Chinese Green Tea and Your Health

Chinese Green Tea and Your Health

Green tea is the most popular beverage in China and is increasing in popularity around the world. It is made from leaves of the tea tree (Camellia sinensis) that are steamed or roasted shortly after harvesting to inactivate enzymes, preventing oxidative fermentation, then pressed and finally dried.

Many health practitioners recognise the health benefits of drinking green tea and recommend its consumption to their patients. Similarly, as they did in ancient times, traditional Chinese medicine doctors continue to use green tea as a herb for certain conditions.

Green tea is considered both a food and a natural medicine. While many of us believe drinking green tea is beneficial for health, you might be surprised at what this humble tea can really do for you.

History and culture of green tea

Green tea has been consumed in China for at least 2,000 years. It’s one of the seven ingredients once considered essential for daily life in ancient China, together with firewood, rice, cooking oil, salt, soya sauce and vinegar.

Green tea is not only used as a beverage. In ancient China green tea was also used to clear the mouth, gum and teeth after meals. Ancient Chinese films and books show that green tea was very popular in wealthy families, and often consumed after eating. These films would show the housekeeper bringing the mother and father warm green tea to clean their mouth. They would rinse a few times and spit it out. Then, the remaining tea was drunk to help cleanse their body after a meal.

During the Tang Dynasty the green tea market was thriving and the emperor had defined many regulations for buying and selling tea. Since the 17th century, China has been the world’s ‘home town’ of tea. Nowadays green tea is grown and produced in several other countries as well.

Health benefits of green tea

To date, various potential health benefits of green tea have been scientifically studied including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, neuroprotective, and cholesterol-lowering effects, which may have an impact on cancer and heart disease risk (Abe & Inoue, 2020). The following health benefits are based on the traditional Chinese medicine understanding of green tea.

Helps to clear Liver Heat and relax the body

Chinese medicine theory states that unflavoured green tea, which is bitter and sweet in taste, has cooling characteristics. As recorded in the Chinese diet therapy textbook of Food and Nutrition, green tea can clear the mind, increase alertness, improve mood and relax your liver, thereby reducing stress. A cup of tea with breakfast or lunch, can improve memory, increase energy and balance emotions for the whole day.

Helps to clear Heat and Toxins from the digestive system and helps bowel movements

Green tea can help to clear food in your digestive system and reduces cholesterol. If you’ve eaten a heavy, rich meal, drink a cup or two of green tea afterwards, to help your body digest oils. Green tea can also be of benefit if you are passing pungent wind, have bad breath, ulcers in the mouth and constipation. These symptoms indicate stagnant toxins or heat in the Large Intestine.

Helps to clear toxins from the body

Daily consumption of green tea can help to flush everyday chemicals such as pollution, alcohol and artificial food additives, from your body.

Helps to clear summer heat

During summer months, we often feel thirsty, have dry skin, get headaches and may experience constipation. These are symptoms associated with too much heat in the body. However, green tea can help cool the body during hot and dry seasons, so it makes sense to add it to your daily diet in summer.

In China, iced green tea or chrysanthemum green tea is a popular drink in summer. You can make this refreshing drink at home simply by refrigerating green tea and adding dried chrysanthemum flowers. You can sweeten the tea by adding a bit of ice sugar, which also has cooling properties. However, avoid using sugar if you have diabetes.

Green tea boosts the immune system

Traditional Chinese medical theory has recommended consuming green tea to prevent disease for over 2,000 years. One of its many benefits is that it clears toxins. And when you reduce toxins in your body, you reduce your risk of disease.

With medical studies confirming that green tea is rich in antioxidants, Chinese medicine and modern science both agree it is beneficial for a healthy immune system.

To increase the immune strengthening properties further, and to increase longevity, try adding one teaspoon of goji berries to the tea. In China, many older people drink this combination.

How to choose green tea

There are various types of green teas from China and other places throughout the world. In the Chinese market, the following green teas are popular: Bi Luo Chun, Long Jing and Tie Guan Yin.

We suggest that before you buy green tea, you can usually visit a quality tea shop to see which one you like. Traditionally, Chinese people are very fussy about their tea and prefer to drink fresh seasonally-picked green tea leaves.

Green tea recipes

Hot green tea

Place 1-2 teaspoons of green tea leaves in a teacup. Do not add 100 degree celsius boiling water, as it will damage the tea leaves, reducing the health properties and the aroma of the tea. The ideal temperature is 70-80 degrees. Allow the tea to sit for 5 minutes. If you are using tea leaves, wait until the leaves settle at the bottom of the cup, this indicates that the leaves are cooked well and that the tea is ready to drink.

