Along with caffeine, which gives green tea its characteristic taste, bitterness, and stimulating effect, green tea is also rich in a group of chemicals, called catechin polyphenols (commonly known as tannins, which contribute to bitter taste and astringency). These catechin polyphenols include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and various proanthocyanidins. They are also known as flavonoids and are very powerful antioxidants. Flavonoids, together with some amino acids like thiamine, are responsible for the potent flavor of green tea.
Green tea leaves are initially processed by soaking in an alcohol solution, which may be further concentrated to various levels; byproducts of the process are also packaged and used. Extracts may be sold in liquid, powder, capsule, or tablet form. Decaffeinated versions are also available. Green tea extract supplements are accessible over the counter in various forms.
Studies on green tea’s impact on cancer have been mixed. But green tea is known to aid healthy cells in all stages of growth. There are some clues that green tea may help destroy cancer cells, but that research is still in its early stages, so you shouldn’t count on green tea to prevent cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute's web site says it "does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer."
Tea plants that are specifically grown and used to make matcha are also typically shaded for two weeks to increase chlorophyll levels before the leaves are picked, further boosting concentration of healthy compounds. Matcha green tea tends to be more expensive than buying tea leaves for steeping, but a little goes a long way. Matcha is usually available in powder form and is a good choice for adding green tea’s taste and the benefits of green tea to recipes like smoothies, baked goods or ice cream.
Drinking green tea or taking green tea supplements decreases the blood concentration of total cholesterol (about 3–7 mg/dL), LDL cholesterol (about 2 mg/dL), and does not affect the concentration of HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. A 2013 Cochrane meta-analysis of longer-term randomized controlled trials (>3 months duration) concluded that green tea consumption lowers total and LDL cholesterol concentrations in the blood.
The polyphenols in green tea, especially EGCG, have been shown to have a particularly powerful effect in supporting skin cells and cellular DNA in the presence of UV radiation from sunlight. May different clinical studies have shown EGCG to help skin defend against UVA and UVB rays. And because these polyphenols can accumulate in the skin, regularly drinking green tea or taking a green tea supplement with EGCG can act as all-day supplemental protection.
A study suggests that theanine found in matcha tea acts as a neurotransmitter. It exerts a calming effect on the brain without causing any drowsiness. This soothing effect helped the Buddhist monks in maintaining deep concentration during their meditation sessions and was the main reason behind its popularity. Another study has revealed the anti-stress effects of theanine present in this tea, which assists in reducing the physiological and psychological stress responses by inhibiting the neuron excitation. Matcha tea is also believed to boost memory and concentration.
From the 3rd century through the 6th century, green tea was mostly considered a “luxury item” before new techniques for drying and distributing green tea led to more mass production and availability among the public. According to the Teavivre, a tea company, during the time of the Song Dynasty in China (AD 960–1279), “tea drinking had become an integral part of the daily life of all Chinese, in a similar way to how afternoon tea became ingrained in the English culture. The use and production of so-called ‘tribute teas’ — those produced to be presented to the emperor and other high officials — became an important part of royal culture and a source of government taxation.” (16)
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Green tea can lower and help stabilize your blood sugar levels (glucose levels); in fact, studies show that green tea can even improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. One study among Japanese individuals found that those who drank the most green tea had a very significantly lower risk of developing type II diabetes. Other studies have shown similar results.
One of the primary reasons for the popularity and consumption of all kinds of tea by human civilizations is its stimulating effect. This effect, again, is due to the caffeine and tannins present in the tea leaves. Caffeine and tannins, despite their potentially adverse effects on health, in the long run, act as very powerful stimulants. That is why a cup of tea makes you feel fresh and highly energized. Tea is an easy and ideal solution to counter fatigue, laziness, sleepiness, and lack of energy, and to improve blood circulation. This is why it is so popular with a wide variety of people in various industries, including professionals, housewives, students, and anyone else who has ever felt a bit drowsy during the day!
It is used in castella, manjū, and monaka; as a topping for shaved ice (kakigōri); mixed with milk and sugar as a drink; and mixed with salt and used to flavour tempura in a mixture known as matcha-jio. It is also used as flavouring in many Western-style chocolates, candy, and desserts, such as cakes and pastries (including Swiss rolls and cheesecake), cookies, pudding, mousse, and green tea ice cream. Matcha frozen yogurt is sold in shops and can be made at home using Greek yogurt. The Japanese snack Pocky has a matcha-flavoured version. Matcha may also be mixed into other forms of tea. For example, it is added to genmaicha to form what is called matcha-iri genmaicha (literally, roasted brown rice and green tea with added matcha).
Although research on the specific health benefits of matcha is limited, some studies suggest that regular consumption of green tea, in general, may help protect against certain health conditions. For instance, green tea appears to prevent age-related cognitive impairment, reduce LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other conditions such as prostate cancer.
Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, it’s important to note that much of this research isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, it’s largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.
