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Green Tea (<i>Camellia sinensis</i>)

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)

*DISCLAIMER* All information is provided for educational purposes only. No drugs or supplements should be taken without prior advice from your health professional.

What is green tea?
What is it used for?
What's the best form to use?
How do I use it?

What is green tea?
For thousands of years, people in China and Japan have been drinking green tea as their beverage of choice. It's served at formal tea ceremonies and sipped casually after dinner to wind down a meal. Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, but goes through less processing: it's simply steamed briefly and then dried. As a result, green tea has powerful ingredients that act in your body as antioxidants (substances that protect your cells from damage) and offer other health benefits as well. back to top

What is it used for?
Green tea—which contains about half as much caffeine as coffee—is used primarily for enjoyment, just like any tea. Recently, however, researchers have found that the ingredients in green tea may help protect against cancer and heart disease and boost your body's ability to fight off illness. Green tea also contains natural fluoride, and studies show that drinking it after a meal may reduce plaque buildup, making for fewer cavities and healthier teeth. One small study even showed that people who drank green tea burned fat faster than people who didn't, although the benefit was fairly small.

You might have noticed that many skin-care products contain green tea nowadays. There is some evidence that green tea, when applied to your skin (in addition to, but not in place of, sunscreen), may help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer and improve your skin's overall health. back to top

What's the best form to use?
The green tea sold in supermarkets in the United States right now is generally not as high in quality—or taste—as that sold in Asia. To find a better-tasting green tea, you may need to shop around at an Asian market or specialty tea store. Green tea is also sold in capsules in health food stores, but taking the herb that way doesn't offer one of green tea's oldest benefits: taking time out to brew tea, sip it, and relax.

As for skin-care products containing green tea, there's no evidence that they work, and it's hard to know just how much green tea a particular product contains. Check labels: the higher up on the ingredient list green tea appears, the more of the herb is contained inside. back to top

How do I use it?
If you drink coffee, switching at least some of the time to green tea may be a good move. Green tea offers health benefits that coffee doesn't. And because it has half as much caffeine, it can give you a gentle boost without leading to the jitters. If you don't like caffeine, green tea comes in decaffeinated forms that still have all the health benefits.

When making green tea, heat water just to boiling and let it cool for about a minute before pouring it over the tea. Water that is too hot can damage the fragile green-tea leaves. For the best results, let green tea steep for about four minutes before drinking.

If you're really adventurous, you may want to learn how to brew matcha, the type of tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies. (It has an unusual taste that can take some getting used to.) Matcha comes in the form of a bright green powder that you pour hot water over and then whisk into a froth with a special whisk. It's traditionally drunk in a ceramic tea bowl. If you have an Asian market near you, ask if it carries this type of tea and the accessories used to prepare it. back to top

If you're not used to drinking caffeine, green tea may make you a little antsy, even though it has only half the amount of caffeine in coffee. If this happens, switch to a decaffeinated version. If you have a sensitive stomach, have a health condition, or take any kind of medicine on a regular basis, you should check with your doctor before drinking green tea.

The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/22/2001
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