Date: May 1st, 2006
You’ve heard the news – drinking tea is good for your health. But did you know that tea may reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases, and that it may improve the health of your bones and teeth?
The History of Tea
As legend has it, tea drinking began in China over 5,000 years ago when tea leaves blew into a boiling pot of water that was being prepared for Emperor Shen Nung. The Emperor was curious about the brown liquid that resulted and after a quick taste, decided it was surprisingly refreshing! Tea consumption rapidly spread throughout the world and according to the Tea Council of the U.S.A., is now the second most popular beverage in the world – second only to water.
All tea comes from the Camellia senensis plant, an evergreen shrub that can grow as tall as 60 feet in the wild. What makes a tea black, green, oolong, or white is the amount of oxidation it is subjected to during the manufacturing process. Green tea is not oxidized at all while black tea is oxidized for two to four hours. In addition to identifying the type of tea, the names also indicate the district where they were grown, much like wine.
What Makes Tea Healthful?
Ancient people long believed that the tea plant cured a variety of ailments and scientists today are finding out that they were on to something. Camellia senensis is chock full of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are those substances we keep hearing about that are found in many fruits and vegetables and that are believed to protect our body’s cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Tea has been found to have similar or higher antioxidant content than many fruits and vegetables so adding it to your diet could help your body. Keep in mind that herbal teas are not made from camellia senensis so may not have the same healthy benefits
Recent analysis and studies have found that those who drank three or more cups of tea per day had an estimated 11% lower rate of heart attacks. Another study showed that those who drank four or more cups of black tea per day had improved blood vessel function. Tea has also been associated with decreased risk of many types of cancer including oral, stomach, and skin cancer. Other research has found higher bone mineral density in women who drink tea. While many of the research is still in progress, it is clear that whether hot or iced, tea is good for your health!