Every day, countless people throw away valuable antioxidants and minerals. While seemingly unimaginable, that’s exactly what happens when you brew a cup of green tea because water can only extract a fraction of green teas benefits. The majority actually remains unused, trapped in the tea leaves. In reality, the only way to truly take advantage of green teas full potential is to consume the entire leaf. But that doesn’t mean you need to start eating tea leaves. The simplest solution is to just enjoy a bowl of matcha. Because matcha is straight, stoneground tea leaves, matcha provides you with green teas powerful arsenal of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids in a way no other green tea can.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com
According to a study published in the journal Chinese Medicine, many of the beneficial biological effects of flavonoids on heart health seem to be due to cell-signaling effects that lower inflammation. (6) Not only do flavonoids have anti-inflammatory capabilities, but they’re also antithrombogenic, antidiabetic, anticancer and neuroprotective compounds.
Matcha contains a healthy form of caffeine; not to be mistaken with the one present in regular coffee. This unique form of caffeine known as theophylline sustains the energy levels without any adverse effects. The slow release of energy due to theophylline helps in supporting the functionality of adrenal glands. It also maintains optimum hormonal levels.
All that being said, it should come as no surprise that I fell victim to the active marketing campaigns of one of the year’s biggest trends: fitness teas. You know what I’m talking about: stars and influencers like Kylie Jenner, Catherine Giudici Lowe, and Vanessa Hudgens are touting the successes of their respective experiences with fitness teas. These teas (by various brands) claim to eliminate bloat, cleanse your insides, and detoxify your organs. They claim to help you lose weight and curb cravings. Seriously? I thought as I scrolled through ad after ad. Sign. Me. Up.
Rooibos is especially rich in the super-antioxidant compound quercetin. A titan among the antioxidants, quercetin imparts benefits to the heart, helps to reduce the risk of various types of cancers, fights viruses and is significantly anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is part of all known chronic degenerative diseases. The anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin means that it helps to reduce the risk of many types of health disorders.
Rooibos contains polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimutagenic qualities. Polyphenols are organic chemicals that are often praised for their antioxidant capabilities. Studies suggest that regularly drinking organic red rooibos tea provides the liver with potent antioxidants, helping the organ to improve detoxification. Antioxidants act as scavengers of free radicals throughout the body, which are detrimental byproducts of cell metabolism that can cause cancer and heart diseases. Aspalathin and nothofagin are two other vital antioxidants that rooibos tea contains, making it a great beverage to boost your immune system and protect your body against all types of diseases.
Houjicha: Also spelled as “Hojicha”, this is not a pure or absolute green tea. Rather, it is a mixture of green tea and powdered roasted cereals such as wheat, barley, or rice. The quality and price of this variety depend upon the percentage or ratio of green tea to cereal content. The better ones, which have more green tea in them, are more expensive and have a greener look when brewed; on the other hand, those with higher grain contents yield a golden brown color and are cheaper.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the polyphenols in tea have been shown to decrease tumor growth in both animal and laboratory studies. Researchers believe that it is the high level of polyphenols in tea that help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, although the exact mechanism by which tea inhibits and prevents cancerous cells is uncertain.
Another big draw health benefit-wise is that matcha, like green tea, is loaded with antioxidants. A study, published in 2014, found the plant also had antimicrobial properties, particularly the four types of catechins (antioxidant properties flavonoids) it contains, against a few different types of microorganisms. Yet another study, published in Nature, proved that catechins inhibit the growth of a bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum — the bacteria that causes cavities and periodontal disease.
Koicha, or thick tea, requires significantly more matcha (usually about doubling the powder and halving the water): approximately 3.75 grams (amounting to 3 heaping chashaku scoops, or about one teaspoon) of matcha and approximately 40 ml (1.3 oz) of hot water per serving, or as many as six teaspoons to 3/4 cup of water. Because the resulting mixture is significantly thicker (with a similar consistency to liquid honey), blending it requires a slower, stirring motion that does not produce foam. Koicha is normally made with more expensive matcha from older tea trees (exceeding thirty years) and, thus, produces a milder and sweeter tea than usucha; it is served almost exclusively as part of Japanese tea ceremonies.
According to a report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water.” (2) What is green tea good for? According to dozens of studies, regularly drinking green tea may reduce your risk of developing heart disease or Alzheimer’s, help you maintain better bone mineral density, ward off eye diseases that affect vision in older age, prevent strokes, and even extend your life.
Sometimes given to babies suffering from colic, rooibos is known for anti-spasmodic activity. A growing body of evidence suggests that the health benefits of rooibos may be quite broad, including evidence that the antioxidants in the tea may reduce the risk of heart disease, and may inhibit some parameters of aging. Rooibos even shows use as a cosmetic ingredient for soothing, protecting and repairing skin.
ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset
On this episode of Consumed, host and Eater Drinks editor Kat Odell looks into the matcha production process — how it differs from that of more traditional steeped green tea, and how two of New York's noted matcha purveyors (Ippodo Tea Company and Matchabar) are working with the product today. Watch the video above for a lesson in powdered green tea; if your interest is piqued, check this map for the best places to drink matcha across the country, and these recipes for making iced matcha drinks at home, perfect for the summer.