Undoubtedly, green tea is among the best known, and most used, of all herbal nutraceuticals around the globe. While there are several varieties (and many hybrids) of tea plants in existence, what we know as green tea is produced from the leaves of camellia sinensis.
Green tea originated in a boundary region between India and China, but is cultivated today from damp forests in China, India, Japan, Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Pakistan, and other countries. Camellia sinensis is a small evergreen tree which grows to about nine feet in height but is typically trimmed to about six feet if being cultivated for its leaves.
It features yellow-white leaves, a strong taproot, and seeds which can be pressed to produce two unique oils one for seasoning and cooking; the other for health purposes.
It is the leaves which are harvested and processed for tea. Tea leaves which can grow up to six inches in length contain about 4 percent caffeine. Leaves of different ages have different chemical compositions and produce teas of different quality. The youngest, lightest green leaves are best, and the plants are hand-picked every week or two to assure the best quality of tea.
It is interesting to note that black tea is produced from the very same plant as green tea. The difference is that the leaves headed for black tea are processed longer to remove more of the plant's original substances. Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves; black tea is fully fermented.
- Green tea is a nutritional staple in Japan where it has been used for centuries.
- The polyphenols within green tea are important for its overall benefits.
- Green tea contains naturally occurring flavonoids.
- Green tea is less processed as compared to black tea, which allows it to retain more active flavonoids and polyphenols for healthy benefits.
- Green tea has been a valued healthful tonic for more than 4,000 years.
Tea consumption has been legendary in China and Eastern Asia for more than 4,000 years. By the third century, it was in daily use and was being cultivated on a broad scale because green tea was believed to have miraculous powers to help digestion, circulation, immune health, temperature regulation, and other health properties.
A book written by a Zen priest in 1191 described the great healing effects of tea on five major organs, including the heart.
- Because green tea is made from unfermented leaves, it is reputed to contain a high concentration of polyphenols which act as powerful antioxidants. The more the leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content and the higher the caffeine content. Thus, green tea has higher polyphenol content and half the caffeine of black tea.
- In addition to Vitamin C and B complex vitamins, green tea contains the minerals fluoride and aluminum, plus tannins, caffeine and essential oils.
- Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols which are bioflavonoids with high antioxidant properties. The antioxidant activity of green tea is often compared to vitamins C and E.
- Green tea contains alkaloids (including caffeine) which provide green tea's stimulant effects. All teas contain caffeine, but green tea contains the lowest amount of caffeine among the basic types of teas.
- Green tea contains beneficial antioxidants.
- In a lab study, EGCG (a polyphenol in green tea) was found to be having stronger antioxidant properties when compared to other compounds like Vitamin C, resveratrol, quercetin and tocopherol.
- Green tea has been traditionally used to support heart health.
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