Potential Health Benefits of Tea
When talking about health benefits, we must differentiate between teas made from the plant camellia sinensis and those made from other botanicals. With the popularity of herbal infusions in today’s marketplace (such as chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, etc.), a whole gamut of brews have come to be referred to as “tea.” Technically speaking, however, only those beverages derived from the plant camellia sinensis should be referred to as tea. (For the health benefits associated with rooibos click here)
There are five significant components found in all tea from the plant Camellia sinensis:
Essential Oils: which are the source of tea’s delicious flavor and aroma;
Polyphenols: which are antioxidants that provide the tea’s brisk flavor and many of its potential health benefits;
Phytonutrients: which are small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids including L-theanine (a very rare molecule that has been found in only three sources including camellia sinensis!);
Methylxanthines: which are a family of alkaloids that include caffeine.
Each of these components work differently in the human body and a full description is best left to a medical journal. However, recent research exploring the potential health attributes of tea is leading many scientists to agree that tea, both green and black, may contribute positively to a healthy lifestyle.
"Fruits, vegetables, and tea all contain important antioxidants. Research suggests these phytonutrients may contribute substantially to the promotion of health and the prevention of chronic disease. For example, recent research studies reveal the antioxidants in tea may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and support cardiovascular health," stated Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., F.A.C.N, Chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
The information below is a summary of the research on the potential health benefits of tea compiled on the TeaUSA and UK Tea Council website. For further reading and more detailed information (including copies of the original research papers), we strongly recommend visiting www.TeaUSA.com and www.tea.co.uk.
Recent research has explored the potential health attributes of tea through studies in humans and animal models, and through in vitro laboratory research. It suggests that tea and tea flavonoids may play important roles in various areas of health and may operate through a number of different mechanisms still being explored. Recent findings include:
Cardiovascular Health: The antioxidant properties of tea flavonoids may play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing lipid oxidation, reducing the instances of heart attacks and stroke, and may beneficially impact blood vessel function, an important indicator of cardiovascular health.
Cancer Risk Reduction: Tea flavonoids may lower the risk of certain cancers by inhibiting the oxidative changes in DNA from free radicals and some carcinogens. Tea may also promote programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and inhibit the rate of cell division, thereby decreasing the growth of abnormal cells.
Immune Function: Recent research indicates that tea contains a component that may help the body ward off infection and disease.
Oral Health: The flavonoids in tea may inhibit plaque formation, while the fluoride in tea may support healthy tooth enamel.