hearing about the health benefits of green tea for some time now and chances are one of your friends has made the switch from coffee to this “green gold” for their morning routine. What you may not know is that green tea has been used for thousands of years throughout Asia for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes. It’s more than just a pleasant beverage—it’s antioxidant powerhouse
The History of Green Tea.
According to legend, green tea was discovered in 2737 BC when leaves from the Camellia sinensis tree fell into a pot of water that the second emperor of China, Shen Nung, was boiling on the ground below. He drank the water and became instantly aware of the tea’s power as a medicinal herb.
Green tea was cultivated in China first as a medicine and later as a venerated drink around which a robust system of trade developed—in fact, the tea trade was so popular that a ”Tea and Horse Bureau” was set up. It was considered one of the seven ingredients deemed essential for life, along with rice, cooking oil, firewood, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. This beverage later spread to Europe during the 16th century, thanks to a Portuguese missionary, where it has enjoyed great popularity ever since.
Although the earliest teas were probably brewed simply from placing the Camellia sinensis leaves in boiling water, at some point green tea leaves were allowed to oxidize slightly during a heating and drying process. Unlike black tea, where the same leaves are allowed to ferment, green tea retains its original color, and the antioxidants found in the leaves remain intact and far more potent.
Green Tea’s Medicinal Properties
In the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), green tea contains sweet and bitter flavors and cooling properties. It was used for centuries to clear internal “heat,” a symptom of imbalance in the body that can lead to disease. Green tea was prescribed to improve digestion, promote urination, help ease bowel movements, and heal wounds. It was also valued for its anti-cancer properties.
The benefits of green tea are extensive, as it:
- .protects against degenerative diseases and inflammatory conditions
- boosts immune function
- helps maintain good periodontal health
- protects against lung, colon, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, and breast cancers
- may protect against cancers caused by environmental toxins
- lessens the effect of UV radiation on the skin
- may lower blood pressure and protect against stroke
The beneficial property of green tea lies in its high content of a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, which contain flavonols, a plant compound that positively affects human health. Flavonols, or as they are more commonly known, catechins, are powerful antioxidants that work to bind the free radical cells that cause damage to the body if left in an unstable condition.
The most abundant catechin in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), is considered particularly effective in fighting cancer. In one study, it worked together with other compounds to inhibit colon cancer cells. In other research, women who drank green tea were 50 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and green tea’s antioxidants were shown to disrupt the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells.
In addition to having cancer-fighting properties, green tea is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Drinking this beverage can protect against stress, chronic fatigue, and arthritis, all of which result from inflammatory processes in the body. Because chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of certain cancers and to cardiovascular disease, green tea’s anti-inflammatory effect may prove just as significant as its antioxidant properties.
Topical Uses of Green Tea
You don’t have to drink green tea to enjoy its benefits. The polyphenol-rich leaves and extract are also used in a number of cosmetic preparations as an anti-aging remedy for the skin.
In one study, while there was no noticeable difference in the appearance of women’s faces who had applied a 10 percent green tea cream for eight weeks, there was a significant difference at the cellular level, suggesting that green tea topical preparations can improve the elasticity of your skin. Green tea is proven to protect against UV radiation, another anti-aging boon to the skin.
Because the polyphenols in green tea oxidize so rapidly, a green tea cream may quickly lose effectiveness after it is bottled. You can solve this problem by applying frozen tea bags that have been partially thawed directly to your skin as a toner in order to enjoy some of its firming and anti-aging benefits.
Moreover, green tea’s astringent and anti-inflammatory properties make it an effective acne treatment. It may reduce the production of sebum (oil) on the skin and inhibits the bacterial growth that causes acne. It can even reduce the appearance of acne scars.
Whether you drink it or use it as a topical remedy, green tea is a powerful medicine that can promote health and wellness in a variety of ways. It’s no small wonder that its mythic origins are traced to emperors and sages!
The articles on this website are not to be construed as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.