There is a buzz going around the tea industry and it doesn't have a thing to do with caffeine. As researchers persevere in their study of the health benefits of tea, new facts about the beverage's anti-aging properties seem to continually surface. Whether the tea is green, black, oolong, white, or rooibos, the powerful antioxidants contained in these beverages have been shown to slow the effects of aging and have a beneficial corollary on health.
All tea comes from the camelia sinensus plant which grows in select areas of the world, such as China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. The leaves of this plant are harvested and processed differently to produce the varying kinds of tea. White tea consists of buds and young tea leaves and is processed using relatively low heat and no rolling. Green tea consists of leaves that are withered to reduce moisture and then steamed or pan fried. The leaves are then rolled in various ways and dried. Oolong and black tea are both fermented in addition to being withered and rolled. This oxidation activates enzymes to change the flavor of the tea. The amount of oxidation determines whether the tea is oolong, partially oxidized, or black, fully oxidized.
Green tea contains four primary polyphenols that are collectively known as catechins. These catechins attack free radicals, which destroy cells and leave the body susceptible to disease, as well as overall aging. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in green tea is 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than vitamin E at protecting the body's cells and DNA. It is reported to have twice the benefits of resveratrol, found in red wine, which has been getting much attention lately in response to the Barbara Walter's special on this super antioxidant.
Catechins found in green tea can also be found in black tea, but, not as abundantly. Black tea leaves have a lower concentration of these antioxidants due to their extensive fermentation. The majority of the catechins are enzymatically oxidized. However, if you prefer the full bodied flavor of black tea don't despair, there are still some catechins remaining. In addition, a study by the US Department of Agriculture in 2003, showed that black tea may also lower "bad" cholesterol.
White tea, on the other hand, is brimming with anti-aging properties, as it contains the highest amount of antioxidants. Elma Baron, MD, the Director of the Skin Study Center at UHC and CWRU has found that the application of white tea extract protects critical elements of the skin's immune system. Oxidative stress of the skin causes a breakdown in cellular strength and function. White tea extract protects against this stress. During the study, white tea extract was placed on the skin in an area not normally exposed to the sun. The skin was then subjected to artificial sunlight and studied after a period of three days on a cellular level. The white tea extract protected the outer layer of the skin against obliteration, the immune system cells in the skin still functioned properly and the damage to the DNA cells was limited. Research shows that one must drink tea in extremely high quantities, 10 to 20 cups per day, in order to impart enough of these antioxidants into the body to affect major change. Many opt for green tea extract, topical lotions, and other herbal remedies containing large amounts of the catechins. However, there is something to be said about the calming ritual of brewing and enjoying a satisfying cup. The sound of the kettle as the water heats, the smell of the elixir as it brews, and the relaxing feel of holding a warm cup between your hands as you read a book, take a bath, or visit with a friend, definitely reduces stress. Stress, of course, plays a major role in the aging process. So, whether taking supplements or actually drinking several cups throughout the day, tea can reduce the signs of aging over time.
Written by Dawn Kiki