The benefits of drinking green tea have been understood for centuries, since it was first discovered in China approximately 4700 years ago. According to legend, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong, who was an herbalist as well, discovered tea when the leaves from twigs that were being used for a fire flew up and landed in a pot of boiling water. Shen Nong, an avid researcher, extensively tested the concoction and found tea to be the antidote to more than 70 different poisonous herbs. In addition, he believed it was useful for treating other ailments such as bladder problems, tumors, lethargy and abscesses.
As Japan and China top the list of countries with the highest life expectancy (82.6 and 82.2 years, respectively), and are also the highest in green tea consumption, there may be some truth to the beverage’s benefits. Both green and black tea come from the leaves of the same plant (Camellia sinensis), however, green tea is very minimally processed, while black tea is made through a fermenting of the leaves. Due to the minimal processing involved, green tea retains more of the healthy antioxidant polyphenols. The antioxidants particular to tea are called catechins, which are thought to be the main source of green tea’s health benefits.
According to an article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch, catechins are better at stopping oxidative damage to cells from free radicals than both vitamin C and vitamin E, and several studies have found a link between the consumption of green tea and a reduced rate of cancer and heart disease. It has been found to be particularly effective against cancer of the bladder, breast, ovary, pancreas, lung, colon, prostate, skin and esophagus. In addition, green tea has been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and improve the function of the arteries.
Drinking green tea has also been shown to have a protective effect against stroke, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, and reduces the incidence of bacterial and viral infections. It helps control blood sugar levels, reducing your chance of contracting diabetes, and reduces the inflammation associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It also helps to boost metabolism, helping to burn fat.
A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 reported that drinking green tea was even more beneficial than drinking water, as the tea provides not only hydration on a level with that of water, but it also contains healthy polyphenols. Another 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that drinking green tea reduces the risk of death from all causes, which is not the case with black tea. Drinking an average of three cups of green tea per day (as they do in Japan and China) confers the greatest amount of health benefits, providing you with 240-320 mg of polyphenols.
Using one teaspoon per 5 oz. cup, pour water that is hot, but less than boiling, over the leaves and let it steep for two to three minutes. Using water that is too hot will make the tea taste bitter and astringent. The thousands of studies on the positive effects of drinking green tea amount to a substantial body of literature in favor of giving it a try.