Does Green Tea Have Health Benefits?

Green tea is well known for aiding in weight loss but the question is, does it work and are there any other health benefits?

benefits of green tea

History

Green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves. There are two main strains used for making green teas. Camellia sinensis sinensis, native to China, is used to make green, white, and sometimes black and oolong teas and prefers growing in mountainous regions. Camellia sinensis assamica, native to India, is used to make black and pu’erh tea and prefers to grow in humid and warm areas.

This history of green tea starts in 8th century China when they learned how to keep green tea leaves from oxidizing by steaming the leaves. Over the next couple of hundred of years, steaming, frying, drying and roasting the leaves led to different ways to prepare the Camellia sinensis leaves for teas that had a less bitter taste. Depending on how the leaves are prepared, and how much they are or are not allowed to oxidize, will produce different types of teas such as green, black or oolong tea.

Tea has always been an important part of China’s history starting in the 3rd century to present day. It was once a luxury, gifts to emperors and government officials, to one of the most popular teas in China that was available for everyone. Tea eventually made its way west and became engrained into many different cultures.

Nutrition in Green Tea

Caffeine

Green tea is a zero calorie drink and contains between 20-45 milligrams of caffeine per 8oz cup of tea depending on how long the tea is brewed. Black tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine and coffee contains about 95 milligrams per cup. Green tea may not contain as much caffeine as coffee but it does have enough to cause an effect. Luckily, green tea won’t create a “jittery” effect like caffeine does.

Amino Acids

The amino acid L-theanine increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain as well the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. GABA has an anti-anxiety effect possibly making green tea a great drink for those with anxiety, but it could also worsen it. L-theanine, paired up with caffeine, can improve brain function and can give you more stable energy.

Antioxidants

Green tea contains a high amount of antioxidants which are very beneficial to us. Flavonoids and catechins can reduce the development of free radicals and the presence Epigallocatechin Gallates (EGCG) could potentially be the reason why green tea has such powerful medicinal properties.
Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects and by weight, make up about 20-45 percent of green tea. Catechins, such as EGCGs, make up about 60-80 percent of green tea and can help prevent cell damage. Because of the antioxidant present in green tea, it could potentially be used to prevent various diseases, including cancer.

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Cancer

Antioxidants are very important in preventing cancer and fortunately, green tea is packed full of them. Just keep in mind that milk can reduce the value of antioxidants so adding it to your tea may not be a good idea if you are wanting the benefits of green tea’s antioxidants.

Green tea could potentially help in the prevention and treatment of breast, bladder, ovarian, colorectal, esophageal, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancer. The amount of tea you’d have to drink per day to prevent cancer varies from 2-10 cups a day. There is currently no specific recommendation for how much tea you shouldn’t drink every day. The FDA does not support the claims that green tea can help aid in the prevention of any type of cancer due to a lack of scientific evidence.

Science is constantly changing and new evidence is surfacing but scientific studies done on green tea’s effect on cancer are a relatively new thing. The studies are expensive, long, and have not produced any sufficient data to prove that it can prevent cancer. However, we are stepping in the right direction. This review cites anticancer activity of green tea in animal studies and is promoting clinical trials that would be very helpful in creating an anticancer drug from green tea. Another review of seventeen studies done on gastric cancer in Chinese and Japanese men and women provide insufficient evidence and suggests that more studies are needed.  There have been some positive outcomes in animal studies in preventing breast cancer but due to lack of human clinical trial studies, there’s not enough data to show that it would benefit humans. Results of animal studies show a protective effect against lung and throat cancer but unfortunately, human studies have had inconclusive results. It’s possible that green tea could help prevent cancer but more studies are needed.

Weight Loss

Green tea may increase your metabolism and help aid in burning fat but there are not very many studies that show that green tea can make a significant difference in weight loss. However, green tea, along with caffeine, could help prevent metabolic syndrome. The presence of metabolic syndrome increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

The Brain

Green tea has the potential to help improve your memory according to this study. It could also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Traditional Uses

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It has been used in both China and India as a stimulant, diuretic, astringent, and to improve heart health. It has also been used to treat gas, diarrhea, dysentery, and hepatitis, regulate body temperature and blood sugar, promote digestion, and improving mental processes. Believe it or not, green tea has also been used externally in the form of a poultice to treat cuts, burns, bruises, insect bites, ophthalmia, and swelling.

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Side Effects

Unfortunately, green tea can produce side effects and interact with medications mainly due to its caffeine content.

-Green tea could cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability, nausea, or upset stomach in those with a sensitivity to caffeine.
-Excessive use could cause dizziness, constipation, constipation, indigestion, palpitations, and insomnia.
-Caffeine overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and loss of appetite.
-It is recommended that you not drink green tea, take green tea extracts or supplements if on: blood thinners, stimulant drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, or ephedrine), antibiotics, birth control pills, estrogens, lithium, MAOIs, anticoagulant, or nicotine, see a complete list here.
-Green tea could interact with anemia, anxiety disorders, bleeding disorders, heart conditions, diabetes, diarrhea, glaucoma, high blood pressure, IBS, liver disease, and osteoporosis.
-Consult your doctor and/or midwife before taking any form of green tea if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Conclusion

Green tea has a long history and many beneficial properties. While there are not many modern studies today that prove its effectiveness for cancer prevention and weight loss, new studies are being performed and maybe one day we will have plenty of studies with sound evidence. It could interact with some medication and health issues but also as the possibility of improving health. Always consult your doctor before starting a new health regimen.


10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea: Health benefits, side effects, and research
Camellia sinensis
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Chinese Tea History Part Ⅰ- Green Tea History
University of Maryland Medical Center Green Tea
Plants for a Future Camellia sinensis

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)