What Is Tea?
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The buds and leaves that the plant produces are known as tea, and after water, it is the most commonly consumed drink across the world. While America might still be a nation of coffee, the British, Indians, Chinese, and Japanese are still big consumers of tea. You might be too, after you read about the many health benefits.
Camellia sinensis grows in subtropical and tropical climates, and it is a flowering evergreen shrub. It produces little white flowers, and the buds and leaves are ready for harvest three years after the Camellia sinensis was planted. While the plant can live for over a hundred years, it is much easier to harvest the buds and leaves of small, young plants. Once the buds and leaves have been harvested, they are dried and rolled for distribution.
The countries we consider as being the traditional tea makers are India, China, Sri Lanka, and Japan. However, new tea countries have emerged in recent years, perhaps most notably Kenya, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. The flavor characteristics of tea are impacted by soil type, the age of the plant, altitude, and the type of plant.
Each country of origin can produce any type of tea, however, there are certain regions known for their specific types. For instance, China is well known for their white tea, and Pu-erh, while Sri Lanka is all about black tea and Japan is famous for green tea.
Whether you prefer to drink black tea, green tea, or white tea, you should take the time to learn where the tea is grown, how it was harvested, and how it is distributed to ensure that your tea is produced to a high standard- taste, quality, and ethics wise. If you want to reap the benefits of your chosen tea then you want to ensure it is of a high quality.
Herbal teas aren’t technically tea, but they are teas made from an infusion of plants.
The Health Benefits Of Tea
There are serious health benefits to tea mainly due to the high presence of the antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytochemicals. The majority of studies tend to focus on black and green teas, but don’t worry, if you prefer oolong or white teas, they also offer plenty of health benefits to your table.
Tea can increase your endurance for exercise, with scientists discovering that the antioxidants from green tea can increase your ability to burn fat for fuel, improving endurance (Kao Corporation’s Biological Science Laboratories). Additionally, the Science in Society Archive suggests that drinking tea can protect against degenerative diseases, as well as cardiovascular disease.
What The Science Shows
The results of 16 different studies (nine different prospective studies, three retrospective studies, and four cross-section studies) that included almost one million participants looked at liver disease and tea.
Tea drinkers were far less likely to suffer from chronic liver diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver steatosis (International Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2015; 8(6): 8339–8346. PMCID: PMC4538013).
Additionally, a meta-analysis of a variety of studies in 2015 reviews the results of 23,000 participants. Those who drank at least 3 cups of tea every day were 37% less likely to suffer from depression (Department of Social Medicine and Health Management, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China).
Tea has also been associated with a decreased risk of stroke; drinking 3 cups, a day can reduce the risk of stroke by 21%. A recent meta-analysis studied the results from 22 trials with over 800,000 participants. Drinking 3 cups of tea every day was associated with an 18% reduction in the risk of stroke, as well as 16% cerebral infarction, 26% cardiac death, 27% heart disease, and 24% mortality (The European Journal of Epidemiology).
Additionally, tea drinkers (like coffee drinkers) reduce their risk of Type II diabetes. 51 studies with almost 2 million participants have been carried out looking at the risk of cancer and green tea. While green tea can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, black tea does not. Green tea can also reduce the risk of prostate cancer, while black tea does not. Additionally, green tea can improve weight loss.
11 trials of 821 patients did find that both black tea and green tea could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They also reduce high blood pressure.
Studies from Oregon State University show that the antioxidants found in tea can help protect against a variety of cancers, including colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, as well as cancer of the liver, small intestine, esophagus, stomach, and the pancreas.
The USDA completed a study in conjunction with the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center. The study found that tea could help to fight free radicals, which cause DNA damage throughout the body. Our bodies were designed to naturally fight free radicals; however, this isn’t 100% effective. Free radicals have been linked with neurological degeneration, cancer, and heart disease.
Despite the caffeine, Nutrition Communications has shown that tea is an excellent source of hydration.
Additionally, tea has been linked with reducing the risk of Parkinson’s. According to the Department of Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention, tea is beneficial for both women and men.
Drinking green tea provides excellent back-up if your sunscreen fails you, because according to Department of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio it can help protect from UV rays.
According to the University of Arizona, Tucson, drinking tea regularly can also offset some of the effects of smoking, possibly reducing the risk of lung cancer. While that is good news, it is in no way a justification for smoking.
Tea can also assist you with keeping your waistline in check. Participants in a study, completed by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University, who consumed hot tea regularly, had a lower body mass index, and a smaller waist. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases speculate that tea drinking can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which contributes to the risk of stroke, diabetes, and artery disease.
Green tea is excellent for improving bone strength and density (Department of Pathology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX).
It can be effective in preventing neurological diseases, dementia in particular. The polyphenol content in green tea can assist in maintaining areas of the brain that regulate memory and learning (Department of Medical Genetics, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, P. R. China).