Effects: Refreshes the brain; relaxes the body; improves energy; helps digestion.

Cold green tea

To make this tea, follow the same steps as the hot green tea mentioned above. After this you can add 1 or 2 ice sugar. Leave the tea on the bench to cool naturally, or place in the refrigerator.

Effects: Clears the lungs and large intestine; relieves the summer heat.

Lemon green tea

For this tea, make hot green tea as described above. Add 1 slice of lemon to the green tea and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Effects: Clears the large intestine; helps reduce cholesterol.

Goji berry green tea

Make the hot green tea. Add 1 or 2 teaspoon of goji berries. Let the tea sit for 5 minutes. This tea is very popular in China.

Effects: Tonifies the liver and kidney; boosts energy and immune system; anti-aging.

Peppermint green tea

Make this tea by following the steps for hot green tea. After this, add 1 teaspoon of peppermint leaves into the hot tea. After 5 minutes it is ready to drink.

Effects: Cools the liver; clears body heat; relaxes the body; improves energy.

Precautions

While green tea is highly beneficial for overall health, it may not be suitable for everyone, so please keep the following precautions in mind.

  • Natural green tea contains caffeine. It is best to avoid drinking it in the late afternoon or evening, as it can affect sleep.
  • Children under 12 are advised not to drink strong green tea. They can try mild green tea or avoid it altogether.
  • If you are unsure of whether you should drink green tea for your individual health condition, please contact your experienced Chinese medicine practitioner or health professional.

Food as medicine (A disclaimer)

Our “food as medicine” articles share knowledge about health foods in the context of traditional Chinese medicine diet therapy and practices often dating back thousands of years. We also support this knowledge with references to published scientific research. Please keep in mind that scientific research into the health benefits of foods is still emerging and human research is limited.

Consuming a wide variety of natural foods as part of a balanced diet is most beneficial for health, however, we don’t advise using food alone to treat diseases. Please consult with your doctor or health professional about which foods are suitable for your body or health issues.

What Does The Research Say?

The following insights are obtained from scientific studies, systematic reviews and analysis of clinical trials investigating the efficacy of Green Tea.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Green Tea. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

2020, Aug 20

Green tea and cancer and cardiometabolic diseases: a review of the current epidemiological evidence
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The review highlighted the benefits of green tea for cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke. It also found increased advantages in studies with certain cancers such as endometrial, esophageal, lung, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, oral, and ovarian cancer. Furthermore, green tea is also evident in reducing blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.

Abe, S.K., Inoue, M. Full Article

Aging

2019, Jun 14

Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation
Aging

Our study comprehensively investigated the effects of tea drinking on brain connectivity at both global and regional scales using multi-modal imaging data (i.e., functional and structural imaging) and provided the first compelling evidence that tea drinking positively contributes to brain structure making network organization more efficient. Our study suggests that tea drinking is effective in preventing (slowing) or ameliorating cognitive decline and that tea drinking might be a simple lifestyle choice that benefits brain health.

Li J, Romero-Garcia R, Suckling J, Feng L. Full Article

Beverages

2018, Jan 18

An Update on the Health Benefits of Green Tea
Beverages

This systematic review has highlighted the anti-microbial properties, oral health benefits and cardiovascular disease advantages of green tea. Its catechins contain an expansive amount of medical benefits which makes it an affordable healthy beverage

Wanda C. Reygaert Full Article

Phytomedicine

2017, Oct 15

Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review
Phytomedicine

The reviewed studies indicated that green tea influences psychopathological symptoms (e.g. reduction of anxiety), cognition (e.g. benefits in memory and attention) and brain function (e.g. activation of working memory seen in functional MRI).

Mancini E, Beglinger C, Drewe J, Zanchi D, Lang UE, Borgwardt S Full Article

Chinese Medicine

2010, Apr 6

Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review
Chinese Medicine International Society for Chinese Medicine

This intensive systematic review showcased that green tea to treat metabolic syndrome for diabetes, contains drug metabolizing enzymes, increased absorption of irons and reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine. However, it also highlights the long term consumptions of green tea with its elevated caffeine levels.

Chacko, S.M., Thambi, P.T., Kuttan, R. et al. Full Article

WRITTEN BY:

Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.

  • Rab
    REPLY

    Hi there
    V interesting website. Is green tea suitable to drink in the peagnancy or would you suggest any other tea which is non caffeine and can help cool down liver and body. And can you plz tell me pepermint comes in which cattagory in food.cool or hot ?
    Thanks

    23 March, 2015

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