It has long been known that tea holds detoxifying properties and has been used for generations for various ailments, healing, and relaxing. However, for the typical consumer, many of these elements are a mystery, with the full benefits of tea not well known. For centuries, green tea has been consumed by those in China and India, where the tea is native. Only recently has popularity of green tea in the United States grown.
It’s about time we learn the benefits to drinking this delicious tea and find out what we’ve been missing out on until now!
Tea has been consumed worldwide for centuries for medicinal purposes, entertaining, as well as for its delicious flavor. The health benefits are greatly related to it’s high content of flavonoids, which are plant derived compounds that act as antioxidants. The most consumed beverage in the world behind water is tea, with the most popular variety being black tea. Only about 20% of consumption is green tea.
Traditionally, green tea was used by Chinese & Indian healers to control bleeding, aid digestion, improve heart and mental health, and regulate body temperature. Recent studies on the properties of green tea have shown that it may also have positive effects on weight loss, diabetes, and even liver disorders.
Why Is Green Tea So Special?
Green tea is made from unoxidized leaves and is less processed than other types of tea. This unprocessed quality makes it more concentrated with antioxidants and polyphenols. Green tea is also the best food source of a group called catechins. According to Harvard Health Publications, catechins “are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells“. They also can have disease-fighting properties as well.
Unsweetened brewed tea is a zero calorie beverage and green tea contains only a small amount of natural caffeine compared with other tea varieties. These two factors make green tea one of the world’s healthiest beverages. High concentrations of antioxidants and polyphenols also have great benefits with anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects.
Cancer: Many studies have been performed which show that tea consumption may help reduce the risk of cancer. However, conflicting results often arise due to environment or lifestyle factors. The National Cancer Institute has seen results that suggest polyphenols (which are highly concentrated within green tea) have shown decreased tumor growth in laboratory animals. These beneficial agents also may help to protect skin cells against UVB radiation damage.
Overall, many researchers believe that polyphenols help to kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, however these exact interactions are still unknown. Studies have shown positive results and impacts on stomach, breast, bladder, ovarian, colorectal, esophageal, lung, prostate, skin, and pancreatic cancers.
Cardiovascular Disease: When regularly consumed, green tea can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association reported on a Japanese study of people who drank green tea or coffee regularly. These participants had a 20-30 percent lower risk for stroke than those that seldom drank any green tea or coffee. With cardiovascular disease being one of the most deadly diseases in America and Canada, it’s important to counteract any of the risk factors associated. The flavonoids from green tea help neutralize the body’s naturally occurring free radical molecules that damage cells. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported in 2001 that the rate of heart attack decreased by 11 percent among those who drank three cups of tea per day.
Recent studies, including research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that in a study of 240 men and women with elevated cholesterol, those who consumed green tea extract had decreased levels of LDL cholesterol by 16.4% and total cholesterol by 11.3 %, compared to those consuming only a placebo. As cholesterol is lowered, vascular inflammation is almost always lowered. Vascular inflammation is a major cause of cardiovascular disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of tea, especially the antioxidants found in green tea, it has long been used for stomach issues and can greatly help reduce symptoms of several bowel disorders. Diseases such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and others can often be improved naturally by adding green tea to the diet, along with proper diet and supplementation. For all of my patients with symptoms of IBD or IBS, I always recommend Doctor’s Data Stool Analysis with Parasitology x 3 as part of a comprehensive evaluation. This test has helped many find the underlying cause of their symptoms.
How To Get The Most From Drinking Tea
In order to reap the fantastic health benefits of green tea, it’s best to drink a few cups of tea per daily. With most cultures where green tea drinking is customary, three cups per day is best. This type of regular consumption allows the body to absorb the antioxidants and gain the maximum benefits. Drinking freshly brewed tea is optimal; making sure that it’s an unprocessed version of the tea. Ready to drink, bottled, and instant teas have less beneficial compounds. They often contain additives that can inhibit the full benefits of the catechins and flavonoids. One thing to keep in mind: tea drinking is not recommended for children or pediatric use.
