Tea is a fantastic drink. Just about everyone knows it’s good for them – but few realise just how good.
One point to keep in mind is that all “real” tea is derived from a particular plant known as Camellia sinensis, and it comes in four varieties – green, black, white and oolong. Anything else sold as “tea” is likely to be an herbal infusion, which great in their own right but not the focus of this article.
Tea might be able to help strengthen and protect your brain
Although more research is required in this area, some studies suggest that tea could be one of the best beverages for protecting your brain. The key seems to be a polyphenol compound known as EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) which is found in the highest concentrations in green tea, and the lowest concentrations in black tea.
Other studies have linked this wonder compound to the growth of new neural tissue in the brain, and there’s even evidence that it may protect the brain against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Tea can make you smarter
It’s long been known that caffeine can perk you up, but one 2008 study published in the journal Biological Philosophy found that when compared with L-Theanine (an amino acid found alongside caffeine in tea) the overall effect on subjects was increased alertness, faster reaction times and better working memory.
If you’ve got a stressful work deadline coming up, a mug of tea may just unlock your inner powers and see you through.
Tea can help relaxation
You know that feeling of calm and contentment that settles over you when you curl up on the couch with a warm mug of tea? Well, research suggests that feeling of wellbeing may have more to do with the tea and less to do with the couch.
A 2006 study found that black tea, in particular, had a significant impact on reducing cortisol levels in the body (one of the main “stress hormones”) following a stressful experience. Subjects in the study also reported subjectively feeling more relaxed after drinking black tea regularly for 6 weeks.
Tea can improve heart health
For many of us, trying to reduce our cholesterol seems like an eternal struggle. Well, a 2011 meta-study which looked at the results of 14 randomised trials found that tea might be the perfect weapon in the battle for good heart health. According to the meta-study, regularly drinking green tea (or taking a green tea extract) significantly reduces LDL (the bad cholesterol) while not having any impact on HDL (the good cholesterol).
As if that wasn’t enough, one Japanese study found that drinking more than five cups of green tea a day reduced the risk of death by heart attack or stroke by 26%, and the risk of death from all causes by 16%. Although these studies look promising, they make no authorised claims and still require further research.