Green tea (Camellia sinensis)

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Green tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis , a perennial evergreen shrub. Green tea has a long history of use, dating back to China approximately 5,000 years ago. Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all derived from the same plant.

Tea varieties reflect the growing region (for example, Ceylon or Assam), the district (for example, Darjeeling), the form (for example, pekoe is cut, gunpowder is rolled), and the processing method (for example, black, green, or oolong). India and Sri Lanka are the major producers of green tea.

Historically, tea has been served as a part of various ceremonies and has been used to stay alert during long meditations. A legend in India describes the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, who tore off his eyelids in frustration at his inability to stay awake during meditation while journeying through China. A tea plant is said to have sprouted from the spot where his eyelids fell, providing him with the ability to stay awake, meditate, and reach enlightenment. Turkish traders reportedly introduced tea to Western cultures in the 6th Century.

Steeping

While commonly called brewing, the process of making a cup of tea is actually steeping. Generally, 2 grams of tea per 100ml of water, or about one teaspoon of green tea per 5 ounce cup (150ml), should be used. With very high quality teas like gyokuro, more than this amount of leaf is used, and the leaf is steeped multiple times for short durations.

Green tea steeping time and temperature varies with individual teas. The hottest steeping temperatures are 180°F to 190°F (81°C to 87°C) water and the longest steeping times 2 to 3 minutes. The coolest brewing temperatures are 140°F to 160°F (61°C to 69°C) and the shortest times about 30 seconds. In general, lower quality green teas are steeped hotter and longer, while higher quality teas are steeped cooler and shorter. Steeping green tea too hot or too long will result in a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of the initial quality. It is thought that excessively hot water results in tannin chemical release, which is especially problematic in green teas as they have higher contents of these. High quality green teas can be and usually are steeped multiple times; 2 or 3 steepings is typical. The steeping technique also plays a very important role to avoid the tea developing an overcooked taste. Preferably, the container in which the tea is steeped or teapot should also be warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down. It is common practice for tea leaf to be left in the cup or pot and for hot water to be added as the tea is drunk until the flavor degrades.

Health effects

Green tea contains salubrious polyphenols, particularly catechins, the most abundant of which is epigallocatechin gallate. Green tea also contains carotenoids, tocopherols, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), minerals such as chromium, manganese, selenium or zinc, and certain phytochemical compounds. It is a more potent antioxidant than black tea, although black tea has substances which green tea does not such as theaflavin.

In vitro, animal, preliminary observational, and clinical human studies suggest that green tea can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dental cavities, kidney stones, and cancer, while improving bone density and cognitive function. However, the human studies are inconsistent.

Green tea consumption is associated with reduced heart disease in epidemiological studies. Animal studies have found that it can reduce cholesterol. However, several small, brief human trials found that tea consumption did not reduce cholesterol in humans. In 2003 a randomized clinical trial found that a green tea extract with added theaflavin from black tea reduced cholesterol.

A study performed at Birmingham (UK) University, showed that average fat oxidation rates were 17% higher after ingestion of green tea extract than after ingestion of a placebo. Similarly the contribution of fat oxidation to total energy expenditure was also significantly higher by a similar percentage following ingestion of green tea extract. This implies that ingestion of green tea extract can not only increase fat oxidation during moderately intensive exercise but also improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in healthy young men.

A recent study looked at the effects of short term green tea consumption on a group of students between the ages of 19–37. Participants were asked not to alter their diet and to drink 4 cups of green tea per day for 14 days. The results showed that short term consumption of commercial green tea reduces systolic and diastolic Blood Pressure, fasting total cholesterol, body fat and body weight. These results suggest a role for green tea in decreasing established potential cardiovascular risk factors. This study also suggests that reductions may be more pronounced in the overweight population where a significant proportion are obese and have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

In a study performed at the Israel Institute of Technology, it was shown that the main antioxidant polyphenol of green tea extract, EGCG, when fed to mice induced with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, helped to protect brain cells from dying, as well as ‘rescuing’ already damaged neurons in the brain, a phenomenon called neurorescue or neurorestoration. The findings of the study, led by Dr. Silvia Mandell, were presented at the Fourth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington D.C., in 2007. Resulting tests underway in China, under the auspices of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, are being held on early Parkinson’s patients.

A study performed at the National institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana, Slovenia, demonstrated that EGCG from green tea inhibits an essential bacterial enzyme gyrase by binding to the ATP binding site of the B subunit. This activity probably contributes to the antimicrobial activity of green tea extract and may be responsible for the effectiveness of green tea in oral hygiene.

In a recent case-control study of the eating habits of 2,018 women, consumption of mushrooms and green tea was linked to a 90% lower occurrence of breast cancer.

A recent study on rats at the University of Hong Kong, published in the February issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that the catechins in green tea were absorbed by the lens, retina and other parts of the eye. The absorbed catechins reduced oxidative stress in the eye for up to 20 hours, suggesting that green tea may be effective in preventingglaucoma and other diseases of the eye.

Scientific studies

According to research reported at the Sixth International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention, sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, a standardized green tea polyphenol preparation (Polyphenon E) limits the growth of colorectal tumors in rats treated with a substance that causes the cancer. “Our findings show that rats fed a diet containing Polyphenon E are less than half as likely to develop colon cancer,” Dr. Hang Xiao, from the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, noted in a statement.

