About Green Tea (CAMELLIA SINENSIS)
As far as history, culture and healing effects are concerned, tea is one of the most fascinating healing plants. On the market you can find various sorts of black and green tea.
After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world. Even Eskimos like tea! In many countries tea drinking is part of the nation’s culture. In Zen Buddhism tea is an irrevocable part of the religious ceremony, and especially in England and in the countries of the British Commonwealth, tea has a longstanding tradition. However, people know too little about tea and about this extremely interesting tea plant
There is hardly another drink which is used as an effective remedy and at the same time people drink it simply for pleasure. Tea, and especially green tea, is a drink with a rich tradition and millenary history
The tea plant is an evergreen shrub or a small tree. The leaves are arranged successively; they are elongated, egg-shaped, pointed and finely indented. The blossoms are white, with five petals and have a pleasant aroma. The fruits are three-angular, and slightly hardened. The tea plant needs a tropical or a sub-tropical climate and grows up to 2,100 m above sea level. The higher the plantation is, the lower the tea shrubs are, and, hence, the lower the yield is. Most tea experts prefer the sort Camellia sinensis. Green tea is made mainly from this sort and from Camellia japonica (the Japanese Camellia). In the traditional regions where tea is grown, leaves are gathered by hand every week by specially hired women. In modern countries gathering is made by machines. The yield is assorted into old and young leaves according to their quality, and they are additionally divided into a lot of sorting degrees.
Tea and the world history
From the oldest Chinese written documents it becomes clear that tea in China has been used as a remedy ever since 2700 B.C. Buddhist monks cultivated the tea plant in the monastery gardens and spread the tea culture in China, Tibet, India and Japan.
During the early Han dynasty (202 B.C. — 1 A.D.) tea plants were already grown in Sichuan and out of the monasteries. It was only in the sixth century that tea became a really popular drink available to all population in China and Tibet. Tea is not only an important element of Buddhist Zen ceremonies but a valuable remedy as well. In the twelfth century large quantities of tea plants were carried over to Japan from China; they grew so well that botanists selected a special sort Camellia japonica. Today in Japan green tea is the most popular tea produced.
In the fourteenth century by Silk Road (or Silk Route) the first news about the exotic drink arrived in Europe. The Portuguese who owned the best ships in the world and were capable traders, delivered the first leads of tea to Lisbon. On Dutch ships the tea went to France and Holland.
In 1618 the Chinese ambassador to Russia in Moscow gave the Russian tzar Mihail, the first of the Romanov dynasty, several boxes of tea as a present. The Russian court liked the unknown drink and this set the start of a brisk trade between Russia and China. Historical documents testify that about 200 or 300 camels were constantly on the road in tea caravans between China and Moscow in the summer months. The Russian people appreciated tea highly as a warm and refreshing drink in cold winter. The samovar, which was made according to the Tibetan model, soon became a part of every Russian household.
In 1650 the well known governor of New Holland in America, Peter Stuyvesant, sent tea to Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, which later was renamed into New York. Although tea was heavily taxed, it spread quickly in the other colonies, too.
The first shipments with tea arrived in England only in 1652-1654. Tea is a rarity, an exotic commodity, available only for the aristocracy and the rich merchants. When England stepped into the trade with tea, this drink became a favourite with the middle class and there was a real “tea boom” in the country. In mid-1800s the English began to grow tea in their colonies India and Ceylon (Shri Lanka). Before that the biggest tea exporters were China and Japan who traded with green tea; they sold dry and not fermented leaves of the tea plant.
Black tea with its “new” aroma imposed itself only in the beginning of the 20th century. The production of black tea in the English tea plantations was improving more and more. This new English tea culture was quickly spreading in Europe.
Active substances in the tea leaves
The main active substances, which tea leaves contain, are caffeine (called earlier theine), tannins (flavonoids), theophylline, theobromine, fat, wax, saponins (a class of chemical compounds found in particular abundance in various plant species), essential oils, catechins, carotenes, a lot of vitamin C, vitamins А, В, B2, В12, Е и Р, fluorides, iron, magnesium, calcium, strontium, copper, nickel, and zinc, trace elements like molybdenum and phosphorus, plus three hundred more partly aromatic substances. The quantity of the basic components is different according to the region where tea is grown; it depends on the altitude and the climatic zone, and the degree of growth. Caffeine content is the biggest in young leaves and buds. Older leaves contain more tannins.
Like all dry plants, which are used in naturopathy, tea in the scientific language is called a drug. If tea is dried carefully, active components are almost unchanged. This is a process of natural conservation which man has learned from nature. Fermentation and oxidation, however, which are characteristic of the processing of black tea, are biochemical and chemical processes, which lead to respective changes in the active components of the drug. Due to that fact, black tea differs considerably from green tea in taste and effect.
