Miracle in a Cup

Only recently has the western culture caught on to a miracle drink the Chinese people have known about for over 4,000 years: green tea.

The Chinese have known about and benefited from the healing properties of green tea to cure everything from headaches and body pain to depression and for energy. Long a favorite drink of Chinese emperors, green tea contains powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Over 80% of the tea consumed world wide is black tea. Green tea, however, is favored in Asia, particularly in China and Japan. There are three types of tea – green, black, and oolong – and all derive from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The different types of tea developed due to differences in how the leaves are processed. What makes green tea different from black and oolong tea is that the leaves are not fermented leaving the natural healing properties to come out when consumed.

What exactly are these natural healing properties and how can we benefit from consuming green tea?

Green Tea Helps Reduce Cancer

Recent medical studies conducted in Asia and in the United States have attempted to document the health benefits of green tea and produce hard evidence as to its healing properties. The results of an epidemiological study that appeared in the June 1, 1994 edition of the Journal of the National Caner Institute show found that Chinese men and women who drink green tea could reduce the risk of esophageal cancer by up to 60%

While the data linking green tea to a reduction in cancer is still under scrutiny, it is believed that one of the antioxidants found in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), helps fight cancer by preventing damage to cell DNA. EGCG has proven more powerful in protecting DNA than vitamin C and E and can inhibit the growth of and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

Studies at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are testing green tea extract supplements in cancer patients. In addition to looking for shrinking tumors, they are also testing for possible side effects. Few side effects, if any, are expected.

In Japan, where green tea is the equivalent of coffee in the United States, green tea drinkers develop cancer with far less frequency than in other regions of the world. Where cancer does develop, it usually happens at an older age according to oncologist Waun Ki Hong, MD of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Green Tea Helps Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Another health benefit of green tea appears to be its ability to lower cholesterol levels and improve the cholesterol profile (the ratio of “good” (HDL) cholesterol to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol).

Excessive levels of LDL cholesterol in tissue can lead to atherosclerosis. HDL, on the other hand, prevents accumulation of the “bad” cholesterol. EGCG in green tea has been shown to lower LDL levels and stop blood from forming abnormal clots, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke.

A chemical called angiotensin II contributes to higher blood pressure in our bodies. An enzyme called Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) acts on angiotensin II causing it to constrict the vascular system. Green tea can impede the action of ACE and suppress the production of angiotensin and may actually reduce high blood pressure.

Green Tea May Lower Blood Sugar

The sugar and carbohydrates we consume are digested and converted into glucose. Insulin in our bloodstream regulates the amount of sugar that enters tissue. In diabetics, the insulin does not function properly, allowing excessive sugar to remain in the bloodstream.

Studies have show that catechin and polysaccharides in green tea have the ability to lower blood sugar levels.

Other Benefits

In addition to these medical benefits, green tea drinkers appear to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Green tea is thought to have an effect on overall health. They are able to stave off the effect of aging longer and help you burn more calories.

According to a 1999 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, men who take both caffeine and green tea burn more calories than men who only take caffeine or a placebo.

Green tea can serve as a healthy stimulant and give you more energy. Green tea contains caffeine but at much lower levels. A single cup of green tea contains only 9 mg of caffeine and even those who are sensitive to higher caffeine levels found in soft drinks or coffee might benefit from the milder effect of the caffeine in green tea. Several cups of green tea throughout the day can help keep you alert, focused, and stimulated.

Green tea also has the ability to destroy bacteria. This may help you kill the bacteria that causes food poisoning or those that cause dental plaque to form and lead to tooth decay. Green tea baths have also been effective as a topical ointment. Tests in hospitals have shown the tremendous healing effect of green tea on bed sores and skin disease.

According to a legend, green tea was discovered 4,000 year ago by a Chinese emperor. It has long been used in Asian cultures for its medicinal properties, but only recently has it been studied in western civilization. Doctors in the United States and Europe may be starting to realize what the Chinese have known all along: green tea just may be a miracle in a cup.

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