The truth behind tea mythsTea was initially consumed due to its medicinal benefits in traditional Chinese medicine long before it was brewed as a refreshing beverage. It is known to improve digestion, clear skin, and promote an overall well being. However, there are many myths that surround the consumption of tea and the truth behind these myths remains blurry to many.
In traditional Chinese cultures, herbs and spices would be added to the infusion of tea in order to increase the health benefits. Some people would even sip on the beverage after a meal in order to improve digestion and stay alert. There is even a saying Japanese that states ‘If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty’.
In Western countries, tea was initially sold in apothecary shops as the tea leaves were considered a herbal remedy for skin related ailments, digestive disorders, memory loss, etc.
The effects of tea can most often be felt only after regular use for a significant time. Here are a few myths associated with the beverage and the truth behind them.
Tea as a cure for Cancer
Tea is a rich source of antioxidants, which in turn reduce the risk of cancer. Antioxidants are known to neutralize the free radicals in the body, thereby promoting good health. Matcha is one of the best sources of antioxidants, as the whole tea leaf is consumed in the brew. However, tea cannot cure cancer. Green tea contains polyphenols, while black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigins which have an antioxidant activity and help in fighting and preventing cancer in some people. However, studies that have attempted to link the consumption of tea with cancer are inconclusive.
Tea improving oral health
Tannins present in tea initially result in the staining of teeth, but the fluoride content in the beverage also benefits the teeth. Antioxidants present in tea counter the fluoride toxicity. The beverage can inhibit the activity of oral bacteria which cause plaque, thereby leading to fresh breath and good oral hygiene.
Tea and drowsiness
Legendary tales tell of the story of Buddha, who fell asleep one day while in the midst of meditation. Annoyed with himself, he cut off his own eyelids and threw them aside to the ground so that he couldn’t fall asleep again. A tea tree sprouted at that place, which is the reason behind tea providing wakefulness.
Tales aside, tea does promote wakefulness due to its caffeine content. Tea is not as effective as coffee in keeping you awake, and also contains the amino acid L-theanine which acts as a relaxant. Thus, tea drinkers do not experience a sudden wakefulness, but experience a gentle alertness for a longer time.
The caffeine content in the beverage depends upon the type of tea used and the processing involved. Hence, the effects on keeping you awake and alert may vary. Pu’er tea is believed to have the lowest amount of caffeine.
Tea and nutrition
Tea does contain vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin C in small amounts. However, tannins present in tea can block the absorption of iron in the blood, a negative factor specially for anaemic people. Green Tea and Matcha contain higher amounts of vitamins, while Black Tea does not contain Vitamin C at all.
Tea and skin
The antioxidants present in tea have anti-ageing properties, that prevent the appearance of wrinkles and lines on the skin if consumed regularly.
Tea is used in numerous beauty products, even in cleansers, face packs and creams that are topically applied. Topical application can reduce the harmful effects from sun damage. Tea is anti-inflammatory, so tea infused face masks can reduce inflammation and detoxify the skin. Tannins in tea help in firming the skin, and tea can also be used to treat oily skin conditions.
Tea and digestion
Oolong teas are known to increase the metabolism of the body, alkalizing the digestive system and balancing the acids present. The rarer and expensive Pu’er teas contain numerous enzymes that strengthen the digestive system and cure conditions such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and lower cholesterol.
Green tea extracts are believed to increase the oxidation of fat, improve the sensitivity to insulin and increase the tolerance to glucose. However, it is unclear if a green tea infusion conveys these benefits in the same intensity to the body. However, there is conclusive evidence justifying the role of green tea in improving digestion in the body.