The Many Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

There are many benefits of drinking green tea, a powerful antioxidant. Read on to learn what studies have found regarding how this delicious brew can benefit cardiovascular health, naturally fight bacteria and help prevent cancer.

| May/June 1998

  • In the wild, tea plants can grow as high as 15 feet; in cultivation, the plants are kept trimmed, as these are at this Japanese tea plantation
  • Farmers near Bandung, Indonesia, picking tea leaves.
    Joanna B. Pinneo
  • People in the East have long believed that Camellia sinensis leaves hold health benefits. In the West, a scientific basis for these beliefs is being built.
    Photo By Steven Mark Needham/Envision
  • Farmers near Bandung, Indonesia, picking tea leaves.

To put the history of tea on a time line, you’d have to use a sheet of paper wide enough to let your pen trace back more than 4,000 years. And you’d want to leave plenty of room for the years ahead, if medical inquiry into this plant continues at its current pace.

Tea—specifically green tea—is drawing attention from medical researchers seeking treatments for ailments ranging from acne to heart disease, to name just two. While definitive conclusions of this research are still being formed, it appears that—at the least—there are many benefits of drinking green tea. Green tea is a powerful antioxidant to be considered seriously in terms of disease prevention.

History of Tea: From Legend to Market

Tea was discovered, the story goes, by a Chinese emperor living in about 2700 B.C. As he sat in the shade of a wild tea plant, a few leaves fell into his cup of hot water. He took a sip, and the rest is delicious history.

Historians trace tea’s first use to China in the twenty-eighth century B.C., but written references to it don’t appear until the third century b.c. The Chinese gathered tea leaves from wild plants until A.D. 600, when they began cultivation to satisfy demand for it—tea had become a popular medicinal tonic and beverage. Those associated with the tea trade prospered, including manufacturers of exquisite tea ware.

In about A.D. 800, a Buddhist monk studying in China took some seeds of a tea plant home with him to Japan, where cultivation of the plant soon began. Buddhists drank tea to stay awake during meditation and, in the twelfth century, the Japanese combined Buddhist beliefs and tea drinking into a ceremony of spiritual rejuvenation and harmony with the universe (the Japanese Tea Ceremony is still practiced today). Europeans trading in the China Sea discovered tea in the seventeenth century, and by the late 1700s it was widely consumed throughout Europe.

Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world (water is first). About 2.5 million tons of tea leaves are produced annually, according to the University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine Research in Cancer. Green tea is most popular in Japan and China, where its consumption accounts for about a fifth of all tea consumed worldwide.

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