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Green tea – bitter medicine that tastes good

# Natural healing | 24. July 2017

The history of green tea is several thousand years old. Even the Chinese emperor Shennong, who lived over 4,700 years ago, praised it as a drink that arouses the good spirit and the wise thoughts and encourages the defeated. It was not until much later, in the seventh century, that green tea reached Japanese fields and undid itself from its present status as a medicinal and stimulant to a ceremonial beverage of Zen Buddhism, which has since been prepared according to strict rituals.

It is mentioned for the first time in Germany as Herba Theae in 1657 in a pharmacy in Nordhausen. Black as well as the green tea come from the same tea shrub – Camellia sinensis. The difference between the two is the type of processing in each case. Green tea is not fermented or if only lightly and then briefly heated to prevent further oxidation. Thus, many health-promoting substances remain in high concentrations, which are lost in a longer fermentation, as is the case with black tea.

The four typical main taste notes are bitter, astringent, sweet and umami (Japanese: fleshy, hearty, here: savory). Smoky, fresh, herbal, slightly sweetish, grassy, hay, earthy, fresh, delicate, malty, floral are only a fraction of the nuances of the taste, depending on the cultivation area. Of course, the content of the above 400 ingredients is also dependent on these parameters. The leaf processing alone ranges from planed, powdered (matcha), to roasted rice (Genmaicha), with rice flour pressed to small pine-like stems (kokeicha), with jasmine blossoms flavored to the rolling of the leaves to small globules (Gunpowder).

For a long time, the health benefits of green tea for the mind and body are well known. The high content of catechins, which make the tea taste so bitter, must be emphasized. The most important representative is epigallocatechingallate (EGCG). The content is expressed in unfermented green tea, e.g. White tea particularly high. EGCG is “highly suspected” to curb tumors, cell-damaging oxygen molecules, e.g. from smoking, kill viruses and bacteria, and protect nerves. Discussed is the use in Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s, certain cancer forms and multiple sclerosis. However, conclusive studies have yet to be made.

For a“clear mind”, an increased but relaxed attention, the amino acid theanine is responsible, which also tastes bitter like the catechins. The longer the tea is drawn, the more the theanine dissolves in the water and the more bitter it becomes. Even if the high caffeine content speaks against the relaxing effect of theanine, the opposite has been proved. Caffeine makes you awake but does not weaken the relaxing effect. In addition, the caffeine contained is bound to tannins and, in contrast to coffee, is only slowly released into the bloodstream. Green tea is a stimulating tonic rather than a stimulant. Among the tea varieties with a lower caffeine content are Bancha and Lu Shan Wu; with a high concentration among others Matcha, Gyokuro and Sencha.

Green tea also contains the antioxidants vitamin C and E; Minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron; the trace elements fluorine and manganese, essential oils, chlorophyll and numerous other secondary plant substances. So there is a lot hidden in this hot drink! Treat yourself to a cup of tea!

Foto: flickr.com/Christian Kadluba

Source: Corinna Paatzsch, Grüner Tee (1996); Pharmazeutische Zeitung , Theaninforschung  (Ausgabe 17/2008), Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, Grüner Tee und Amyloidose (2008)

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