The stimulating effect of tea is due to the alkaloid caffeine, which is connected with tannins. As caffeine dissolves well in hot water, almost all quantity of caffeine contained in the drug goes into the tea in the first one or two minutes after tea is prepared. Therefore, if you leave the tea in the cup only for a minute or two, you will get a drink with a high content of caffeine, which is not connected with tannins and is absorbed very quickly by the body. Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and the brain functions.
If the tea is kept in the teapot for a longer time, for about four to seven minutes, tannins and the other active components of tea are gradually dissolved. Tannins can partially prevent caffeine absorption in the stomach and the intestines. If the tea is left for a long time in the teapot, it has a stronger aroma but the caffeine in it has a slower and lower effect. This tea does not have a calming effect as tea leaves do not contain calming components. The most pleasant and useful tea for your health is the tea in a smaller dose, maximum one flat tea spoonful per cup if it is left for a longer time, four to six minutes, in the hot water without sugar or any artificial sweeteners. If you drink it in moderate quantities, tea will have a stimulating effect and will not over stimulate you. Before it was thought that tea increased blood pressure but this is not true. You should be careful with the content of caffeine. It is known that when you drink coffee, the caffeine effect is comparatively fast and reaches its maximum after about 30 minutes and lasts for about 2 or 3 hours. When you drink tea with the same content of caffeine, its effect is slower but it lasts longer. If you add some alcohol to your tea, for example rum, the caffeine effect becomes stronger.
If you take caffeine every day in natural products, no permanent harm occurs. People with unstable nervous system often have insomnia, anxiety or other problems if they take high doses of caffeine. However, with elderly people caffeine can facilitate their falling asleep as this is probably due to the improved blood circulation of the brain and better heart functioning. It is proved that if you drink green tea regularly; there is no addiction to tea or harm for the body.
Green tea in particular has an anti- atherosclerotic effect; furthermore, it is an alkaline drink, unlike coffee, and counteracts over oxidation.
By fermentation and oxidation in the production of black tea, many of the active components of the tea, which have a favourable effect on the human body, like catechins, vitamins and others, are changed or destroyed. These processes are completely avoided in the production of green tea.
According to its quality and the country of origin, green tea is produced from leaves gathered and dried in the open. The usual production process is called steaming as freshly picked leaves are treated with steam for a short time and then are dried. Short steaming is a process which effectively prevents fermentation.
Leaves are gathered at different stages of growth and in different seasons which influences the caffeine content and the correlation of active components and aroma.
Empirically, the best known healing properties of tea, proved by research, are valid only for green tea.
The Dutch physician Nicolas Diveks (1593-1674) in his book The Cure praises the virtues of tea with the following words:
“There is nothing that outweighs the tea. Drinking tea gets away all possible diseases of the human being and provides a long life. The tea gives energy and is very useful for those who study or work at night. It is perfectly right to drink twelve cups of tea a day.”
This praise of tea can be supported by a lot of quotes from old Chinese and Japanese books.
Researchers, physicians and experts in naturopathy have been studying the healing qualities of tea, mainly of green tea. Modern research shows that green tea has the following healing qualities:
- relieves problems of the stomach and the intestines;
- lowers the level of cholesterol in blood;
- strengthens blood vessels;
- influences the heart and blood circulation;
- protects against atherosclerosis and helps its treatment;
- has an anti-inflammatory effect;
- favourably influences the normalisation of thyroid gland function;
- improves blood circulation and promotes skin regeneration;
- increases brain work capacity in particular, and physical achievements to a certain degree;
- combats depression;
- stimulates healing processes of diseases of the liver;
- has an anti – rheumatic effect if it is drunk on a regular basis;
- prevents the formation of stones in the kidneys and the gall;
- prevents caries due to its perfect fluorine content;
- has a diuretic and purifying effect;
- acts as an antioxidant;
- supplies the body with iron, fluorine, important residual elements and vitamins.
According to the latest research of a Japanese research team under the guidance of Dr Hirota Fujiki, green tea is an effective preventive means against the risk of cancer.
Old highly developed cultures of China and India knew about the so called light energy and called it Qi. They thought that this energy is present in all natural substances and has a healing effect. Modern physics is on the trail of these fine material energies known as bio-photons. The energy radiated from cells probably accounts for the healing qualities of the active components of medicinal plants. In green tea, unlike black tea, these “light cells” are “undamaged”, and this is another advantage of the green tea.
Hence, there exist a lot convincing reasons to start using again the tea plant, the green tea, known for thousands of years. If we replace coffee and black tea with green tea, we will have a “stimulating” and much healthier drink which we can enjoy every day.
The research of a Russian scientists team proves that green tea helps the process of treating radiation damages.
