Before we dive into the main purpose of this article, i.e. talk about the green tea benefits, we are going to start with a little introduction to green tea.
What is green tea
Green tea is a prominent herbal drink which traces its origin in China and later Japan before spreading to other parts of Asia, Europe and the entire world. Just like the other types of tea, green tea comes from the leaves of the tea plant botanically known as Camellia sinensis.
Green tea vs other tea varieties
However, as opposed to the other types of tea, green tea undergoes minimal oxidation during its processing. The tea leaves are allowed to wither for about 8 to 24 hours after plucking and thereafter steamed or pan fried to prevent fermentation (oxidation).
In terms of flavour, green tea has a more natural and plant-like taste. Green tea experts describe the taste as grassy.
Some people enjoy blended green tea because it has a variety of aromas and flavours that can slightly take away the taste of plain green tea. For proper brewing, green tea should be prepared using cooler water compared to the other types of teas.
The caffeine content of green tea is also one of the major differences between green tea and the other tea varieties. Green tea contains about half the amount of caffeine in black tea.
Types of green tea
There are countless versions of green tea today all of which trace their origin from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The reason why these green tea varieties exist is because of the locations where the tea is grown, the manner in which it is cultivated, the climatic conditions and many other factors.
Below are the main types of green teas:
Gunpowder – This is a popular green tea from China primarily grown in Zhejian province. The leaves of this green tea variety are rolled into little pinhead pellets which resemble gunpowder and this is where it got its name. The taste of gunpowder green tea is bold and lightly smoky. Compared to other tea leaves, gunpowder stays fresh for a much longer period.
Jasmine – This refers to a type of green tea that is scented with Jasmine blossoms. The resulting flavour is sweet and highly fragrant. Usually, the tea leaves are harvested at the beginning of spring and carefully stored until late summer when the Jasmine flowers are in bloom. The flowers are picked very early in the day when the petals are still closed and kept cool until night fall. At night, Jasmine flowers open up and release their fragrance thus scenting the tea. The tea has a lot of health benefits.
Matcha – This green tea comes from shade-grown tea leaves. Several weeks before harvest, the tea bushes are covered from the direct sunlight thus slowing their growth and stimulating an increase in chlorophyll levels. This causes the leaves to assume a darker shade of green and to produce the amino acid, theanine. After harvesting, the leaves are laid to dry, crumbling in the process to become tencha. The tencha is then de-stemmed, de-veined and ground to form a fine bright green powder known as matcha.
Sencha – This is a green tea variety from Japan which is harvested in early summer. When processed, sencha tea produces a rich brothy texture with a refreshing green aroma. Its flavour is reminiscent of fresh seaweed or tender steamed veggies.
Hojicha – This is a roasted variety of green tea that gives it a unique roasted flavour. The roasting is done in a pan at temperatures of about 200 degrees Celsius and cooled immediately after. The roasting sublimates caffeine making Hojicha a less bitter green tea variety.
Other types of green tea include shincha, ichibancha, genmaicha, gyokuro and kabusecha.
Benefits of green tea
Green tea is widely considered to be an essential staple of a healthy diet, not only because of its high concentration of antioxidants, but also because of its ability to boost the performance of the metabolic system.
Green tea and weight loss
Far from being just a form of flavoured hot water, green tea contains several key bioactive compounds known as catechins that can assist the body in burning fat. The most prominent of these catechins is a substance known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which helps to elevate the metabolism, improve insulin activity and facilitate fat oxidation.
Although there are several versions of the “green tea diet” being promoted today, the basic premise is to consume three or four cups of green tea daily, typically before your regular meals. Green tea diet proponents assert that adhering to this regimen will help to increase your metabolic efficiency right before meals along with helping you to feel fuller, which will more than likely prompt you to eat less.
Green tea and hair loss
Hair loss is a troubling condition for both men and women, and although there are scores of over-the-counter products that claim to reduce or remove signs of hair loss, others turn to dietary measures in order to combat the problem.
One of the most intriguing yet often overlooked properties of green tea is its ability to suppress the activity of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is well known for its ability to shorten the lifespan of hair follicles.
One paper published by the Saitama Cancer Center Institute in Japan linked the infamous Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) – a major contributor to the development of certain cancers and arthritic diseases – with hair loss, and they additionally concluded that green tea could possibly stave off baldness due to its ability to inhibit the production of TNF-alpha.
Not only has green tea garnered a reputation for its ability to facilitate hair retention and even hair growth, but a recent paper published by researchers at the Medical College of Georgia named green tea as an aid in maintaining a healthy scalp. Their research also concluded that green tea plays a key role in normalizing the growth of skin cells on the scalp by reducing inflammation, creating a more conducive environment for uninhibited hair growth.
Green tea is also commonly used as a topical natural hair rinse that can stimulate your hair follicles and nourish the scalp.
Green tea and acne
The marketplace is replete with acne treatments of all kinds, from creams and lotions to scrubs and ointments. While it is extremely common to treat acne using topical solutions, many health and nutrition experts contend that the most effective way to cure acne is by attacking it “from the inside out”–i.e., through proper diet and nutrition.
Along those lines, many nutritionists recommend drinking green tea, as it is rich in antioxidants, which fight the free radicals that would otherwise cause damage to your skin cells. As mentioned earlier, green tea contains the important catechin EGCG, which has been shown to be up to 100 times more potent in antioxidant power than Vitamins C and E. Another benefit of green tea is its ability to stave off systemic inflammation, a key factor in the development of acne.
In fact, several studies have shown a clear link between green tea consumption and lower levels of inflammation and DNA damage. Another important characteristic of green tea is its ability to help stabilize blood sugar levels, which often contribute to the formation of acne due to the influence of insulin hormones.
