Tea is probably the most popular drink in the world, if we do not count water. There is something about tea: the aroma, the taste or maybe the ritual of seeping the perfect cup. But, there is more to tea than the pleasure of drinking it, otherwise it would not remain so popular for thousands of years. Chinese and Indians firmly believe that it is the tea that keeps them healthy and strong. English could not imagine life without restorative cup of tea when the going gets tough. What does the tea do?
The most active ingredients of tea are proanthocyanidins, polymer chains of flavonoids. The best known kind of flavonoids are catechins. Catechins are antioxidants, what means that they prevent oxidation which causes cell damage and consequent health problems in many organs and tissues. Freshly picked green leaves of tea contain almost 30 percents of catechins. Scientists do not always agree about which type of tea is richest in catechins, but it is generally believed that white and green teas are the richest and most potent. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture believe that this difference is not significant and that all teas are powerful antioxidants. As antioxidants, catechins help prevent the effects of stress and support healthy metabolism. As a consequence, they can lower blood lipids and blood pressure, prevent arteriosclerosis, drop blood viscidity and prevent blood clot formation.
Tea also contains theanine, which has psychoactive properties and has been proven to reduce mental and physical stress, improve mood and cognitive abilities, similarly to coffee.
Another active ingredient in tea is caffeine, a powerful stimulant. Tea has more caffeine by weight than coffee.
Tea also contains theobromine and theophyllin, both stimulants as well. Theobromine is also used to dilate blood vessels, as a diuretic, and heart stimulant.
With all those powerful active ingredients, there is no wonder that tea, especially green tea, has been recognized to help with lowering cholesterol, combating atherosclerosis, treating inflammatory bowel disease, controlling diabetes, helping with weight loss, even fighting cancer. Scientists disagree about the extent of tea’s power, but do not deny that some benefits are evident. Whatever proof exists about diseases that can be cured by a certain number of cups of tea daily, there is no denying it that the biggest benefit of tea is as stress-reliever, especially if it is combined with a nice, slow, relaxing ritual of choosing, brewing, pouring and sipping that perfect hot cup of fragrant, delicious tea.