While there’s no magic elixir to make you younger, prettier, smarter or happier—green tea comes pretty close. This humble beverage is made from the same leaves as black and oolong tea—from the plant known as Camellia sinensis.
It was first cultivated in China, and today is produced in a handful of additional countries, including Japan and New Zealand. Some people drink it for the flavor; some for its medicinal benefits; some for its power to enhance beauty—skin tone, hair luster—and its value in the world of cosmetics; some for its stimulating properties; and some for its psychological boosting powers. Of course, many choose to enjoy all these benefits!
Green tea contains significant quantities of antioxidants known as polyphenols (and particularly a certain class of polyphenols called catechins), which destroy free radicals—the enemies of DNA. Polyphenols offer an astonishing array of health benefits. A specific catechin, EGCG, was found by one study to suppress lung cancer cell growth, by another to inhibit breast cancer tumors, and by a third to treat acne by suppressing certain pathways in the disorder. A certain catechin enzyme prevents testosterone molecules from turning into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), one of the key causes of hair loss, and the same enzyme even promotes new hair growth. They improve bone strength, lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, boost endurance and mood, may even combat Parkinson’s disease and act as a kind of reinforcement sunscreen to protect us from ultraviolet rays.
Extracts of green tea can also significantly boost oral health; serve as a natural anti-bacterial agent and source of fluoride. Green tea can help strengthen teeth, prevent cavities and reduce bad breath.
Fountain of Youth
Although green tea doesn’t actually make you younger, the catechins in green tea actually have an amazing ability to combat free radicals. Many of the effects of aging, especially those seen in the skin, are brought about by a buildup of free radicals. By attacking these chemicals, green tea effectively “prevents” a certain amount of aging and even reduces the possibility of skin cancer, adding elasticity to the skin along the way. (It should be noted that these results are generally achieved over many months, even years, of consuming green tea on a regular basis.)
Green tea and its extracts also lend many of their magical properties to application outside the body—in the beauty and cosmetics industries. A rinse with green tea while showering strengthens hair and protects against pollutants. It also serves as a wonderful skin toner and moisturizer for dry skin, exfoliating and drawing out toxins and impurities while simultaneously hydrating. It can be either spritzed onto the face as a freshening rinse, or made into a paste and applied topically—the slightly abrasive texture of dry green tea leaves will scrub away dead skin cells that may be clogging pores.
So, is it a magic elixir? No one can really say. All that can be known for sure is that thousands—perhaps you among them—are enjoying the enormous benefits of this unassuming beverage, one of the oldest on earth.