Health Benefits of Tea

Rallie McAllister (M.D., MPH, MSEH) is the Cofounder and Medical Director of Momosa Publishing LLC.  Momosa Publishing LLC publishes, The Mommy MD Guides: Tips that doctors who are also mothers use for their own families.  Several years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr.McAllister. The following is a summary of health benefits of different kinds of tea as shared by the doctor.

Dr. McAllister provided these examples of the health benefits of drinking hibiscus tea:

Hibiscus tea is helpful to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol thanks to an ingredient known as Hibiscus sabdariffa, found in many herbal teas. This ingredient also has wonderful antioxidant properties, which help defend against illnesses and infections ranging from cancer to the common cold. The results of several scientific studies demonstrate that drinking hibiscus tea on a daily basis can help lower blood pressure.

The results of a study published in a 2010 issue of The Journal of Nutrition suggest drinking around three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowers blood pressure in adults who have pre-hypertension or mild hypertension.

In a 1999 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researched studied the effects of hibiscus tea on blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements taken after a 12-day treatment with the sour tea showed a BP reduction of ten percent in the treated group as compared to the control group.

A study published in 2007 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that hibiscus tea promotes weight loss by inhibiting the deposition of fat into fat cells.

A 2001 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry demonstrated that hibiscus tea has amylase inhibiting properties (amylase is the enzyme that digests carbohydrates) meaning that it might help reduce the number of calories absorbed from high-carb meals. So if you’re going to eat a big plate of pasta, be sure to sip on some Hibiscus tea while you’re at it!

Hibiscus tea contains Vitamin C, which helps explain why it’s used to treat colds and other typDr. McAllister provided examples of the health benefits of different kinds of of infection. It’s been shown to have fever reducing properties, as well as cholesterol lowering properties. Like many other teas, it is known to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

Some kinds of tea help to treat or prevent chronic stomach issues (reflux, ulcers, stomach cancer).

 Stomach Upset: Chamomile tea and lemon balm tea are very soothing to an upset stomach, as are valerian tea and peppermint tea. Ginger tea works wonders for alleviating nausea. Fennel tea helps ease stomach and abdominal cramps. If the stomach upset is related to a bacterial or viral infection of the GI tract, all the more reason to drink tea, which has wonderful antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Stomach Ulcer: Bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancers, are sensitive to the antibacterial properties in teas. Research shows that green tea can inhibit H. pylori.

 Stomach cancer: In the past decade, hundreds of studies have demonstrated the health-promoting and disease-preventing powers of tea. Virtually all tea is rich in polyphenols, natural plant compounds with potent antibacterial and antiviral properties. The polyphenols in tea also serve as powerful antioxidants.  In the body, these agents help neutralize free radicals, high-energy molecules that contribute to the development of a number of deadly diseases, including cancer. The antioxidants in tea aren’t the only ingredients that make it a powerful weapon in the war on cancer. A compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) appears to squelch an enzyme necessary for the growth of cancer cells.

When researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine applied EGCg to healthy and cancerous mouse cells, they found that the agent helped wipe out the cancer cells without harming the healthy ones. Harvard scientists reported that the EGCg in tea has protective powers against cancers of the digestive tract. The researchers concluded that EGCg triggers the production of proteins that can repair DNA damage before it leads to cancerous changes in the esophagus or stomach.

 Tea and other cancers: In a study published in the medical journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers reported that women who drank two or more cups of tea per day had a 45 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who never drank tea. Each additional daily cup of tea was associated with an 18 percent reduction in the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

More health benefits of drinking tea according to Dr. McAllister:

Tea and diabetes: Drinking green tea may prove to be a simple, inexpensive way to help prevent diabetes and many of its complications. Scientists at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that when diabetic rats drank the human equivalent of five cups of green tea daily, their blood sugar levels dropped significantly. In addition, the tea-drinking rodents experienced a reduced risk of developing cataracts and other diabetic complications.

 Tea and heart disease: A growing body of evidence suggests that drinking tea is good for your heart. In a study conducted at Boston University, researchers asked 50 men and women diagnosed with heart disease to drink four cups of black tea daily for four weeks.

Just two hours after downing the first cup, investigators found that drinking tea promoted widening of the subjects’ arteries and significantly improved their blood flow.  Both actions have beneficial effects on the heart.

Tea and the immune system: In addition to warding off cancer and heart disease, tea may boost the protective powers of the immune system. Drinking tea increases production of interferon, a substance known to play a key role in protecting the body against infection.  When researchers at Harvard Medical Center asked adult volunteers to drink five cups of black tea each day for four weeks, they found that their blood cells secreted five times more interferon than before they began drinking tea.

When researchers at Harvard Medical Center asked subjects to drink five cups of black tea each day for four weeks, they found that their blood cells secreted five times more interferon than before they began drinking tea.

The scientists attribute the immune boosting property to a chemical called L-theanine, which is found in green, black, and oolong tea.  The researchers hope that eventually, L-theanine will be used in drugs that bolster the body’s defenses against a number of illnesses and infections.

Tea and stress: Drinking tea has long been associated with relaxation, and now there’s scientific proof. In the medical journal, Psychopharmacology, British researchers reported that regular consumption of tea helps individuals recover more quickly from the stresses of everyday life.

The results of the study demonstrated that drinking tea not only helps normalize stress hormones in the body, it can lower stress-related rises in blood pressure and heart rate.

Tea and infection: In March 2008, Egyptian scientists reported that green tea can help beat drug-resistant superbugs. Natural compounds in the beverage dramatically boost the action of antibiotics, making them up to three times more effective at killing disease-causing bacteria. The results of a new study conducted by an international team of researchers from University of Maryland and Cardiff University suggest that black tea could be an important line of defense in the threat of bioterrorism. The scientists reported that black tea can thwart the bacteria responsible for anthrax, a potentially deadly disease.

 Tea and weight loss: While compounds in tea help fight off infection; they also seem to help peel off extra pounds, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The Swedish study found that green tea extract increased the metabolism of both fat and calories in healthy males.  When subjects were given green tea extract each day, they burned an average of 70 calories more per day than they did when they received placebo pills.

Teas for thyroid issues: A 2001 study in the Annals of Epidemiology suggested that women in Los Angeles who consumed green tea had a lower risk of thyroid cancer. Extremely high doses of green and black tea (unlikely to be consumed by humans) can lead to the development of thyroid goiter. Not much info on this in the scientific literature.

A person taking medications should discuss the consumption of herbal teas with their doctor, especially if they’re drinking large amounts of tea.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, or services of a medical professional. Always consult a licensed physician or medical expert with health questions. For serious or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.


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