Tea has incredible health benefits. Since tea was discovered nearly 6,000 years ago by Emperor Shennong, tea has always been viewed as a healthy beverage that strengthens the mind, body, and soul. In fact, this is exactly how tea was discovered in the first place - Emperor Shennong had ingested some poisonous herbs, and while he was lying on the ground in pain, he grabbed some leaves beside the footpath and put them in his mouth. Within minutes, Emperor Shennong was revived. Those leaves he grabbed were the camellia sinensis leaves - aka tea leaves. And that’s how tea was discovered (at least according to legend).
DISCLAIMER: We are not doctors or medical professionals. None of these statements should be construed as specific health claims about our teas. None of our specific tea blends have been evaluated by the FDA (yet), and they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
With the legalese out of the way, we do want to say one thing: at Tea with Tae, we believe that the health benefits of tea transcend traditional medicine. Drinking tea regularly can help you develop daily habits that are beneficial to your sense of wellness and to your mind, allowing you to develop positive self-care routines and rituals that promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In our view, drinking tea leads to a healthier body and mind.
This is the first of several articles on the health benefits of our different types of teas at Tea with Tae. We decided to start with green tea because green tea is one of the most popular types of teas, as well as one of the most studied. Throughout this blog (and other health-related ones in the future), you will find links to different studies and medical journals, so you can see from where we are getting our information. We’re not making this stuff up! Let’s dive in 👇
What is green tea? How is it different from black tea?
Green tea leaves come from the camellia sinensis plant, just like black tea leaves. The difference between green tea and black tea is in the way it is processed. Black tea leaves get oxidized immediately after harvesting, which means that the leaves are exposed to the air to dry. This oxidation step is why black tea has an earthy, forest-like, and sometimes smoky aroma. The same chemical reaction that happens with black tea leaves during the oxidation step is the same reaction that happens in fruits when they are cut open and exposed to the air (they turn brown). Conversely, green tea leaves are not oxidized immediately after harvesting but instead are heated, usually via pan-fire or steaming. This heating process stops the oxidation and preserves the green color of the tea leaves. The green tea leaves are then rolled to break down the leaf tissue and eventually dried. Because the leaves are not oxidized, green tea usually has a fresher and more herbaceous aroma than black tea.
What are the health benefits of green tea?
For thousands of years, green tea has been used to improve mental alertness, relieve digestive symptoms and headaches, and promote weight loss. More recently, many studies focusing on the green tea catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) have been conducted, and the FDA has even approved topical ointments that include extracted components of green teas.
Here are 8 evidence-based health benefits of green tea.
Health Benefit #1: Healthy Bioactive Compounds
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, which are natural compounds that have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and decreasing risk of cancer. Green tea contains the catechin EGCG, which is a natural antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and promotes longevity. EGCG is one of the most powerful compounds in green tea and one of the most studied. Research has shown that it exhibits a wide array of therapeutic effects that combat cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and other diseases and ailments.
Also, beware of purchasing lower-quality green tea leaves. A study was conducted in the early 2000s that showed the difference in fluoride levels in tea blends based on the quality of the tea leaves. The lower quality tea leaves contained much more fluoride content than in the higher quality leaves. At Tea with Tae, we only use the highest quality, freshest, whole leaves to produce our tea blends.
Health Benefit #2: Improved Brain Functionality
Green tea contains a mild amount of caffeine. Approximately 2-3 cups of green tea contains as much caffeine as 1 cup of regular coffee. Because of the lower caffeine content, green tea does not give you the jitters like coffee, yet green tea still has enough caffeine to be a stimulant. Caffeine has been heavily researched and has been shown to increase the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. According to research, caffeine consistently improve aspects of brain function, such as memory, mood, and reaction time.
In addition to caffeine, green tea also contains the mind-boosting amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine increases the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects. It also increases dopamine production in the brain. See here and here for research on L-theanine. The combination of both caffeine and L-theanine is powerful, and this combo is what truly sets green tea apart from coffee and other stimulant beverages. The synergistic effects from both caffeine and L-theanine combine to improve brain function in many ways.
In addition to improved cognition, green tea has also been shown to possibly decrease the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One study found that green tea polyphenols may alter the brain aging process and serve as a neuroprotective agent in progressive neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Several studies have also concluded the same: see here and here.
