The Healthiest Teas
I just wrote this for a contest on the Helium site. So I thought I would use it as my contribution on Ann Kroeker’s WordPress blog for Food on Fridays carnival. Let me know what you think. Is it worthy of a high rank in the contest?
Long known for medicinal purposes , teas have been a well loved beverage for centuries. From the Ming Dynasty to Grandma’s calming Chamomile tea at bedtime, teas have been used by many for the health benefits. Scientific studies have broken the remedies away from the old wives tales, where tea is concerned.
True teas are derived solely from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China and India. Herbal teas do not necessarily contain tea leaves from this plant, therefore are not considered tea in the purest sense of the term. Therefore, only White, Green, Black, Oolong and Pu-erh are considered teas, because they are derived from the buds and leaves of this plant.
White, Green, Black, Oolong and Pu-erh teas all contain antioxidants called poly-phenols, which include flavonoids. Each have potent compounds that fight diseases. All these teas contain caffeine, as well. The process through which each tea is developed determines the poly-phenol content, the darkness of the leaves, and therefore the tea itself.
The poly-phenol content in tea has anti-cancer properties. This content has shown the promise to reduce the risk of gastric, esophageal and skin cancers when 4 to 6 cups are consumed daily. A minimum of 2 cups may lower the risk of ovarian cancers by 46%, help prevent blood clotting and they lower bad cholesterol, too. Green tea, in a Japanese study, was proved to lower death rates from heart disease.
So which of these teas are most beneficial? You decide. Green tea has quickly taken the lead in the marketplace. Yet, the other teas have been shown to be just as beneficial by science. White teas are quickly catching up to green teas, black and oolong appear to have the same benefits as these less processed teas.
Known in the Eastern countries, for thousands of years, for good health, happiness and wisdom, the Western countries are now coming into that wealth of health and wisdom. Maybe, just maybe, grandma was right all along.
White Tea, the least processed of the brews.
Virtually unknown to the Western world until recently, white teas are becoming more popular by the day. Named for the silver fuzz covering the buds, after drying the leaves turn white. The delicate flavor is just another benefit when one considers the many health benefits.
Derived from immature buds and leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the leaves are uncured and un-fermented. The young, new leaves are harvested just before the buds are fully opened and contain no chlorophyll. The leaves and buds of White tea undergo less processing than other teas. Instead of air drying, unwithered leaves are steamed, resulting in a pale tea with a sweet, smooth flavor.
Using the tea leaves so close to their natural state means more poly-phenols in the brew. Poly-phenols are those powerful antioxidants that combat and kill cancer causing cells.
A 2004 study at Pace University concludes that White tea helps your immune system. White tea assists the body to fight off viruses and dangerous infections. The same study revealed that it is also fluoride rich and fights off bacteria, preventing dental plaque, which we all know causes tooth decay.
Green Tea, considered one of the healthiest teas, in the Western world.
The Chinese have long used green tea to treat headaches to depression. It has been used in China and other Eastern countries for medicinal purposes for about 4,000 years. Green tea has been widely studied for its medicinal properties.
Green tea is purported to contain the most potent amount of EGCG, a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight free radicals that contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. EGCG inhibits the growth of cancer cells without harming the healthy surrounding tissue. The EGCG in green tea is twice as effective as resveratrol (another powerful poly-phenol), and is more effective at combating the effects of smoking and a fatty diet.
Green tea’s antioxidants interfere with the growth of a wide variety of cancers, they burn fat and counteracts oxidative stress on the brain. This tea may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,and stroke. As well as, improve cholesterol levels.
The Journal of National Cancer Institute from 1994, and a University of Perdue study, both back up the above claims. They also claim that the antioxidant properties in green tea help to lower total cholesterol levels while improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Green tea is produced when the tea leaves are steamed. This prevents the oxidation of the EGCG compounds, leaving it quite potent in the brew. Like White tea, Green tea is said to help reduce tooth decay as well as destroying the bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Green tea, due to its preparation process, has a fresh taste. Often described as green or grassy, the tea will reveal a delicate sweet taste when the tongue becomes accustomed to this new treat.
Oolong Tea has been historically used in China for medicinal purposes.
Oolong tea falls between the green and black teas. It’s leaves are only partially oxidized and it is considered a semi-green tea. The fermentation process is stopped as soon as the tea leaves begin to change in color.
