People have been exploring tea's health benefits for 5,000 years. Whether we are seeking mental alertness, protection against disease, or renewal of the spirit, we enjoy tea for many reasons.
Research on tea and its health effects is underway in academic institutions and medical settings all over the world and many exciting leads have been uncovered. As more studies begin to test findings on human subjects we gain valuable information about how tea can help us in our own lives.
None of the following information should be interpreted as or substituted for medical advice. It is simply a presentation of some of the promising findings presented in recent years.
Each day, we may be exposed to harmful influences -- foods high in fat and sugar, chemicals in the environment, cigarette smoke, and more. In response, our bodies produce unstable molecules called oxidants or "free radicals" that can damage healthy cells. The result can be chronic illnesses, immune system damage, organ disease, and other health problems.
Antioxidants found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and tea, can help to limit the effects of free radicals. The antioxidants combine with free radicals so they can no longer harm other cells. In this way, it is believed that antioxidants may reduce the occurrence and size of some kinds of tumors and inhibit their growth.
Some of the benefits to heart health that have been suggested by early studies include lowering LDL cholesterol1 and improving the ability of blood vessel lining to expand when blood flow increases2. Some believe that tea might also help lower blood pressure.
Antioxidants may help to protect the Immune System. L-Theanine, an amino acid present in tea, may "prime" the immune system to help it fight infection, bacteria, viruses, and fungi.4 In addition, tea is rich in vitamins and minerals including B1, B2, B6, C, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Tea's amino acids may also help you gain a calmer, but more alert, mental state. The effect can last for 3 - 4 hours.5
Early research suggests that some components of tea might help to reduce cancer risk. This is one of the most active areas of research currently.
Tea contains a natural fluoride, encouraging healthy tooth enamel,6 and the flavonoids in tea may slow the formation of plaque by bacteria in the mouth.7
Tea has no calories and helps to hydrate the body. Substituting unsweetened tea for sugary drinks like soda can be a useful tool in maintaining a healthy weight. It is also thought that tea can help to boost metabolism.4 One should not, however, believe claims that "Wulong" tea is "weight-loss tea." "Wulong" is simply another word for "oolong" and it has not shown any more, or less, impact on weight loss.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that older women who were tea drinkers had higher bone mineral density (BMD) than non-tea drinkers.8