Health Benefit #3: Fat Burning & Weight Loss
According to research, green tea increases fat burning and boosts your metabolic rate. For example, in one study, those who took green tea extract burned 4% more calories than those who did not. In another study, those who took green tea extract lost 17% more fat than those who did not drink green tea. A similar conclusion was reached in a 2012 study that found people who consumed green tea over a 2-week period lost more weight and decreased their body mass index and body fat ratio more than those who did not consume green over the same 2-week period. Other studies have shown that caffeine may increase physical performance by 10% or more.
Health Benefit #4: Lower Risk of Cancer
Green tea contains many antioxidants. One of the primary causes of cancer is oxidative damage to cells, and antioxidants have been shown to effectively combat oxidative damage. Numerous studies looking at the effects of green tea and cancer have been conducted. For example, one study observed the effects of women who drank at least 3 cups of green tea per day and their risk in developing breast cancer. Those who drank 3 cups of green tea or more everyday had a 20-30% lower risk in developing breast cancer compared to those who did not drink 3 cups of green tea. Another study found that men who drink 5 or more cups of green tea a day had a decreased risk of prostate cancer compared to those who did not drink at least 5 cups of green tea.
Finally, one study aggregated the results from 29 previous studies and concluded that those who regularly drink green tea are 42% less likely to develop colorectal cancer. Tea consumption has consistently been shown to be inversely correlated with cancer risk.
Health Benefit #5: Improved Oral Health
The catechins in green tea have been linked to improved oral health. Some studies have shown that catechins can suppress the growth of streptococcus mutans, which is a common mouth bacteria that causes plaque formation and is a leading cause of cavities and tooth decay. Other studies have shown that green tea can be a boon for periodontal health and reduce bad breath. See also this study.
Health Benefit #6: Lower Risk of Type-2 Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes affects roughly 1 in 10 Americans, and the cause for type-2 diabetes usually stems from elevated blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance or inability to produce insulin. Studies have shown that green tea can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. For example, one study in Japan observed more than 17,000 individuals between the ages of 40 and 65 and found that those who drank 6 or more cups of green tea per day had a 33% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes compared to those who drank less than 1 cup of green tea per week.
Another study aggregated the results of 7 studies with nearly 300,000 participants and found that those who drank 3-4 cups of green tea a day had a 20% lower risk of developing diabetes.
Health Benefit #7: Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
The leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke. Many of the risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease may be improved through green tea consumption. For instance, studies have shown that drinking green tea can improve total cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol (aka, the bad cholesterol). In one study that observed over 40,000 participants, green tea consumption was found to be inversely correlated with mortality from cardiovascular disease. Those who consumed 5 or more cups of green tea per day saw their risk of cardiovascular-related deaths decrease by 31%. In women, specifically, those who consumed 5 or more cups per day were found to have a 62% lower risk of death from a stroke compared to those who consumed only 1 or less cups of green tea per day.
Another study that looked at 6,508 ethnically-diverse participants found those who regularly drank green tea (more than 1 cup per day) had a 29% lower risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues compared to those who drank less than 1 cup of green tea per day. Numerous studies have concluded that green tea has a statistically significant effect on lowering your risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease in the future.
Health Benefit #8: Longevity
Lastly, green tea has been associated with longer life expectancy. Green tea polyphenols have been extensively studied as cardiovascular disease and cancer preventive agents. A Japanese study observed over 40,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 79 years over an 11 year timespan. The study measured all-cause mortality rates and green tea consumption. The conclusion? You guessed it. Green tea consumption was once again inversely correlated with mortality due to all causes and especially for cardiovascular disease. Here are the results showing the rates of death for those who drank 5 or more cups of green tea per day:
- Death from all causes: 23% lower in women, 12% lower in men
- Death from heart disease: 31% lower in women, 22% lower in men
- Death from stroke: 42% lower in women, 35% lower in men
Of course, studies are still being conducted to this day to truly understand the health and medical benefits of green tea. It is safe to say, however, that green tea is more than just a tasty beverage, but a powerful drink that you may want to start sipping every day if you’re not already.
Cheers to a long and healthy life, green tea drinkers!