Tea-ing off: The health benefits of drinking tea

It may come as a surprise to regular readers, but as well as enjoying coffee, we also enjoy an occasional cup of tea here at The Water Cooler Today. Drinking tea, particularly green tea, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, where it is touted to cure everything from headaches to depression. In the UK alone, 165 million cups of tea are consumed every day.
Today, we will be investigating the actual health benefits of drinking tea.

Green tea

 

Green tea in teapot
A teapot of green tea
The tea found to be most beneficial to health is green tea, which is made with steamed tea leaves. Green tea has a fresh, occasionally tart, taste. It is packed with chemicals that help the body to function, and to prevent certain cancers. It has a high concentration of something called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a compound which has a powerful antioxidant effect, said to inhibit cancerous growth in the stomach, lungs, breast, and colon. It also works to counteract oxidative stress in the brain, helping to prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

 

Green tea has long been touted as a ‘slimmer’s tea’, but just how true is this claim? The key to this claim is the chemical, catechin, which is found within green tea. This chemical increases the body’s ability to burn fuel, increasing muscle endurance and allowing drinkers to exercise for longer periods of time. The antioxidants within green tea also help to prevent the clogging of arteries, reducing levels of cholesterol.

 

Oolong tea

 

Oolong tea
Oolong : More than just a fun word
Other than having the coolest name of all teas, what is oolong tea? Oolong tea is made up of partially oxidised or fermented tea leaves, this gives the tea a fragrant, sweet taste – it is often described as tasting floral. The health benefits of drinking oolong tea are less researched than, the popular, green tea, but there are a few which have emerged from studies. It has found to have cholesterol lowing effects, as well as working well to reduce blood sugar levels in drinkers.

 

Black tea

 

 

Tea pouring
Found in every greasy spoon across the country

Black tea is the most commonly drunk variety within the UK. It is made from oxidised or fermented tea leaves, and forms the basis for flavoured teas, such as chai tea. It has the highest caffeine content of all teas, and contains theophylline, a compound that speeds up your heart rate, making you feel more alert. Before we detail the benefits of drinking this variety of tea, it is important to state that these studies were concern black tea in its purest form – no milk or sugar involved!

 

One of the key health benefits found, is that black tea has a protective effect on your lungs, protecting them from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. This is due to the polyphenol that black tea contains, an antioxidant which helps to protect cells from DNA damage.

 

Herbal tea

 

The medicinal effects of herbal tea are less researched, and less reliable. Black, green, and Oolong tea are all made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is native to China and India, whereas herbal tea can be made with a variety of fresh and dried herbs and ingredients, which contain a lower concentration of antioxidants in comparison to the Camellia Sinensis plant. If you look in any alternative health shop, you will find boxes of herbal tea with a myriad of health benefits printed on the side. We’re going to be discussing the health benefits that have been studied and proven.

 

Peppermint tea
Refreshing peppermint tea

Peppermint tea

 

Perhaps the most popular herbal tea, is peppermint tea. This has a fresh and minty taste, and takes a matter of minutes to brew. Peppermint tea is often drank by sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, as it has an antispasmodic effect on the stomach and is said to aid digestion. It also works to alleviate nausea.

 

Chamomile tea

 

Chamomile tea is a soft and floral tea, that is anecdotally linked to relaxation and sleep. Certain studies have found that properties of chamomile tea can help stunt the growth of certain cancer cells, as well as reducing complications from diabetes.

 

 

Disadvantages

 

Before you begin mainlining tea, you may wish to heed the adage – everything in moderation. Drinking excess amount of tea originated from the Camellia Sinensis plant leads to staining of the teeth due to the tannins found within the plant. The flavonoids found within tea can also have a limiting effect on our absorption of iron – so it’s best to avoid having a cup of tea with your meals.