The medicinal effects of tea have a history dating back almost 5000 years. The pleasing astringent taste and refreshing boost it provides as a popular pick-me-up beverage, that its potential health benefits and medicinal properties are often overlooked.
The chemical components of tea leaves include:
- Polyphenols (catechins and flavonoides):
- Tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables, according to long-time tea researcher John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.
- Although all tea contains beneficial antioxidants, high-quality green and white teas have them in greater concentrations than black tea, due to the oxidation process that the leaves go through.
- Tea flavonoids have anti-oxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti microbial effects.
- Catechins, are anti-oxidants which 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 viscosity and prevent blood clot formation.
- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a major polyphenol found in green tea, is a widely studied chemopreventive agent with potential anti-cancer activity. The anti-carcinogenic mechanism includes both cellular immune function and the inhibition of tumor growth (http://www.gaiaresearch.co.za/greentea.html).
- Intake of tea catechin, together with regular exercise helps to reduce diet-induced obesity. This effect might be attributed to the activation of whole-body energy metabolism.
- Tea polyphenols lower the serum glucose by inhibiting the activity of the starch digesting enzyme, amylase. Tea inhibits both salivary and intestinal amylase. As a result, the starch is broken down more slowly and the sudden rise in serum glucose is minimized.
- Alkaloids (caffeine, theobromine, theophylline, etc.)
- Consumption of tea may have diuretic effects due to the stimulant- caffeine. Tea has more caffeine by weight than coffee.
- Theophylline in tea, a licensed medicine for the treatment of respiratory diseases such as asthma.
- Theobromine is also used to dilate blood vessels, as a diuretic, and heart stimulant.
- 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.
- Green, black and oolong tea, all having antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic and detoxifying properties are very much effective in treating infectious dysentery as well as easing inflammatory bowel disease. This makes tea useful as a traditional home remedy for various digestive problems.
- Other componants in tea include- Volatile oils, polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids, vitamins (e.g., vitamin C), fluorine, manganese, oxalates, tannins, etc.
- Herbal Tea:Tisanes, herbal infusions are primarily used for its perceived medicinal benefits. Herbal teas consist of aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruit for their flavour and medicinal properties. In addition to wide spectrum of tea flavours and combinations, Herbal teas make for fragrant and relaxing drink.
Chamomile, mint, tulsi, lavender, dried fruits and berries, jasmine, ginseng, hibiscus, ginger, and lemon grass are just some of the herbs/spices that are brewed as infusions. Herbal tea ingredients are also mixed with dry Camellia sinensis leaves to produce unique tasting tea blends– black tea with ginger; green tea with tulsi and mint; green tea with jasmine blossoms; yerba mate with lemongrass and spearmint; chamomile with lemon balm, etc.Digestion
Hot spices: cayenne, black pepper, dry ginger, long pepper, mustard, cloves, cinnamon, garlic for improving metabolism;
Bitters such as aloe, turmeric, barberry and gentian are useful for reducing the need for sugars and fats.
Energy Pungent or bitter tonics: garlic, long pepper, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, elecampane root, shilajit, guggul, myrrh and aloe gel.
Mind Stimulants and mind-clearing herbs: calamus, gotu kola, basil, guggul and myrrh; other useful herbs are sage, bayberry, skullcap and betony.
Tea blends are a combination of various types of herbs from different plant sources, which can be used to enhance efficacy. Polyherbal blends have the synergistic, potentiative, agonistic/ antagonistic pharmacological agents within themselves that work together in a dynamic way to produce therapeutic efficacy with minimum side effects.