Here’s the tea: Green tea is the new health food must have.
The herbal remedy has health benefits that rival that of a fabricated super-food ad.
That includes speeding up your metabolism and reducing your risk for certain cancers, which is why Instagram gurus, college students and wellness experts alike are all jumping on the green tea bandwagon.
If you Google a list of world’s healthiest foods, green tea is likely to be on it, if not in the No. 1 spot.
So what is it about this hot leaf water that makes it so powerful in combating such a myriad of health ailments?
Tea expert and co-owner of Seven Cups Tea House, Zhuping Hodge, says for one, the tea packs an unparalleled amount of antioxidants.
According to the National Cancer Institute, studies have shown that antioxidants may have the ability to protect your cells from free radicals, which can cause damage that lead to certain terminal diseases including heart disease and various cancers.
Dr. Lise Alschuler, a naturopathic doctor who works with the Center of Integrative Medicine at University of Arizona says antioxidants, specifically catechins, are indeed the secret behind green tea’s superpowers.
Green tea possesses a very specific type of catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is known for potentially combating certain types of cancer, according to the National Institute of Cancer.
Alschuler echoes that the catechins in the tea help in cancer prevention.
“Regular green tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer various digestive cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia,” Alschuler says.
Not all teas have the same nutritional value. For instance, black tea does not possess the same health benefits as green tea. So simply ordering an iced tea at lunch will not allow you to reap the benefits of green tea.
One of Seven Cups Tea House’s customers, Jennifer O’Connor, says she has been going to Hodge for over a year. She first turned to green tea to treat health complications after a car accident. She used a concoction of “big Buddha” green tea, goji berries and wild chrysanthemum buds to help with a urinary tract infection.
“After my car wreck I had a UTI so I was doing teas three times a day and it was preventing me from getting UTIs,” O’Connor says. “When I stopped because I got busy … then I got the UTIs back.”
But Hodge is quick to point out that green tea has different effects on everyone’s body and should not be substituted for formal medicine.
Hodge says green tea can also be applied topically to protect from UV rays. She personally uses a mixture of green tea and aloe to combat the harsh Tucson sun.
Alschuler says there was a study conducted on rats in which scientists applied green tea to their skin, then exposed them to sunlight. The results found the rats that had green tea applied experienced less sun damage than those who did not. She says this has yet to be tested in humans but the data does provide some hope.
Aside from its potential sunscreen-like benefits, Alschuler says green tea is most helpful for metabolism issues and preventing chronic diseases. But it also possesses anti-viral powers when applied topically.
“There actually have been some studies of green tea-based topical solutions that have been shown to improve the clearance rate of genital warts and to reduce cervical dysplasia,” Alschuler says.
Hodge warns that green tea is not like wine; it gets worse with age, so it is important to only buy fresh green tea to reap its health benefits. And, not surprisingly, the easiest way to distinguish good green tea is to check if it is actually green.
While drinking three cups of green tea can have a modest effect on one’s weight (about 2 pounds over a period of a couple months), the disease prevention benefits far outweigh the potential weight loss, according to Alschuler.
If individuals are drinking green tea solely to improve their metabolism, Alschuler suggests trying “X green coffee bean extract” instead, but emphasizes there is no replacement for a balanced lifestyle.
“Ultimately there’s no way around just exercise, getting a good amount of sleep and having a healthy diet,” says Alschuler.