Green tea is thought to date back to the 2nd century and was supposedly discovered by the Chinese Emperor after a tea leaf fell into his cup of warm water to create a delicious infusion. Of all the teas, green tea is thought to have the greatest health benefits.
What is Green Tea?
Teas come in four main varieties: black, oolong, white and green. All these teas come from the same plant - 'camellia sinensis'. The diversity in flavours comes down to how the leaves are handled once picked. Most teas are oxidized before being roasted but green tea skips this process. Instead the young tea leaves are put in an oven or steamed. These unfermented leaves contain high levels of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols.
When buying fresh tea leaves look for ones that are dark rich green with a strong aroma. The average cup of green tea is said to contain between 50-150mg of antioxidants.
Green tea dietary supplements are sold as dried leaf tea in capsule form or as liquid extracts. You can also buy decaffeinated green tea supplements.
A typical supplement dose for green tea is between 100-750mg of standardised green tea extract daily.
Why do I need Green Tea?
Green tea has been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries to treat conditions ranging from heart problems, through to better digestion and wound healing. Because its history is long, green tea has been studied extensively and the results are impressive.
Benefits linked to green tea consumption include: reduced risk of heart disease, lower levels of total cholesterol and improved good cholesterol, lower stroke risk, anti-cancer properties (it appears to shut down a molecule that turns on a harmful cancer-causing gene)*, reduced inflammation with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, better control of blood sugar levels and reduced risk of diabetes; reduced risk of liver problems, relief from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and possibly even weight loss. Green tea contains a range of antioxidant polyphenols classified as 'catechins' - it is these that give the tea its medicinal properties. Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals - compounds that damage cells leading to disease and ageing.
Can too much Green Tea be bad for you?
Green tea can interfere with some medicines including adenosine - pills for an irregular heart beat and lithium to treat bipolar disorder. If you are on medication consult your doctor before taking green tea supplements. Likewise, if you are anaemic, diabetic or have kidney or liver problems.
Green tea contains caffeine so drunk in large quantities it can cause dizziness, irritability, insomnia and heart palpitations.