Green Tea
Just What the Doctor Won’t Order

Green Tea?  According to ole Waylon Jennings, “T” is for Texas,” T” is for Tennessee; how about just” T” is for Tea?  No self-respecting cowboy or outlaw would be caught dead sipping tea, green or any kind for that matter, but they should. 

They should because tea is a beverage that holds an incredible arsenal of health benefits but to maximize those benefits, we must choose the right tea and prepare it properly.

Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant

Tea types are named mostly by color; black, yellow, green, white except for oolong or pu-erh but all are classified according to their production and processing. 

The difference in classifications depends on whether the leaves are wilted or unwilted, oxidized or unoxidized, fresh green leaves or yellowed or darkened by age and whether fermented or not.

Why Green?
Why not Oolong, Black or Darjeeling?

The focus here will be confined to green since it seems to be the one that imparts the best health benefits.  This is the only one in which green, unwilted, unoxidized and unfermented leaves are used in the production.
 
Processing of tea leaves is important.  Fermentation destroys a large portion of the polyphenols in the leaves.  Polyphenols refer to a large group of chemicals found in plants of which catechins, flavonoids, lignans and tannins are among them.   Black tea and Oolong tea have both undergone some degree of fermentation.
 
Decaffeination has no effect on the healthy chemicals in tea, so decaffeinated green tea still has all its polyphenols.  Japanese tea is richer in super catechins, known as epigallocatechin gallate-3 (EGCG), than common varieties of Chinese tea thus giving the Japanese variety an edge.

Japanese Green Tea

Most green teas should be allowed to steep for between three and eight minutes, although some types of tea require as much as ten.   If you want stronger or weaker tea, adjust the amount of tea leaves used and not by changing the steeping time.
   
Steeping time is vitally important health wise in that tea catechins are released during the steeping time.


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What Makes Green so Healthy

Never heard of catechins?  You’re not alone.  The chemistry of catechins is quite complex so let it suffice to say that they are antioxidants and flavonoids and can account for as much as 30% of the dry weight of freshly picked tea leaves.

Catechins are one thing, but tea leaves also contain over 700 other chemicals linked to human health including amino acids, vitamins C, E and K, various polysaccharides and caffeine.

This is a good place to introduce our readers to Teavana.com, one of the best, if not the best, sources of quality green teas plus many others.  Click on the link below and go to their drop-down tea menu to find Matcha Japanese Tea, Gyokuro Imperial Tea, Sencha Reserve Tea and many other quality "greens".

Follow these 3 easy steps for brewing the perfect cup of tea!

If your interests run to medicinal teas, feel free to visit My Miracle Tea, whose main benefit seems to be detoxification.

How Can Drinking Tea Help?

In animal tests, catechins have been seen to reduce atherosclerotic plaques and in the petrie dish (in vitro) to reduce the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells (carcinogenesis).  

There is no shortage of studies on the health benefits of catechins and the evidence is such that many researchers believe that catechins can reduce the incidence of the big four health problems; cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Tea is rich in catechins but we can also get them from dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables and red wine.

The impact on the big four mentioned above is big news but the list of other health benefits from tea is very lengthy including:

  • cell-mediated immune function
  • improves beneficial intestinal microflora
  • provides immunity against intestinal disorders
  • protects cell membranes from oxidative damage
  • prevents dental caries due to the presence of fluorine
  • normalizing blood pressure
  • reduces blood-glucose activity
  • possesses antibiotic properties
  • Specific to cancer, the catechins in tea, particularly the aforementioned EGCG’s retard the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow and spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).  What seems to be even more important is that they seem to be able to induce death of cancer cells (apoptosis). 

    Recall that cancer is immortal; cancer cells don’t have a preprogramed lifespan like normal cells. Finally, in the lab, they have been shown to enhance the effects of radiation on cancer cells.

    Polyphenols and catechins in tea work as antioxidants and detox agents by activating enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body.

    So as teas go for disease prevention or a natural cure, green is the one to drink.  It is often a developed taste to many due to its slight bitterness but there are several flavored green teas on the market particularly one with slight amounts of pomegranate.   Pomegranate is another great source of polyphenols.

    Finally if you just have to add a sweetener to your tea, consider a few drops of 100% pure Agave Nectar, stevia or trehalose. All of them are low glycemic and diabetic friendly but if using Agave Nectar, don’t overdo it since it does have a high fructose content which, in excess, can trigger some of the same problems as high fructose corn syrup.

    You want to Ask Your Doctor about drinking tea for health?   How about asking about blueberries, walnuts, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, soy, mushrooms, seaweed or any supplements?  Forget it!

    Chances are your doctor will be clueless and give you the stock answer… “the FDA hasn’t evaluated them and we can’t be sure if they’re safe.  Just go home and take your prescriptions”. 

    Resources

    As always, you are responsible for your health but know what you are doing and if you are under a doctor’s care, be sure he or she knows what you are taking and what you are eating.  Many foods and supplements do interact with those prescriptions that the doc has given you.

    The thing to Ask Your Doctor is…”Hey doc, I’m eating and taking (name your health food or supplement) and I would like to know if there are any contraindications or interactions.”  The doctor will understand that language.

    Do yourself a favor and get a copy of the book Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D. PhD. and READ IT! It is about much more than cancer and has a lot to say about the incredible benefits of green tea. Click on the book's cover above to get your very own copy.

    One more excellent resource is from benefits-of-green-tea. This is on the website of Helen Nichols who has put together the most comprehensive discussion of green tea relative to our health ever seen. It is way too much to include here but you must visit her site. You can access it at Well-Being Secrets.

    Drinking green tea is one thing; but to really up the ante, consider trying green tea extract. They are both from green tea but are worlds apart when it comes to their health benefits.


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