It seems that we are only just beginning to discover the power of green tea. Over the last few years, green tea has been linked with reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. And, as time goes on, it’s likely that we’ll find more and more uses for green tea.
The magic bullet in green tea is its high level of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants combat free radicals that are created in our bodies as we process food. The free radicals produced damage our cells and our DNA, and eventually lead to disease if we don’t combat them. Anti-oxidants are our most important defense against the damage of free radicals.
One of the most important anti-oxidants is epicatechin gallate (EGCG) As an anti-oxidant, EGCG is 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. EGCG is one of the many catechins found in green tea, as well as in fruits and vegetables. They are anti-oxidants, bioflavonoids and polyphenols. All three of these substances are effective in improving our immune system, and preventing aging and disease.
But, research is showing that, in addition to preventing disease, the powerful anti-oxidants in green tea may have an anti-bacterial effect, as well. This stands to reason, since we know that anti-oxidants boost our immune system.
Researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston found evidence that tea may keep the immune system prepared to fend off attacks from bacteria and other pathogens. The study looked at 11 healthy non-tea drinkers, who began drinking tea, and compared them with 10 healthy people who began drinking coffee.
The researchers found that drinking 20 ounces of tea every day for at least two weeks doubled or tripled the immune system’s output of an infection-fighting substance called interferon gamma. Apparently the body metabolizes the tea into molecules that mimic the surface proteins of the bacteria, jump-starting the immune system so that when real viruses show up, the body’s immune system begins acting more quickly.
Okayama University in Japan found something even more interesting. Patients who were infected with a strain of Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection) that was particularly resistant to anti-biotics responded more favorably to their treatment when it was administered with the EGCG extract from green tea. The EGCG made the infection less able to fight against the anti-biotic.
So, what does this mean to me?
As with many other research findings, there are always more things that we need to examine. And, no doubt, more research will be conducted to more conclusively identify how green tea’s anti-oxidants can help our bodies stay healthy. It does seem likely, however, that the anti-oxidants contained in green tea are highly effective at improving your immune system, which may help prevent you from catching viruses.
But, even more importantly, these anti-oxidants may help treat serious bacteria and infections even after you’ve contracted them. Doctors may be able to use this powerful information to help patients recover more easily and more quickly from serious infections.
But, for sure, we know enough to conclude that we need to have a diet that’s rich in anti-oxidants. Be sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. Then, wash it all down with green tea to help increase your anti-oxidant level even further.
Be sure the tea you choose is green tea, too, rather than traditional black tea. Black tea is healthy, but not as healthy as green tea. All tea comes from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis; sister to the camellia bush that many people grow in the Southeast US.
Black tea is fermented during processing, green tea is not. The fermenting that black tea undergoes changes the natural anti-oxidants into another state that is not as healthy as their original state. For this reason, green tea (and white tea, too) is your best source of anti-oxidants.
How much do I need?
In Asian cultures, where the consumption of green tea is very high and the incidence of many serious diseases is much lower than that of the US, many people drink as much as 8-10 cups of green tea each day. However, most doctors believe that you can gain health benefits from drinking just 8-10 ounces each day.
One thing is for sure, any amount of green tea is increasing your level of anti-oxidants – which is good for your health. They key seems to be drinking it consistently. Adding one cup of green tea to your diet every day for the rest of your life will be more effective than drinking a quart just occasionally.
If you’re not drinking green tea right now, adding it to your diet could be an effective way to improve your immune system over the short and long term. You may be able to more effectively fight off little viruses that come your way right now, and you may be able to prevent serious diseases later in life. Green tea is delicious and it’s good for you; so it makes good health sense to get your dose of green tea each and every day!