For centuries, green tea has been a beverage of choice in Asia, and now we are learning there are good reasons why it has long been so popular.
Thousands of years before tea was first cultivated in China, the wild variety was already known to healers there as a medicinal plant.
They would prepare a decoction by boiling the leaves for use in treating fatigue, lethargy, indigestion, minor aches and urinary ailments. Whole tea leaves could also be used as an astringent to control bleeding and heal wounds.
Green tea, in particular, was applied in both Chinese and Indian medicine as a stimulant, a diuretic to aid in the excretion of urine, and a way to relieve flatulence. It was said to improve heart health, regulate body temperature and blood sugar, promote digestion and enhance mental processes, too.
The primary difference between the three major types of tea—green, black and oolong—is the way they are processed. Because green tea (Camellia sinesis) is prepared from unfermented leaves, it contains the highest concentration of antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Antioxidants, of course, are substances that scavenge the free radicals that alter cells and affect DNA, causing cell death and aging. The polyphenols in green tea help neutralize free radicals, possibly reducing or even preventing some of their damage.
Extensive studies of green tea’s effects on people and animals, as confirmed in laboratory experiments, show the ancient wisdom to be correct. Green tea can be useful in treating a variety of health conditions, such as the following:
Atherosclerosis – Green tea reduces the risk of coronary artery disease by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol in both animals and people.
Cancer – Cancer rates tend to be low in Japan and other countries where green tea is regularly consumed. Clinical studies suggest that the polyphenols may be a factor, killing cancerous cells and stopping their progression.
Diabetes – Green tea may help prevent the development of Type-1 diabetes, or slow its progression in those who have it, by helping to regulate glucose in the body.
Liver Disease – Consuming more than 10 cups of green tea per day has been shown to inhibit liver disorders, protecting the organ from the damaging effects of such toxic substances as alcohol.
Weight Loss – Studies indicate that green tea extract may be an effective diet aid. It contains catechins that boost metabolism and aid in the burning of fat.
Other potential benefits of green tea include the prevention of tooth decay, anti-inflammatory relief for arthritis, treatment of genital warts and prevention of cold and flu symptoms. And as “medicines” go, it certainly tastes good, too.
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