After water, tea
is the most popular beverage on earth. It is consumed in large quantities all over the world but is likely most popular in Asia. Tea was even discovered in Asia, and most of the world’s tea is still grown in this part of the world, though India is a close second.
Chinese mythology dates the discovery of tea back to 2737 BC, when, supposedly, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was drinking boiled water under a tree, when a leaf from this tree dropped into his cup. The Emperor decided to try the concoction and found that he loved it. He ordered a large planting of tea trees and a new crop was born.
It’s not certain if this story is true, historians have found stories in China about tea that date back to the third century AD, and there are ads for tea in China that date back to 780 AD when Chinese tea merchants commissioned the writer Lu Yu to write a book about tea. The book was written to help boost tea sales. As early as 805 AD, the Zen Buddhist missionaries in Japan were using tea as a medicine, because they believed that it enhanced one’s ability to meditate.
Throughout Asian history, tea has been used as medicinal purposes. Since the first medicines were herbs, it’s likely that tea was used as the delivery method. The correct mixture of herbs was mixed and brewed into the tea. However, tea, on its own was used to heal. In China, tea is used to cure everything from headaches to female troubles to depression.
Today’s researchers are discovering what Asian cultures have known for many years: tea is good for you. A lot of the attention that tea has received has come from the recognition that Asian cultures, where tea is heavily consumed have far lower risk of many diseases than many other cultures where tea is consumed in smaller quantities.
For example, 75% of Japanese men smoke. This is significantly more men than smoke in the US, yet Japanese men have a significantly lower risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease than American men. Cancer and heart disease in general are far less prevalent in Asian countries than in the Western world. Researchers wondered why this is so.
And, it seems that tea is a big part of the reason that Asians are healthier than we are. Of course, the fact that they’re far less likely to be overweight and that they consume a diet rich in fish also plays a part in their overall health. But their enormous consumption of tea, especially green tea, is a big part of the equation.
So, scientists have been examining the anti-oxidants in tea and measuring how they prevent disease. A lot of the research has been performed on mice, but many of the results have been so promising that more human trials are sure to follow.
A document reported by the UK Tea Council outlines some of the findings on tea’s health benefits. Some of the most significant findings include:
There is clear evidence that tea, both green and black, reduces our risk for cardiovascular disease.
There have been many studies that link tea with a reduced risk of cancer, though some studies have found no link. Cancer that seems to be most significantly reduced by tea consumption is colorectal cancer.
There have been studies that suggest that tea is healthy for the teeth and prevents tooth decay. This is likely due to the fact that tea naturally contains a form of fluoride. However, there was not enough evidence on this to reach a formal conclusion.
Likewise, some studies suggest that tea can positively affect mood and cognitive performance, but results are inconclusive.
However, one thing that we know for sure; there’s no downside to drinking tea. Tea is lower in caffeine than coffee or soda and has no side effects. And, if you consume 3-4 cups per day, you have very likely lower your risk of heart disease, at least.
Tea is available in many forms and is very inexpensive; making it simple to add to your daily routine. And, research has shown that tea has the same benefits whether you drink it hot or cold and whether or not you add milk.
As research continues, it’s certain that we’ll learn more about just what tea can do for our health, and how it works its magic. Don’t be surprised to find more conclusive evidence supporting tea’s many health benefits coming out over the next few years.
In the meantime, why not get a head start on protecting your health. Tea certainly can’t hurt you – and it’s likely you already have some in your kitchen cabinets. So start adding a cup of your favorite tea to your diet each and every day – you may be helping to ensure that you live a long and healthy life!