By Steven H. Horne
My first experience with green tea was not a pleasant one. I was sick and my mom gave me some green tea to drink as per the doctor’s instructions. I didn’t like it.
My second experience with green tea was in Mainland China in 1986. I was touring with a group from Nature’s Sunshine home office to help launch the new Chinese formulas. It was a hot day, there wasn’t much to drink and we were served green tea. Although I was raised in a family and religion where we didn’t use caffeinated beverages, I drank the stuff because it was the only thing available and I needed something to keep from dehydrating. (I also drank Coca Cola for the first time on that same trip for the same reason.)
My attitudes towards green tea have changed. While I still think consuming caffeinated beverages constantly isn’t a good idea, I do think green tea has some positive health benefits.
For starters, green tea contains a number of compounds that work together to prevent tooth decay. One of these is natural flourine, an element that helps to strengthen tooth enamel. The fluoride added to our drinking water supplies is a toxic chemical, but natural fluorine is important to our bodies and green tea is one of the richest sources of this element.
Green tea is useful in treating gastrointestinal infections and has also been used for fever, eye problems and hemorrhoids. It has an astringent action due to its tannin content, as well as a stimulating quality due to the caffeine, theophylline and theobromine alkaloids it contains.
In Chinese medicine, green tea is thought to clear the head and expel fidgets. It helps resolve (or clear) excess phlegm, remove stagnant food from the digestive tract and promote urination. It is used to help treat headaches, dizziness, thirst, indigestion, diarrhea caused by malaria and stagnant phlegm (or respiratory congestion).
Interestingly enough, the Chinese consider green tea a tonic for the heart. The theophylline and caffeine in green tea stimulate the heart and dilate the peripheral blood vessels, thus aiding the circulation of blood. Research suggests green tea also protects the heart by preventing blood clots and reducing cholesterol levels.
This is because green tea is also a powerful antioxidant, which means it counteracts the inflammation that is the root cause of coronary heart disease. The polyphenols in green tea are a form of condensed tannins and have a similar structure and properties to pycnogenol (Grapine). One chemical in green tea, epigallocatechin, has been found to be 200 times more powerful than vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals that attack lipids in the brain. These compounds also aid liver detoxification.
For those who want to use green tea for its healthful properties, but don’t want to drink it, it is available in capsule form from Nature’s Sunshine. Each capsule contains 400 mg. of green tea extract standardized to 80% polyphenols. This extract is also caffeine free for those who don’t want (or need) the stimulation. Suggested use is one capsule three times daily with meals.
The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke
An Illustrated Dictionary of Chinese Medicinal Herbs by Wee Yeow Chin and Hsuan Keng.
Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide by Hong-Yen Hsu.
“The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants” by Andrew Chevallier.