According to Eisai, an 11th Century Zen priest, “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.”
Legend has it that the first teas in China were planted when the monk Bodhidharma ripped off his eyelids in anger for being unable to stay awake during meditation. On falling to the ground, his eyelids became tea plants. This enduring myth illustrates how monks in meditation throughout the ages have benefited from the power of green tea to increase their alertness and mental clarity.
Why drink green tea today? Research has shown there are many wonderful reasons to make it a part of your healthy lifestyle.
Green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are dried and steamed, not fermented, as they are for black and oolong tea. This uniquely minimal processing preserves the wonderful benefits of green tea.
Green tea contains large concentrations of polyphenols and flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant properties. These free-radical fighting substances increase the body’s ability to ward off disease, strengthen the immune system, and slow down the degenerative processes associated with aging. Depending on the quality of the tea and how it is prepared, these antioxidants are 10-25 times stronger than vitamins C and E. In fact, one cup of green tea has more antioxidants than a serving of spinach, broccoli, carrots or a leafy salad.
The polyphenols in green tea are called catechins, the most active of which is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Research has associated EGCG with:
- Preventing heart disease…Its antioxidants dilate blood vessels, improving their elasticity and reducing the chance of clogging
- Lowering cholesterol…It helps prevent build-up in the arteries, blocking the oxidation of LDL (bad ) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol
- Controlling obesity…By increasing metabolism, it helps the body burn and decrease body fat
- Controlling diabetes…It helps lower blood sugar levels
Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid found almost exclusively in the tea plant. L-theanine stimulates the production of alpha waves in the brain—the same waves increased by meditation. This supports calm alertness and mental sharpness. The relaxing effects of L-Theanine balance out the stimulating effects of the caffeine in green tea, contributing to an alert, and yet peaceful state. Calmness and clarity…what a combination!
There’s more. L-Theanine has relaxing effects on the nervous system as well. It reduces physical and mental stress, relieves depression and lowers blood pressure. Plus, it increases GABA in our brains, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that quiets you down, and helps relieve anxiety and insomnia. L-Theanine also improves the quality of your sleep and helps you feel more rejuvenated upon waking.
Does anyone need more reasons to drink green tea? The easiest way to receive all of its benefits is to steep dried leaves in very warm (not boiling) water. My favorite way is to take a teaspoonful of dry, powdered organic do matcha and whisk it in a small bowl, just the way it’s done in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Why not make green tea a part of your own daily ritual. Tons of health benefits, clarity, serenity—it really is just your cup of tea.