Low in caffeine content Oolong tea has a fragrant aroma and a fruity flavor. The aroma and flavor contribute to it’s extremely relaxing and stress relieving effects.
Marketed heavily as a weight control tea, it is often stated that there are no studies to back that particular claim. Although, in China it is a well known fact among the people.
Having the benefits of both black and green teas, Oolong is described as having double the health benefits. Along with being reported to help control obesity, studies show that the potent poly-phenols in this tea remove harmful, cancer causing free radicals from the body.
Oolong tea, like the newer applications of green teas, treat skin disorders. Drinking 3 to 6 cups of Oolong tea, in a scientific experiment, resulted in signs of improvement in patients diagnosed with eczema, within one weeks time.
Containing many essential minerals and vitamins, such as calcium and vitamins A,B,C and K, this tea helps a body to maintain good bone structure. It contains all of the nutrients needed, consumed in the necessary amounts, to help strengthen bones and boost normal healthy growth.
All of the poly-phenols and antioxidants contained in this tea lower the risk of skin cancer and promotes a process referred to as apoptosis, or programed cell death, in relation to stomach cancer. The poly-phenol extract also acts to avoid the need for chemotherapy, acting against other cancerous cell development.
Oolong tea has also shown signs of being useful to assist the treatment of type2 diabetes.
Black Tea, a much more healthful tea than first thought.
Black tea is dried and then fermented, which helps the shelf life. The fermentation converts the EGCG in the Camellia sinensis leaves into other compounds. Recent research has found these compounds to be just as beneficial as those in White and Green teas have proved to be.
The compounds developed through fermentation are theaflavins and thearubigns. These compounds are reported to provide the same health benefits contributed only to Green teas, of late. The properties also contribute to the dark color of the leaves and tea as well as the sweet, spicy flavor that has a hint of chocolate and often the fragrance of orchids.
Pu-erh Tea is the most unique, oldest and costliest of teas.
Popular in China, for over 1,700 years, Pu-erh tea is brand new to the Western world. The Chinese consider Pu-erh to be a wonder drug, purported to have many health benefits.
A deep red tea, with a bold and earthy flavor, coffee drinkers find this to be a good substitute for coffee, having a lower caffeine content. Pu-erh tea gets better with age, and like a fine wine it becomes smoother and richer with age. Often aged to up to 60 years, the price also increases with age.
The Eastern world has believed, for centuries, that this special tea has anti-aging properties. This brew is also known to help prevent heart disease and cancer, as well as helping to control diabetes and weight loss.
Having all of the poly-phenols that all teas coming from the Camellia sinensis plant have, it covers all of the same health benefits of the other teas. Pu-erh, though, seems to have a few interesting applications the others do not mention.
It is reported to be effective in removing toxins from the body, specifically due to dysentery. It helps reduce inflammation, improves blood circulation and is used as a tonic for excessive alcohol consumption.
Pu-erh is said to improve the eyesight. In studies of long term use, it appears to help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. And it plays a part in the prevention of cancer, itself, and carcinogens, cancer causing agents, as well as,, heart disease.
This bold red tea is well known in the East for weight control. Specifically helping in the treatment of obesity. While helping one reduce cholesterol in the blood, this curative tea also helps digestion. One would do well to drink this tea in place of coffee after a heavy meal. Pu-erh helps the body, specifically, to digest fatty foods and it boosts one’s metabolism, with long term consumption.
Classified by region and age, Pu-erh is manufactured differently than other teas, too. This tea is completely fermented and is the only tea that improves with age.
“Raw” or “Green” Pu-erh is fermented naturally, over many years.
“Cooked” or “Black” Pu-erh is artificially fermented by manual processes.
Considered a “living” tea, Pu-erh is enriched with healthy microbes during its manufacturing and storage process, like yogurt and fine grape wines. After the fermentation process this tea is compressed into “tea cakes” or discs, blocks and other various shapes, then aged.
It is reported that one can adjust the antioxidant and caffeine levels of this healthful tea during preparation. Typically shaved into the tea pot, Pu-erh should be brewed with boiling water and steeped according to the desired levels of these compounds and taste.
Tea time takes on an entirely different connotation when the health benefits are considered. The Chinese, Japanese and Indian cultures have known this for centuries. Even the English use tea time as a relaxation and restorative time of the day. So the next time you are having coffee with a friend or after a romantic dinner with your sweetheart, consider one of these health friendly teas as a substitute.
Tea it does a body good!