I recommend Bigelow Organic Green Tea. This delicious, healthy tea is 100% certified organic, gluten free, zero calories and zero carbohydrates. Bigelow products are high quality and they take the utmost care to use green production methods in their headquarters, as well as using composting and recycling company-wide. This tea manufacturer has also recently achieved “zero waste to landfill” status at all three of their facilities. Their commitment to both the environment and the health of their consumers is quite commendable.
Tea consumption can have some side effects on absorption of iron in the body. Adding milk, lemon, or drinking tea between meals can counteract this issue. Also, because of the active antioxidants and other substances in tea herbs, it can trigger side effects or interact with certain medications, supplements, or other herbs that you are taking. It is always wise to consult with a doctor before taking any new supplements. Always use herbs with care.
Those with high blood pressure, kidney problems, liver problems, stomach ulcers, or anxiety should not take green tea. Consuming too much caffeine can increase risk for irritability, insomnia and dizziness. Even with the low caffeine levels found in green tea, too much of it can cause side effects. If you experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, or loss of appetite– cease the use of tea immediately. If symptoms are severe, seek medical treatment for possible caffeine overdose.
Some medications can have adverse interactions with green tea. Please avoid taking green tea extract or drinking green tea if you are on any of the following medications. The list below is from the University of Maryland Medical Center and may not be comprehensive.
Adenosine — Green tea may inhibit the actions of adenosine, a medication given in the hospital for an irregular and usually unstable heart rhythm.
Beta-lactam Antibiotics — Green tea may increase the potency of beta-lactam antibiotics. This class of antibiotics includes both the penicillin and cephalosporin families.
Benzodiazepines — Caffeine, including caffeine from green tea, may reduce the sedative effects of these medications commonly used to treat anxiety, such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan).
Beta-blockers such as Propranolol, and Metoprolol — Caffeine, including caffeine from green tea, may increase blood pressure in people taking propranolol (Inderal) and metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL). These medications are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.
Blood Thinning Medications — People who take warfarin (Coudamin) should not drink green tea. Since green tea contains vitamin K, it can make this medication ineffective. You should not mix green tea and aspirin because they both prevent blood from clotting. Using the two together may increase your risk of bleeding.
Chemotherapy — The combination of green tea and chemotherapy medications, specifically doxorubicin and tamoxifen, increased the effectiveness of these medications in laboratory tests. However, the same results have not been found in studies on people. On the other hand, there have been reports of both green and black tea extracts affecting a gene in prostate cancer cells that may make them less sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. For that reason, people should talk to their doctors before drinking black and green tea or taking tea extracts while undergoing chemotherapy.
Clozapine (Clozaril) — The effects of the clozapine may be reduced if taken within 40 minutes after drinking green tea.
Lithium — Green tea has been shown to reduce blood levels of lithium, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder. That can make lithium less effective.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) — Green tea may cause a severe increase in blood pressure, called a “hypertensive crisis,” when taken together with these drugs used to treat depression. Examples of MAOIs include:
• Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
• Moclobemide (Manerix)
• Phenelzine (Nardil)
• Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
Birth control pills — Oral contraceptives can prolong the amount of time caffeine stays in the body, which may increase its stimulating effects.
Quinolone antibiotics — Green tea may make these medications more potent and also increase the risk of side effects. These medications include:
• Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
• Enoxacin (Penetrex)
• Grepafloxacin (Raxar)
• Norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin)
• Sparfloxacin (Zagam)
• Trovafloxacin (Trovan)
• Avelox (Moxifloxacin)
• Levaquin (Levofloxacin)
Other medications — Green tea, especially caffeinated green tea, may interact with a number for medications, including:
• Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
• Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
• Dipyridamole (Persantine)
• Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
• Mexiletine (Mexitil)
• Verapamil (Bosoptin, Calan, Covera-HS, Verelan, Verelan PM)
As always, check with your health care professional before starting or stopping any new supplements, medications, or taking herbs.