In addition, numerous studies have shown that green tea produces significant anti-cancer effects, and interestingly enough, many of the hormones that are linked to certain cancers (e.g., IGF-1) are also responsible for wreaking havoc on your skin.
So not only can green tea provide a strong defense against the development of cancerous cells, but it can also leverage that same antioxidant power to keep acne inflammations from rearing their ugly head.
Green tea antioxidants
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, which are organic compounds that possess significant antioxidant power. In fact, green tea contains about 8 to 10 times more polyphenols than what are found in fruits and vegetables.
Dr. John Weisburger, PhD, a senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y., is an avid green tea drinker (10 cups daily) as well as one of the beverage’s top evangelists. Weisburger’s research, which spans several decades, has concluded that green tea actually modifies the body’s metabolism in order to detoxify chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to cells.
The antioxidants found in green tea act as “free radical scavengers”, hunting down harmful molecules, detoxifying them and essentially neutralizing their negative effects on the cells of the body.
Green tea also contains important substances known as alkaloids (theobromine, caffeine and theophylline), which provide the beverage with its stimulant effects, a key factor in green tea’s ability to ramp up metabolic activity.
Green tea and blood pressure
According to research published by the British Journal of Nutrition, making a long-term habit of drinking green tea has a positive effect on blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by a significant degree.
In addition, recent animal studies have indicated that the catechins found in green tea – particularly EGCG – have been shown to suppress the activation process of angiotensin, a peptide hormone that causes the blood vessels to constrict and increase blood pressure.
In addition, several population studies have been published indicating that the antioxidants found in green tea can also reduce free radical damage to blood vessels, thus helping to maintain their structural integrity, improve their resilience and preserve their proper function and performance over time.
Although numerous studies have indicated that green tea can lower blood pressure, it should be noted that anyone taking medications for various blood pressure problems (e.g. beta-blockers, metoprolol, propranolol, etc.) should consult with a health professional to determine if there might be any possible interactions with green tea that could pose a health risk.
This is especially true for caffeinated green tea, which may interact with a variety of different medications; as the old saying goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Side effects of green tea
Green tea has lots of health benefits when consumed in right quantities, less than 8 cups per day or one to two cups for new drinkers. However, excessive consumption of green tea can have some side effects as discussed below.
Does green tea have caffeine?
Green tea contains caffeine which if consumed in excessive quantities can cause anxiety, shakiness, abnormal heart rhythm and nervousness. When consumed in large quantities, green tea can also escalate the levels of caffeine which in turn hinder calcium absorption. This puts your bone health at risk and increases your vulnerability to osteoporosis.
Can you drink too much green tea?
Drinking more than 8 cups a day of green tea can cause hepatotoxicity. This is a condition caused by an excessive number of herbs or supplements which chemically induce liver damage. When you down too many cups of herbal or green tea; the levels of catechins which are oxidant compounds, increase and cause herbal hepatotoxicity.
Does green tea stain teeth?
Green tea when consumed in excess can cause the natural white colour of your teeth to turn yellow with stained appearances. This is because green tea contains tannins, plant compounds, which adhere to the enamel hence causing staining. The acidic nature of green tea erodes the enamel making it porous to the pigmented compounds.
Does green tea make you poop?
Green tea is a laxative which means it contains compounds that stimulate bowel movement as well as soften the stool. Green tea has been associated with the irritable bowel syndrome particularly to new drinkers and those who consume more than 8 cups a day. Being a diuretic, green tea can also cause more urination than the normal average.
Is green tea safe during pregnancy?
Doctors are concerned that excessive intake of green tea among pregnant mothers can affect folic acid levels in the body. Insufficient folic acid levels, a vital nutrient during pregnancy, can cause neural tube defects in growing babies including spina bifida, a condition where the tube around the central nervous system fails to close completely. The caffeine and tannin acid content in green tea has been linked with miscarriages when consumed in excess (more than 2 cups a day).
How to make green tea
No one can deny that a perfectly made cup of light and fragrant green tea can lift your spirits and give you the drive to get on with your daily activities. The secret to a tasty cup of green tea lies in the preparation. Below is a simple stepwise procedure to making green tea.
The first step is to decide the number of teabags to put in your cup or glass. In the event you are brewing a teapot, you need to add 2 or more green teabags based on your preferences.
Use boiled or diffused fresh water for your brew in order to create a flat-tasting tea. Heat the water in a pan or kettle until it boils. This is important because the bubbles signify the disappearance of carbon which in turn decreases the acidity of the water thus giving your brew a clearer colour. After boiling, allow the water to cool a bit so that the temperature can drop to between 140 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this stage, with your teabags ready at the bottom of your stump teapot or cup, pour in the hot water. When the water heats the green teabags, the teas flavour and aroma will be released much quicker.
Allow the tea to brew for between one and two minutes. This time is sufficient to develop a clear verdant colour rich in flavour and aroma. However, if you want a punchier taste and the fullest flavour impact, 2 to 3 minutes of brewing are excellent.
Best time to drink green tea
Green tea is loaded with health benefits and depending on what you are after; you need to time your drink appropriately. Taking green tea in between meals will give you the full benefits of its antioxidant power. This ensures the catechins don’t react with casein, milk and animal protein.
Taking green tea along with your meals will help you in achieving weight loss goals by boosting your body metabolism and inhibiting fat absorption.
Ensure you don’t take green tea on an empty stomach because the caffeine can dehydrate your body and stimulate gastric acid release causing stomach upsets and ulcers.