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What's the Hype over Green Tea?

By: Ron T. Dummar DC, MAOM 


In case you haven't noticed green tea has been mentioned all over in the media as a possible preventative measure in reducing the production of cancer.  Due to the extra attention this tea plant has received I have been inundated with questions regarding the pros and cons of its use.  One question that commonly arises is how this new scientific research stacks up with the prevailing cultural trend to abstain from tea consumption.  

Green Tea, its two fermented varieties black and oolong tea, as well as the immature white variety all originate from the same plant, Camilla sinensis.  While many herbal blends and concoctions are termed "tea" they do not originate from the tea plant and are therefore most often designated as "herbal tea".  The studies demonstrating health benefits have been performed on the non-fermented green tea which carries a number of unique properties that contribute to its beneficial function.  

Green tea delivers its benefits through its rich content of polyphenols, particularly a powerful anti-oxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).  EGCG has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well as kill cancer cells without affecting healthy tissue.   Additionally it is effective in lowering cholesterol levels and inhibits the abnormal formation of clots. 

The question then arises, is green tea the only plant carrying such beneficial properties?  And the answer is a resounding no.  In fact all plants carry phenolic compounds and antioxidant qualities.  These qualities can be accentuated through light steaming or reduced via over cooking or charring.  For those looking to include a healthful herbal tea, consider the tulsi, rooibos, or mate plant.

Tulsi, commonly referred to as holy basil, has been studied for a wide variety of medicinal uses.  Traditionally it has been effective in lowering and regulating blood sugar.  In fact when compared to medication it demonstrated 70-90% effectiveness in regulating blood sugar.  The benefits of the herb don't end there.  In vitro studies have uncovered its powerful anti viral, and immune stimulant properties.  Another study on rats discovered a protective effect on the liver from toxic chemicals.  Further, A mouse study found the herb inhibited the progression of breast cancer, and a study on lung cancer cells revealed its sophisticated ability to induce cell death and suppress the growth of cancer cells.  Finally, it carries the potential, as with green tea, of inhibiting the abnormal formation of clots.  

Rooibos, a sweet fruit tasting tea, contains about the same antioxidant potential as green tea but carries with it no caffeine.  A certain plus especially if consumed in the evening before bed.  Whereas green tea will tend to keep one awake, rooibos will reduce nervous tensions.  The antioxidant compounds contained in rooibos provide an antifungal property.  Recent Japanese research suggests it is beneficial in the topical treatment of acne.  The research attributed the success in acne care to high levels of alpha hydroxy acid, zinc, and the powerful antioxidant superoxide dismutase.  

Mate, is a traditional South American drink.  It contains several vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, E) and minerals (phosphorus, iron, and calcium).  Additionally it is power packed with antioxidants carrying up to 60% greater capacity to absorb oxygen free radicals than green tea.  Studies have demonstrated that Mate is revealing itself to be another herb with significant cancer fighting activity.  Mate also has the ability to manage cholesterol levels.  It appears to make good cholesterol levels rise while at the same time reducing levels of "bad" cholesterol.  

So in short, green tea is a great herb with many benefits for those who choose to consume it.  However, for those who choose to abstain there are several other equally beneficial teas to meet the needs of palate and body.  To discuss adding these teas as a health promoting disease fighting tool contact a physician with training in nutrition and herbs.  


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