Green tea has a healing effect on chronic hepatitis, nephritis and dysentery. Experiments with animals and later with people show that effect.
In 1876 the Medical College in Calcutta published a detailed survey of the green tea, which shows that green tea lowers the cholesterol level and lessens the risk of heart attack.
A Japanese research proves that green tea is twenty times more effective that Vitamin E preventing the formation of super oxide in the body.
According to other authors, green tea contains the perfect natural combination of zinc and copper. Pregnant women need a lot of zinc. This mineral is one of the most important residual elements which the body of a pregnant woman needs, and green tea is the perfect drink during all pregnancy period. Japanese researchers claim that one cup of green tea per day is enough to reduce caries of school children by 50%. If children rinse their mouths with tea after meals, they will have less caries. The natural fluorine in green tea and other antibacterial combinations in it fight the caries bacteria Streptococcus mutans. Furthermore, green tea has an enzyme which lowers high blood pressure, transforms cholesterol and prevents atherosclerosis. Drinking green tea on a regular basis prevents brain attack and different heart and old-age diseases.
After years of research Japanese scientists have proved that the tannins in green tea react to Strontium 90. Therefore, drinking green tea prevents the accumulation of Strontium 90, which is released during breakdowns in nuclear power plants. Together with the tannin in the green tea about 30% of the strontium is thrown out of the body.
The truth about the healing effect of green tea has been long known and scientifically proved but lately comprehensive research has also proved the anti – carcinogenic and anti-oxidant effect of green tea. The Japanese physician Hirota Fujiki worked for years in the Max Plank Institute, and now he is the director of the Japanese Cancer Research Institute.
Here are some of his scientific results:
Modern research on green tea in Japan is connected with long known circumstances and facts.
In the twelfth century the tea plant Camellia sinensis was brought from China officially and from it green tea was produced. Tea drinking and tea growing spread extremely quickly throughout Japan and today daily green tea drinking is an irrevocable part of the Japanese culture. During all the day the Japanese drink tea
Average data about life expectancy in Japan show 82 years for women and 76 years for men; they are the highest in the world. The data is from 1995.
In the Japanese Shizuoka Prefecture, where the biggest tea plantations are, the lowest cancer mortality in all Japan has been registered. Stomach cancer is almost unknown to the people in this prefecture.
These facts made many Japanese scientists study the effect of green tea in detail. Intensive research has been carried out in order to find the respective active components.
The work of Dr Fujiki and his colleagues
The main task of the team is to look for ways and means to prevent cancer and to find remedy for this world – wide spread disease.
In the process of research, the researchers managed to isolate in green tea one of the most effective anti – carcinogenic substance ever known. They made a lot of experiments on mice and proved that this substance, known as ЕGСG. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), also known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate, is the ester of epigallocatechin and gallic acid, and is a type of catechin. It prevents the spreading of tumours on the skin, the carcinogenesis in the gastrointestinal tract and in other organs and heals existing tumours in the intestines. Later clinical experiments proved that the anti – carcinogenic effect of the substance is good for people as well
ЕGСG prevents metastases in the lungs.
ЕGСG stops the growth of carcinoma cells in the lungs, the stomach, the intestines, the liver and the skin.
ЕGСG reduces the toxic effect of smoking.
Clinical experiments for breast cancer, the pancreas and the prostate cancers have not been finished yet.
Japanese researchers are determined that daily drinking green tea can be a perfect and inexpensive means for the prevention of cancer. Their research confirmed the conviction, popular in many Asian countries, that green tea has an exceptional importance for good health and possesses a universal healing effect if it is taken on a regular basis. Green tea has an anti – carcinogenic effect, it favourably influences the heart, blood vessels, blood circulation, the liver, the diabetes and the cholesterol level.
Based on his research results, Dr Fujiki recommends drinking ten cups of green tea per day. About one gram of ЕGСG is contained in one tea cup but we should have in mind that Japanese tea cups contain maximum 100 ml of liquid so you have to calculate the number of cups of tea according to your own tea cups. Maybe, that might be about six or seven cups of tea.
Tea should not be strong. The maximum dose is a flat teaspoonful of dry drug per cup. You should be careful about the caffeine effect which is different with different people. If you feel overexcited, you should drink tea in the morning and at noon and not in the evening.
Recently an American research proved that there are 90 substances with probable anti – carcinogenic effect. Tests showed that only eight out of them have a good effect. These are vitamins and residual elements which are contained in natural foods. Therefore, drinking green tea is recommended to be completed with natural nutritious food, and that is very important in the prophylaxis of cancer diseases and for the good condition of the heart, the liver, blood circulation and the whole body.