A 2006 study published in the September 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded “Green tea consumption is associated with reduced mortality due to all causes and due to cardiovascular disease but not with reduced mortality due to cancer.” The study, conducted by the Tohoku University School of Public Policy in Japan, followed 40,530 Japanese adults, ages 40–79, with no history of stroke, coronary heart disease, or cancer at baseline beginning in 1994. The study followed all participants for up to 11 years for death from all causes and for up to 7 years for death from a specific cause. Participants who consumed 5 or more cups of tea per day had a 16 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 26 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (“CVD”) than participants who consumed less than one cup of tea per day. The study also states, “If green tea does protect humans against CVD or cancer, it is expected that consumption of this beverage would substantially contribute to the prolonging of life expectancy, given that CVD and cancer are the two leading causes of death worldwide.”

A study in the February 2006 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded “A higher consumption of green tea is associated with a lower prevalence of cognitive impairment in humans.”

In May 2006, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine weighed in on the issue with a review article that looked at more than 100 studies on the health benefits of green tea. They pointed to what they called an “Asian paradox,” which refers to lower rates of heart disease and cancer in Asia despite high rates of cigarette smoking. They theorized that the 1.2 liters of green tea that is consumed by many Asians each day provides high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants. These compounds may work in several ways to improve cardiovascular health, including preventing blood platelets from sticking together (this anticoagulant effect is the reason doctors warn surgical patients to avoid green tea prior to procedures that rely on a patient’s clotting ability) and improving cholesterol levels, said the researchers, whose study appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Specifically, green tea may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type), which, in turn, can reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries, the researchers wrote.

A study published in the August 22, 2006 edition of Biological Psychology looked at the modification of the stress response via L-Theanine, a chemical found in green tea. It “suggested that the oral intake of L-Theanine could cause anti-stress effects via the inhibition of cortical neuron excitation.”

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted by Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, 240 adults were given either theaflavin-enriched green tea extract in form of 375 mg capsule daily or a placebo. After 12 weeks, patients in the tea extract group had significantly less low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and total cholesterol (16.4% and 11.3% lower than baseline, p<0.01) than the placebo group. The author concluded that theaflavin-enriched green tea extract can be used together with other dietary approaches to reduce LDL-C.

A study published in the January, 2005 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded “Daily consumption of tea containing 690 mg catechins for 12 wk reduced body fat, which suggests that the ingestion of catechins might be useful in the prevention and improvement of lifestyle-related diseases, mainly obesity.”

According to a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study published in the April 13 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, antioxidants in green tea may prevent and reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. The study examined the effects of green tea polyphenols on collagen-induced arthritis in mice, which is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in humans. In each of three different study groups, the mice given the green tea polyphenols were significantly less likely to develop arthritis. Of the 18 mice that received the green tea, only eight (44 percent) developed arthritis. Among the 18 mice that did not receive the green tea, all but one (94 percent) developed arthritis. In addition, researchers noted that the eight arthritic mice that received the green tea polyphenols developed less severe forms of arthritis.

A German study found that an extract of green tea and hot water (filtered), applied externally to the skin for 10 minutes, three times a day could help people with skin damaged from radiation therapy (after 16–22 days).

A study published in the December 1999 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se. The green tea extract may play a role in the control of body composition via sympathetic activation of thermogenesis, fat oxidation, or both.”

In lab tests, EGCG, found in green tea, was found to prevent HIV from attacking T-Cells. However, it is not yet known if this has any effect on humans.

A study in the August, 2003 issue of a new potential application of Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences found that “a new potential application of (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate [a component of green tea] in prevention or treatment of inflammatory processes is suggested”

However, pharmacological and toxicological evidence does indicate that green tea polyphenols can in fact cause oxidative stress and liver toxicity in vivo at certain concentrations. This would imply that consumers should exercise caution when consuming herbal products produced from concentrated green tea extract. Other evidence presented in the review cautions against the drinking of green tea by pregnant women.

A more frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in a Japanese study. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study in 1,058 community-dwelling elderly Japanese individuals 70 years of age. The prevalence of mild and severe depressive symptoms was 34.1 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively. After adjustment for confounding factors, the odds ratios for mild and severe depressive symptoms when higher green tea consumption was compared with green tea consumption of 1 cup/d were: 2 to 3 cups green tea/d and 4 cups green tea/d. Similar relations were also observed in the case of severe depressive symptoms.

Caffeine

Unless specifically decaffeinated, green tea contains caffeine. Normal green tea itself may contain more caffeine than coffee (by dry weight for caffeine per serving size, see below), but the length of infusion with hot water and the number of times the leaves are reused can greatly alter caffeine intake. Using a given amount of green tea leaves steeped in 100 mL of water, experiments have shown that after the first 5 minutes of brewing, the tea contains 32 mg caffeine. But if the same leaves are then used for a second and then a third five minute brew, the caffeine drops to 12 mg and then 4 mg, respectively.

While coffee and tea are both sources of caffeine, the amounts of caffeine in any single serving of these beverages varies significantly. An average serving of coffee contains the most caffeine, the same serving size of tea provides 1/2 to 1/3 as much. One of the more confusing aspects of caffeine content is the fact that coffee contains less caffeine than tea when measured in its dry form. The caffeine content of a prepared cup of coffee is significantly higher than the caffeine content of a prepared cup of tea.

Green teas contain two caffeine metabolites (caffeine-like substances): theophylline, which is a stronger stimulant than caffeine, and theobromine, which is slightly weaker than caffeine.

For me favourite teas are Ban-cha, Sen-cha, Ginseng Oolong and Darjeeling.
This post is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
sources: Wikipedia, mayoclinic.com
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