Love it or hate it, there is one thing we can agree on: green tea’s vegetal, grass-like flavour is definitely an acquired taste.
Originating in China, green tea has been used in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries as an aid for a plethora of ailments. Today, consumption of green tea is a lot more mainstream and has become a popular brew in many places around the world.
As with all tea, the green tea leaf comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The variances in flavour and colour - in other words, how green tea becomes “green” and black tea becomes “black”, come as a result of different cultivation and leaf processing methods.
Green tea leaves in particular are harvested from the plant and quickly heated - by pan firing or steaming - and dried. This shorter processing time, prevents too much oxidation from occurring and therefore the finished product retains lots of its freshly-picked flavour.
Lots of us are starting to really feel the health benefits of incorporating green tea into a healthy, balanced diet. Here are just some of them.
1) Enhances mood
The amino acid L-theanine is present in green tea. L-theanine is known to relax the mind, improve sleep and reduce stress. The slight caffeine content also boosts concentration and alertness whilst L-theanine counteracts caffeine’s undesirable stimulating effects that can cause anxiety and jitters.
It turns out green tea can also help make you happier. In a 2014 study published by Public Health Nutrition, people who drank about four cups of green tea per day were half as likely to feel depressed than people who didn’t drink green tea. It found the more green tea a person drank, the less depressed they felt.
Green tea consumption may also help to increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain which can fight biochemical or hormonal imbalances, according to an article published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The active ingredient most likely responsible for this effect is L-theanine which can cross the blood-brain barrier and may be able to get the brain to produce more serotonin. Serotonin itself cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and must be produced in the brain if it is to be used in the brain.
2) Fights disease
Like many other teas, green tea contains cell-protecting antioxidants. Polyphenol compounds called catechins are types of antioxidants that are only present in green teas. Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCg, is a particular catechin present and is known for its warrior-esque properties as it helps protect cells against free radicals that can destroy cells, tissues and organs potentially preventing serious and chronic diseases.
Green tea has also been alleged to help improve cholesterol levels. A review of 11 studies did find that drinking a cup of green or black tea daily could help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
3) Natural antibacterial
Healing from the inside out, green tea boosts your immune system and protects your liver, helping to clear out toxins and impurities. In fact considering how you treat your liver is important on the quest for clear. Green tea also has antibacterial effects which inhibit the growth of bacteria that can cause infection on and under your skin when applied topically.
According to online skin resource, BeSkinHost, green tea is sometimes recommended for acne due its anti-inflammatory effects. Topical creams such as benzoyl peroxide can have side effects on your skin, so a more natural remedy is often favoured for acne conditions. Two studies published in 2012 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, revealed that green tea improved acne within 8 weeks and had no side-effects whatsoever. EGCg also blocks the conversion of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the skin and it also proved anti-inflammatory properties.
4) Weight loss aid
EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) has but another string to its bow. This catechin has also been shown to boost metabolism and stop the growth of fat cells, researchers say likely due to its effect on leptin, the hormone responsible for satiety.
As well as this, it has been shown to satisfy sugar cravings. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study in 2005 showed that participants who drank catechin-rich green tea extract daily, dropped nearly twice as much weight in 12 weeks as participants who didn’t.
To maximise green tea’s benefits drop, in a slice lemon: vitamin C makes the catechins a easier to absorb and adds flavour.
5) Detoxifies the body
If you’re looking for an detoxifier, green tea is up there with the best of them and has been the go-to internal cleanser in Asia for centuries. A healthy liver will adequately properly detoxify your whole body, not just the skin. Green tea directly supports the liver by increasing enzyme activity that drives the first two phases of detoxification. Its impact on specific liver enzymes also explains other benefits beyond detoxification, such as protecting the liver from pain relievers such as acetaminophen which can cause liver damage as reported by Biomedicine in 2015.
The bottom line - that green tea seems to lower the risk of liver disease - was the conclusion reported by researchers in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in June 2015.
To stay in balance and keep doing its job properly, the liver must have enough antioxidants to counteract all of the free radicals.
6) Rejuvenates skin
Likened to an elixir of youth, green tea is a reliable provider of antioxidants, the naturally occurring chemical compounds that prevent ageing. Free radicals or reactive oxygen molecules, cause damage to skin cells and can cause significant damage to the skin, but the powerful antioxidant EGCg, scavenges and neutralises harmful molecules. Antioxidants can help delay other signs of skin ageing, such as sagging skin, sun damage, age spots and do a great job of keeping your skin appearance youthful and wrinkles at bay.
The antioxidants and tannins (an astringent) in green tea help treat puffy eyes and dark circles often associated the skin ageing process around the eyes. Tannins also help shrink blood vessels underneath the delicate skin in this area which in turn reduces swelling and puffiness. Furthermore, vitamin K in green tea also helps lighten dark circles under the eyes.