By Britt Brown LMT
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world (second only to water), not coffee or beer, but tea. In fact tea, on average, is consumed around the world at a rate of three cups of tea for every single cup of coffee! Say what?! Y’all – if you had told me before writing this blog that tea was consumed more than coffee, I may have raised a brow, but now – I’m about to “spill the tea” about the Tea Plant. Be sure to put the kettle on lovelies, the story of the Tea Plant might leave you thirsting for your favorite brew.
According to Chinese folklore, the second emperor of China (Shen Nung, thought to be the father of Chinese Medicine) discovered the medicinal properties of the Tea Plant after incidentally drinking some of the plant when a tea leaf dropped into his pot of boiling water back in 2737B.C.. In fact, Tea Plant is one of the most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and one of the few considered safe to consume daily. The earliest physical evidence we have for the use of the Tea Plant for ceremonial or medicinal purposes was discovered in the bottom of tea cups inside the tomb of Jing Emperor Liu Qi in Western Tibet. The tomb and its tea cups are estimated to have been constructed as early as 188B.C.E – 141B.C.E.. For approximately 2200years humans have been ceremoniously sipping (and spilling) tea to promote good health, celebrate special occasions, or as a tasty addition to a good book on a gray afternoon. Today we have six different teas we consider to be “true” teas -black, green, white, oolong, Pu-erh, and Purple- all of which are derived from the same plant; Camellia sinensis, a.k.a the Tea Plant.
For thousands of years tea has been said to prevent everything from cancer to obesity and cardiovascular disorders; but what proof do we actually have of any of that? Just how much tea do we need to drink to see a real benefit, and how are we supposed to know which cup of tea is our cup of tea?
As it turns out, there has been quite a bit of research done into the proposed medicinal benefits of the Camellia sinensis plant, and the results are — inconclusive. The primary active constituents of the Tea Plant are EGCG, EGC, ECG, EC, theaflavins, and thearubigins; all of which are antioxidants and have shown promise as cancer preventatives in animal trials, but turned up inconclusive results during their human trials. In fact, the same can be said for many of the studies regarding the various health benefits of Camellia sinensis – results were inconclusive in human trials. Furthermore, in human trials where green tea extract was consumed as a way to help improve obesity and maintain weight loss, rare cases of liver injury were recorded. However, the FDA recently approved an ointment containing green tea extract as a treatment for genital warts.
So what do all of these inconclusive results mean for our health? It means we should probably talk with our primary care physician or a nutritional health specialist before adding tea to every meal as a means of maintaining good health, and while research is still being done to better understand the full spectrum of benefits Camellia sinensis has to offer, it’s best we raise our tea cups with caution. Cheers!
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