How to keep tea
Tea should be kept in well closed and absolutely dry utensils. Wooden, tin or porcelain boxes are suitable for this purpose as well as multilayer bags which do not let light through. All these containers should be used only for tea so that its aroma is not lost.
Tea should be kept in a cool dark place inaccessible to light, sunshine or heat.
Tea is kept the best in small quantities; you should be careful when you open the box so that steam, for instance, does not make the tea damp.
Well preserved tea can keep its good quality up to five years. Green tea loses its aroma slower that black tea.
How to prepare the tea
Tea drinking should be a delight for body and soul even when you take green tea only as a cure. The aroma, the content of active substances and the dosage should be optimal. Only correct and careful preparation meets these requirements.
Tea drinking in China and Japan is a ceremony. With common people the ritual is simpler whereas in Zen Buddhism the meditative tea ceremonies engage the consciousness completely.
During the colonial era the tea culture in India was strongly influenced by the English. In England and in India still use mainly black tea with a lot of milk and sugar (the rule is: hot tea, cold milk).
The classical preparation of green tea includes the following stages:
- Heat the pot and the cups. Especially in winter fill the pot and the cups with hot water.
- Dose the tea. For one cup take 2 g of the drug (a flat tea spoonful). Put the tea in the pot. If you prepare more than four or five cups, you have to put one flat spoonful for each cup and one tea spoonful for the pot.
- Pour hot water. After you boil the water leave it for some time to stop boiling, then pour it over the tea leaves.
- Pour the hot water out of the cups if they were filled with water while the tea was in the pot.
- Pour the tea into the cups. If you leave the tea in the pot for a short time, it will be very stimulating and will have a mild aroma. If you leave the tea for four to six minutes in the pot, the aroma will be stronger, the tea will be slightly bitter and the stimulating effect will be lower but longer. First pour a little tea into each cup, and then pour it until you fill the cups. In this way the quality and effect of the tea is the same in all cups.
You can pour hot water in the pot again. As the tea leaves have taken a rather big quantity of water, this time you can leave them in the pot for a shorter time, half the time which you need for the first serving.
Who is green tea suitable for?
As green tea contains caffeine, it should not be taken in big quantities by children to quench their thirst. Herb teas like mint (Menta pipperita), melissa (Melissa officinalis), linden blossom and others, with a little honey, not sugar, are good for children.
The reasonable drinking of green tea considerably increases capacity to work of young people, especially before exams. Green tea is the perfect natural drink for athletes. It refreshes and quenches the thirst; you can drink it cold, too. If you drink green tea, your concentration, motivation and strength will be improved. The perfect combination of active components, the high content of vitamin C and other vitamins, residual elements and others improve physical achievements.
Green tea is also an excellent supplier of iron and zinc which makes it very useful for pregnant women. If they drink green tea regularly, they will always be full of life and in good mood. Some women are sensitive to caffeine so they are recommended to drink teas with less caffeine and to limit green tea in the late afternoon and in the evening.
It is proved that during the menopause many women feel more nervous and sensitive due to the lower level of hormones. That makes them drink more coffee but then residual elements like iron and calcium cannot be absorbed by their bodies and the condition of their nervous system is not improved. During that important period of change in the woman’s body receiving the necessary vitamins and residual elements should be a must. Green tea contains a lot of these active substances. Professor Takuo Okada from Okayama University conducted a survey which showed that the perfect combination of active components in green tea perfectly compliments active substances in vitamin E and is even better. Green tea reduces the formation of super oxides in the body and defers aging.
Naturally, green tea is not a panacea, a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases during the menopause but together with a nutritious diet it can help women feel confident and be in good health during those hard years. Daily drinking green tea in reasonable quantities helps women take less vitamin and mineral preparations and medicines which doctors often prescribe to them.
Green tea and diet
You do not need to sit on a diet if you eat natural foods. People who sit on a diet either want to lose weight or because of some disease. That means that the diet is never complete, almost always one-sided and concentrated on a definite purpose. The only reasonable diet would be fasting which ensures purification of body and soul.
You should know that green tea is perfectly combined with all nutritional habits. Even if you are on a diet, the rich content of vitamins and residual elements complements your diet and improves your health.
We live in times when the diseases of the civilisation like rheumatic pains, arthritis, allergies, caries, problems with gums, skin diseases, depressions, different metabolism disorders, cancer, various insufficiencies and a lot more, have been increasing. If we compare these ills with the possible healing effect of green tea, it is clear that this plant, known for thousand years, has been specially created by nature for our complicated and fast modern life. Without doubt, the effect of any natural remedy can be much better if you lead a healthy life and eat nutritious foods. If you start drinking green tea every day instead of coffee and black tea, that will help you improve your life and food habits.
Green tea is the perfect drink for your body and soul.