Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

by Dolores Snyder


The Chinese drank green, black, and oolong teas over 1,200 years ago for their medicinal purposes, so it comes as no surprise that tea is now receiving accolades for its health benefits. Drinking tea has been found to improve bone density, reduce stress, lower the risk of stroke, strengthen the cardiovascular system, lower LDL cholesterol levels, increase HDL levels, strengthen the immune system, promote digestion, inhibit growth of bacteria in the mouth, reduce blood pressure, and possibly prevent certain cancers.

Healthy Bones

One of the latest scientific studies in England showed that drinking tea can improve bone density. Researchers examined women over 65 who drank one to six cups of black tea a day. The results showed that the tea drinkers had stronger bones than non-tea drinkers, which is not surprising considering tea contains fluoride -- a necessary mineral for bone development.

What's more, the flavonoids in tea act as antioxidants, which are responsible for promoting bone density mass. In a recent Taiwanese study conducted over 10 years, the bone density of tea drinkers increased by 4 to 6 percent more than those non-tea drinkers. Tea drinkers of 6 to 10 years had higher bone mineral density in the lumbar spine, and those drinking tea more than 10 years had higher bone mineral density in all body sites. These flavonoids may also protect the body from some cancers and heart disease.

Improved Memory

Researchers at Newcastle University recently reported that drinking green and black teas may help boost memory. Both teas inhibited the activity of an enzyme that is found in protein deposits of patients with Alzheimer’s. This effect of green tea lasted for one week, whereas black tea’s enzyme-inhibiting effect lasted for one day.

Reduced Cancer Risk

A recent study of Asian American women, ages 25 to 74, compared those who had breast cancer to a similar group of healthy women. The women who consumed green tea on a regular basis had a lower risk of breast cancer. Even half a cup of green tea per day was enough to reduce breast cancer incidence by 47 percent.

Growing Tea

Green, white, yellow, oolong, and black teas all come from the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen bush originally grown only in China, where its cultivation and production were closely guarded secrets. More than 3,000 varieties are available. The methods of processing the leaves affect the color of the finished product and result in fermented, semifermented and nonfermented teas.

Rooibos, the red tea from the Southwestern Cape area of South Africa, is fermented like black tea. The fermentation process turns the leaves from green to a deep red color, with a sweet taste. Caffeine-free, rooibos contains comparable amounts of polyphenols to green tea, with the bonus of antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties.

Tea is grown in a climate of tropical and sub-tropical sunshine with abundant rain, and flourishes best in an acid soil. China, Formosa, Japan, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Cameroon are the major producers of tea. The only commercial tea plantation in the United States is on Wadmalow Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. This plantation sold in 2005 at auction to The Bigelow Company, which plans to keep cultivating tea at the plantation under the direction of former co-owner William B. Hall, who is retained as an employee. Hall is a third-generation tea taster, trained in London.

Eighty-five percent of all tea drunk in the United States is iced. For the most antioxidants, brew your own, however some green convenience iced teas contain as many antioxidants as blueberries, spinach, and strawberries. Another popular cold tea drink is bubble tea, which originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and contains tapioca pearls. These are added to sweetened cold-infused tea. The pearls may be black -- made of cassava root and brown sugar -- or white, consisting of caramel, starch, and chamomile root extract. A healthy version contains fresh fruits, milk, and crushed ice made into a milkshake.

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