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The Health Benefits of Tea

Learn all about tea and health with the Wild Foods guide to tea!


The Health Benefits of Tea

tea as medicine

Tea as a brewed drink originates as an ancient Chinese medicinal drink and is still revered as such in many parts Chinese culture.

Both traditionally brewed tea and other herbal tea blends are filled with various chemicals and micronutrients that improves human brain and bodily function.

For generations, the health benefits of tea (from the camellia sinensis plant) have been touted by many Asian cultures as well as European.

It took awhile, but modern research finally caught up with some verified research backing some of these health claims and finding evidence to support tea as a medicinal concoction.

Antioxidants in Tea

One of the main health benefits of tea is the antioxidant content that aids the body in multiple ways.

By plucking early, young stage tea leaves and through the fermentation process, a high number of antioxidants called polyphenols and flavanols are formed.

These compounds help make cells cleaner by removing the toxins that form through poor environmental and dietary factors.

A 2013 study noted that antioxidants provide “Significant reductions in toxicity… so that more patients are able to complete prescribed chemotherapy regimens… and improve the potential for success in terms of tumor response and survival.”(1)

Simply put, the antioxidants help rid the body of unhealthy chemicals responsible for inflammation which can contribute to a host of modern diseases and ailments.

The effect of tea can be seen in Asian cultures, such as the Japanese, who have a much lower risk of cancer and similar Western diseases.

As recently as 2014, a comprehensive study showed a significant reduction in oral cancer risk due to consuming the antioxidants in green tea. (2)

There is also documented research regarding tea’s benefits for helping prevent liver, esophageal, and many other types of cancer.

While antioxidants help remove free radicals from the body, which can help prevent cancer, tea should not be considered a cure-all.

Instead, tea should be a healthy part of an already healthy lifestyle that includes a real food diet and plenty of exercise, sleep and sunlight.

Check out our article, 20 Rules Of Living A Healthy Life.

Tea The Health Tool

Even if your genetics preclude you from having cancer (what luck!), you might still struggle with inflammation.

There are many inflammatory ingredients in our food and modern environments, such as sugar, gluten, seed oils, pollution, synthetics, mold, dust, allergens, etc, and they are all attacking us on a daily basis.

Why not combat them all with a few delicious cups of daily tea?

Drinking tea is another tool in your "health arsenal" and you should use it often. (Proper nutrition, exercise, sleep and sunlight are a couple other important tools in your fight against the inflammation monsters.)

A 1994 study in New Horizons showed that antioxidants “reduced inflammatory symptoms in inflammatory joint disease, acute and chronic pancreatitis, and adult respiratory distress syndrome.” (3)

Since tea is a great way to increase antioxidants in your body, drinking tea helps fight all of inflammation causing bad guys.

In America, 48% of women and 46% of men have some form of risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.

A comprehensive analysis of green tea “...reported a 20% reduction in cardiovascular disease…” While this study notes there are many factors involved with heart disease, it strongly asserts that there is a strong preventative correlation to the benefits of green tea. (4)

Blood pressure is a major marker for heart disease and a 2014 British study found that “...long-term ingestion of tea could result in a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic BP.” (5)

While antioxidants have a protective impact on your body as a whole, the protection of your heart is one of the most important and scientifically verified benefits to drinking more tea.

Green Tea Catechins & Their Health Effects

There are four different molecules of “catechins” found in green tea that can improve general health.

These four help prevent diabetes and obesity, improve blood vessel health, and assist healthy brain function.

Of the four molecules, one referred to as EGCG is known as the most potent.

Studies point to ECGG as being the wonder chemical found in green tea, which improves many markers for health on top of increasing healthy fat burn.

That said, studies suggest that the combination of all four catechins is better than consuming just EGCG.

And this is why drinking a cup of tea has more benefit than simply taking an EGCG supplement.

green tea as a fat burner

Tea and the Brain

As we saw in the Tea Manufacturing section of this guide, the processes for harvesting tea have effect on the final amino acid profile of the leaves.

The longer a tea ferments, the higher the caffeine content and the more of the amino acid L-Theanine you get.

Caffeine is most commonly thought of as a stimulant, but it has other important functions in the human body beyond keeping you awake.

Caffeine helps increase memory and acts as a neuroprotective aid, protecting the brain.

While caffeine is an important ingredinet on its own, when it is combined with the L-Theanine found in tea, it is even more powerful.

The L-Theanine amino acid increases relaxation and reduces stress. Numerous studies show that L-Theanine helps improve alpha brain waves, which is considered the most productive, problem solving brain frequency the human brain can muster. (Meditation also induces this type of brain wave.)

There is exciting research regarding the combination of caffeine and L-theanine and its effects on the human brain.

Combining both of these chemicals offers even more focus and attention than either individually.

In short, tea is a memory enhancing, brain stimulating, energy-boosting and fat-burning super drink!

It's great for studying, reading, working, writing, exercise, or trying to stay awake during the lecture by your professor that likes to hear himself talk.

Tea Health Benefits And Variations of Tea

Depending on the growing and processing methods of the tea, the different the chemical makeup. 

Yellow and white teas often have more antioxidants, but less L-Theanine and caffeine.

Oxidized and fermented options typically have the higher quantity of caffeine compared to antioxidants.

Herbal teas are another beast altogether and many of them, including rooibos and honeybush, have a vast array of antioxidant properties and no caffeine. Anyone caffeine sensitive who is worried they cannot have the same benefits as traditional tea drinkers only need to find the right herbal option.

Learn more about Herbal tea in later sections of this guide.

With these natural variations, it is possible to mix and match different tea types, herbal blends, and other spices and herbs to have a great tasting brew as well as a healthy one.

It's best to learn what's in your favorite cup of tea so you can adjust the tea you drink to the time of day and goal you are after. 

For instance, I love cold brew matcha before a workout. At night, I prefer a cup of warm rooibos, honeybush or chamomile with a dash of honey and lemon.

The more you learn about tea and develop your tea palate, the more strategic you'll get with your tea drinking!