By Hwaa Irfan
Black tea, green tea any kind of tea! Why is it that someone always offers a cup of tea at a time of stress or just plain worry? A good cup of tea does sometimes make the difference, especially if it is the right tea for the right purpose.
While much is “known” by the layperson, scientists have a long way to go before discovering all of the attributes of nature’s tea bounty. In His (SWT) wisdom, one of the names of the attributes of Allah (SWT) is ar-Razzaq (the Provider). He (SWT) provided nature with the elements that when at rest, it is in its right place and if not it makes a move towards its place of rest, in balance. This act of nature manifests in many ways, including the arsenal of bioactive substances in plants that affect living cells fighting bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects and predators we ingest in their bioactive form – Allah (SWT) provided us with all that we need, though more often than not we forget!
One of the most common groups of chemicals in plants are polyphenols, which give fruits their characteristic colors. A report in July 2001 Journal of Cellular Biochemistry revealed that the abundant polyphenols in green teas could help women against breast cancer. Dry green tea leaves contain 40% polyphenol in weight. Polyphenol is an antioxidant, which prevents deterioration of cells, which in turn speeds up the ageing process. Other sources of polyphenol include onions, cacao, citrus fruits, apples, berries, cherries and soy. Polyphenols have a greater antioxidant impact on our body than vitamins.
Flavonoids are a subgroup of polyphenols, which possess a wide variety of activities from the anti-spasmodic and diuretic to the circulatory and cardiac stimulants. Dr. Henriette Smit from the National Institute of Public Health & the Environment in Bilthoven, Netherlands assessed 13,651 participants in a study conducted from 1994-97.Applying food-frequency questionnaires and food composition tables with tea and apples as the main source of flavonoid intake; the average intake was 58mg. Solid fruit intake, but not tea had beneficial effects on coronary artery disease. The structure of flavonoids makes them vulnerable under cooking conditions.
Laboratories in Kyoto found that flavonoids in tea and vegetable-derived food products bind with female hormone receptors. For example, genistein – of the isoflavone subgroup – reacts with female sex hormones (estrogen), delaying the onset of problems associated with menopause.
The 5 types of catechins found in green tea (catechingallate, epicatechingallate, gallocatechingallate, epigallocatechingallate & gallocatechin) and the 4 types of flavonoids found in peaches and teas (quercetin, glycoside quercitrin, kaempferol and myricetin) researched by Takara showed prevention of endocrine disruptors from reacting with the receptors on sex hormones. Discovered in the 1970s, medical researchers were looking for the reason people in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture – a major tea-growing area – had much lower rates of cancer than other Japanese, even when they were very heavy smokers. The answer was found to be catechins, particularly EGCG. There are six types of catechins in Green Tea, which are also known as EGCG. EGCG is the most studied polyphenol component in green tea and the most potent antioxidant discovered so far. Catechins are 20 times more stronger than vitamin E, and 30% in weight is present in Green Tea, whereas only 3-10% is found in black tea. Just steeping the leaves in hot water for 3-5 minutes releases the catechin. Also known as flavonols, they can also be found in other foods including, onions, apples, broccoli, and Ginkgo-Biloba.
Types of Teas and Effect
From green tea to black tea, July’s 2001 issue of Circulation included a study that focused on the reverse effect it has on coronary heart disease. Black tea reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke in the participants. There are three types of teas: green, black, and oolong all from one plant the Camellia sinensis which is native to Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Green Tea is from the unfermented leaves, black tea is from fully fermented leaves, and oolong is from partially fermented leaves. The greater the fermentation, the lower the content of polphenol.
Joseph Vita, professor of medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine and author of the study, researched 66 people with heart disease who have abnormal blood vessel function to begin with. They were asked to drink 4 cups of black tea or 4 cups of water daily for 4 weeks. Dr. Vita speculated that the flavonoids in tea are what would help the artery walls stay healthy.
Some people still resist drinking black or green tea because of the caffeine content. However, here are 4 herbal and naturally decaffeinated teas you might want to try:
Chamomile – Native to Europe, the flower is good for insomnia and tension. Infuse in 1 cup of boiling water and if desired sweeten with honey. For digestive problems, drink after meals. A strong infusion should be used as a mouthwash for gingivitis (inflammation of the gums surrounding the neck of the tooth). As a relaxant, Chamomile tea eases muscle spasms, and menstrual cramps. Caution for those experiencing nervousness, anxiety, and depression, Chamomile tea should only be consumed before going to bed, as it will heighten those emotional states.
Echinacea – The root or the cone of a Native American plant that acts as an immune booster shortening the duration of colds. Add 2 teaspoons of dried echinacea to a cup of water and infuse for 15 minutes then strain. For effectiveness against bacterial and viral attacks use, 1-2 teaspoons of the root in one cup of water and bring to the boil slowly, then let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3 times daily.
Green Tea – Made from fermented leaves neutralizes the oxidants that cause cell death. The polyphenol content in Green Tea is what gives that bitter taste. L-theanine, an amino acid compound found in green tea, has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system. It has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries as a diuretic, as an astringent to control bleeding, and to improve the condition of the heart. In the west, researchers have found that consumption of green tea 3x a day reduces the likelihood of a heart attack by 11%.
Ginger Tea – that is made from the root and sweetened with honey instead of sugar is a very good expectorant relieving cough, and cold symptoms by loosening phlegm, and is good for indigestion, and warming the body on a cold winter’s night. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ginger Tea is used to relieve the feeling of nausea in pregnant women, and the nausea one has after having chemotherapy. As ginger stimulates the circulatory system it relieves pain in the joints as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, and slows the production of bad cholesterol (triglycerides) in the liver. Ginger tea also thins the blood.
Lemon Balm – Native to the Middle East the dried aerial parts or the fresh leaves are used. It is good for tension and depression, headaches and colds. It has a sedative effect. Infuse fresh leaves in boiling water. It has a tonic effect on the heart and circulatory system causing dilation of the peripheral vessels thus lowering blood pressure. For this, infuse 2-3 teaspoons of dried lemon balm in a cup of boiling water or 4-6 fresh leaves for 10 – 15 minutes then cover until ready to drink.
Please note that all plants are medicinal in nature and therefore can affect prescriptive and non-prescriptive medications. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid green tea.
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