In the last few years, green tea has become rather popular as a beverage in western world countries and this isn’t just because of the detoxing properties that have been attributed to it. In the past, the herbal beverage constituted a fundamental element of therapeutics in countries of Eastern Asia – with Chinese people using it for as long as 3,000 years.
Green tea is made by the drying of leaves of the plant camellia sinensis. Its innumerable healing capacities have granted it enormous commercial value since, today, the plant is grown in vast expansions of land.
The history of green tea
The history of green tea dates back to almost 600 B.C. Buddhist monks were the first to bring this “magical” herb from China to Japan; initially, they used it as a stimulant to cope with the long hours of meditation that their philosophy required. According to Buddhist monks’ recordings, the herb could maintain their spiritual self-control, their inspiration, their vitality and, also, their mental focus.
The first tea to be sent in Europe was indeed green: that was in approximately 1648 A.D. and we can find recordings of its beneficiary capacities from that time. However, due to the fact that black tea had greater commercial profit, combined with the fact that it could be stored for long periods of time, led traders to supply Europe with solely black tea – especially from the 18th century onward. Actually, black tea derives from processed leaves of green tea through fermenting processes. Under normal circumstances, though, green tea should not undergo fermentation in order for its healing components to remain unaltered. Thus, a good criterion for the quality of tea we drink is whether it has undergone protracted processing; also, whether it pours its healing components (of which more than a hundred have been listed) unaltered in our cup.
Green tea qualities that fortify human health
On its “resume”, green tea has six very important polyphenols, constituting it beneficiary for our health. Its stimulating property derives mostly from tannins; while, in the beverage, we can detect small quantities of caffeine. The result is its ability to act directly on the brain and stimulate the central nervous system, thus harmonically activating various bodily functions and bringing about a physical and mental well-being. Moreover, according to recent clinical studies, adults drinking at least two cups of green tea daily have 50% less chances of exhibiting mental problems as they grow older, compared to those drinking less or no tea.
In addition, researchers have detected antioxidant catechins (phlavonoids), as well as ascorbic acid (the commonly known vitamin C), in green tea leaves. However, vitamin C remains active only if the leaves are not fermented.
Green tea is tolerated very well from the human organism, despite its light alkalinity. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties make it one of the herbs most beneficiary for our health. Scientific research reports that it contributes to the prevention of various types of cancer, namely gallbladder, lower intestine, pancreatic, breast and stomach cancer. Meanwhile, in recent years, the active substances of the leaves that have been isolated and identified are in the centre of extensive research regarding possible treatment against certain types of cancer.
In the meantime, there is a large number of research proving that the systematic drinking of green tea can contribute to the lowering of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol) and the prevention of vascular atherosclerotic plaques (atherosclerosis), as well as cardio-vascular diseases in general.
The much-advertised and known to us all green tea catechins, always in combination with a balanced diet, contribute to better functioning of the metabolism; also, to more effective weight loss. Due to the fact that it detoxes the organism and possesses high diuretic action, more and more dietary programs for excess weight loss tend to include green tea beverage consumption.
It has been clinically proved that green tea beverage betters significantly the functioning of the digestive system. Meanwhile, its anti-inflammatory and healing qualities make it especially helpful in the symptomatic treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions are among the Idiopathic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases; they have several similarities; and, lately, they seem to become more prevalent – mostly due to lifestyle. Their basic symptom is the development of ulcers (wounds that do not heal) in the intestine and frequent diarrhea, accompanied by blood loss. Among the results of this inflammatory condition is the intestine’s decreased capacity to absorb both nutrients and water. The basic difference between the two diseases is that ulcerative colitis is a pathological condition of the lower intestine; while Crohn’s disease can lead to the occurrence of symptoms to the rest of the gastrointestinal tract.
Basic rules for preparing green tea beverage
There are no strict rules for the correct preparation of the beverage. However, in order to benefit the most from its beneficiary capacities it would be good to keep in mind some simple, yet important, rules that are effective in the preparation of any type of tea.
- It’s better to use fresh water, low in salts; meaning soft, filtered water. Tap water is hard, as it contains chlorine as well as salts; while bottle water has a low percentage in oxygen; this means that both can alter the tea’s genuine taste.
- As far as water temperature is concerned, it is infinitely better to initially heat the water a lot, then leave it to reach the desired for us temperature. The lowest the water temperature, the better the quality of tea; because, this way, heat doesn’t destroy the substances contained in its leaves – substances sensitive to high temperature, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C). However, this doesn’t mean we can prepare a good cup of tea in room temperature water.
- The quantity of tea that we use is related to our desires regarding taste and aroma; also to how strong we want our beverage to be. Yet it is good to know that a good criterion about the quality of tea we drink is: the smaller the quantity of leaves we use for preparing it, the higher their quality.
Other uses of green tea
Both the extract and the tincture of green tea leaves have countless applications in pharmaceutics, perfumery and cosmetology. The herb’s high content in epigallocatechin prescribes to the extract up to 200 more potent antioxidant abilities than vitamins C and E. Moreover, it accelerates the action of certain enzymes that human cells contain (such as superoxide dismutase) and is, therefore, used in healing concoctions for trauma, ulcers and burns; as well as in cosmetic products with anti-aging and reconstructive properties.
Green tea is especially styptic and can be used in concoctions for treating greasiness in both skin and hair; while it is also widely used for preventing and treating hair loss (male pattern baldness).
Moreover, green tea seems to induce lipids’ metabolism, enhancing the action of the appropriate enzymes; thus it is widely used in cosmetic concoctions against cellulite and local fat.
Finally, according to recent research published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science, green tea epigallocatechin seems to act greatly against oral cavity bacteria; therefore, its use in oral hygiene concoctions grows rapidly.