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  Japanese Garden Journal

Green Tea Benefits
by Tamao Goda
Tea is one of the most popular and widespread beverages
in the world. In recent years itís health benefits have
received attention in the West. Recently sources such as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School have announced that it helps with tumor suppression.

You may have tasted maícha powdered green tea at a tea ceremony, or you may have tasted the green tea ďlemonadeĒ that is popular nowadays. There are many other products with green tea added, including some nonfood items such as cosmetics and deodorant. What makes green tea so good and different from other types of tea or coffee? Letís explore.

Green tea, black tea and Chinese oolong tea are all made from leaves of the same plant: Camellia sinensis. Black tea is fermented. Chinese oolong tea is semi-fermented. Green tea is not fermented, and thus it has not lost many healthful components such as tea-polyphenols, flavonoids, amino acids, and vitamins A, C, and E.

There are three main water-soluble components of green tea that are responsible for its taste. One is L-theanine, which has a mild sweet taste. It remains unaltered only in non-fermented tea. L-theanine promotes the formation of the neurotransmitter dopamin, and increase the alpha-waves in the brain. It can also relax people and improve memory and sleep quality too. Other benefits of L-theanine include cranial vascular system repair (preventing dementia), and it assists the immune system by being an antigen, which increases interferon formation.

Green teaís most helpful components may be catechins, which are polyphenols. Catechins give the tea an astringent taste. Their altered versions are also found in black and oolong teas, but in smaller amounts.

Catechins mainly serve as antioxidants. Antioxidants remove free radicals, the cause of many health problems. Catechins also help prevent and slow down tumor formation, and they help prevent heart disease by repressing LDL cholesterol levels and easing hypertension. For dieters, catechins are helpful because they promotes neutral fat and carbohydrate metabolism. They also help prevent allergic reactions by retarding histamine release. Overall, green tea may help to fight against arteriosclerosis, hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, tumors, infectious disease, and aging.

Itís no surprise, then, that catechins are starting to be promoted as extremely important medical and dietary tools. Green tea, of course, is full of them.

Caffeine gives green tea a sharp taste. It is a diuretic, relieving stress and promoting mental alertness by stimulating the central nervous system. Caffeine also promotes stomach acid excretion, and helps burn fat when ingested 20 minutes before exercise. While caffeine has benefits, over-ingestion of caffeine may give you jitters and nausea. Fortunately, teaís L-theanine component helps regulate central nervous system activity and buffer overstimulation.

Other water-soluble components of green tea are vitamins B and C, polysaccharide, fluorine, GABA, and flavonoids. 65% of the components in green tea leaves are insoluble. These include beta-carotene, Vitamin E, chlorophyll, proteins, minerals, and dietary fibers. Some health benefits thus remain in left-over tea leaves. Powdered tea like maícha can deliver all of these nutrients to the body.

Right now many tea-related substance studies are in motion everywhere, and new findings will mount in the future. Meanwhile, the helpfulness of many commercial green tea products is inconsistent. Itís not enough just to add green color to ice cream or lemonaide.

Though green tea has numerous health benefits, most Japanese people drink tea for the taste and atmosphere. Instead of going overboard on a green tea craze, it is better to eat and drink a variety of things to be healthy. With moderation in mind, we can add fun and wellness to our lives by drinking green tea.