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Tea and Health

At a conference in September 1998, a group of scientists from around the world met at the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC for an International Symposium on Tea and Human Health. The event was co-sponsored by The American Cancer Society, the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association, the American Health Foundation, and others. Dozens of new studies reaffirmed earlier work done in Europe and Asia concluding that three or more 6 oz. cups of tea a day help fend off cancer, reduce heart disease, fight the negative effects of aging, and promote elimination of dietary fats, among other health benefits.

This conference marked a milestone in the medical and science communities’ recognition of the health benefits of tea. 

Ongoing research on the link between tea and health continues in university research centers worldwide.

Research – Age-old wisdom about tea is now being taken seriously by mainstream researchers. Funding for studies has come from groups such as the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health. Tufts University, the University of Arizona, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Kansas, Indiana University School of Medicine, Rutgers University, the USDA, and others are now studying tea and health. Whether you drink tea because you like it or for health, you might be interested in some of the current research findings and trends:

Polyphenols – Experts believe that the health benefits of tea come mainly from polyphenols, natural compounds found in green tea, and black tea at lower levels. Among the polyphenols are water-soluble antioxidants which have antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer properties. According to the USDA the antioxidant activity of tea is more potent than that found in 22 fruits and vegetables including orange juice, carrots, and broccoli.

Cancer – Some polyphenols act as powerful antioxidants which combat damage from "free radicals" and make DNA more resistant to mutation. This prevents some cancers from forming and inhibits the growth of some tumors already in existence. Green tea shows special promise against cancers of the skin, lymph, mouth, stomach, esophagus, liver, bladder, colon, prostate, and lung.

Immune Booster – Tea may also enhance immune system components including "B" cells, "T" cells, and "killer" cells. Heart Disease and Stroke – Studies show that tea can lower fatty deposits in artery walls, decrease blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce the clotting tendency of blood.

Digestion – Tea is thought to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, stimulate digestive juices, break down dietary fats, and help control levels of glucose in the blood stream

Cavity Fighter – Tea inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth associated with plaque formation and can be used as a mouth rinse.

Darjeeling Tea Fields                                                                        Photos by Jack Strand

Above: Tea Plant (Camellia Sinensis) Flowers