What is loose leaf tea if not a delicious beverage that contributes to a healthy, balanced lifestyle? We know the “what” when it comes to the perks of your daily cup of tea, but most of us could use a little brush-up on the “how” when it comes to its health benefits.
There are two key naturally occurring chemical compounds that are found in many teas that make them a health powerhouse: Polyphenols and L-Theanine. These two are some of nature’s most potent tools for immunity, relaxation, heart health, and overall wellness. Instead of a reliance on Western medicine as the end-all, be-all of health, many in the Eastern world and beyond practice exercise, wholesome diet, and loose leaf tea-drinking as natural, daily preventative habits.
But back to the science! The first element that makes tea an amazing immune booster is its polyphenol content, aka its antioxidants. We’ve definitely heard of these before; they’re what fight free radicals in the body, potentially preventing all types of cell damage and aging. Polyphenols are found in highest concentration in green tea, although they are strongly present in white, black, and oolong varieties as well. According to Today, “The green teas are the least processed and tend to have the highest amounts of polyphenols, and the only type that contain the polyphenol, catechin... Certain herbal teas are known for their medicinal values, including soothing the digestive system.” These same catechins are found in both cocoa and berries.
For strongest catechin hit, there’s no better (read: tastier) source than Heavenly Tea Leaves’ Organic Jasmine Green, a pure green tea that delivers green teas benefits, with the added benefits of Jasmine.
Next up to the plate when it comes to health benefits is L-Theanine. According to Healthline, “Tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which increases the production of alpha waves in the brain. L-theanine, in combination with caffeine, may improve brain function.” Amino acids are simply the “building blocks” that make up protein, which is what mainly keeps our bodies functioning at their best. Simply, L-Theanine helps keep your brain going, and your brain keeps your body going.
In “The science of tea’s mood-altering magic,” Natasha Gilbert writes that tea’s chemical components, chief among them L-Theanine and other antioxidants, have positive effects on mood, concentration, and mental health:
Scientists are also trying to identify the major active compounds that give tea its mental-health benefits, and whether they work alone or in combination with other compounds present in the drink. Tea catechins — antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — account for up to 42% of the dry weight of brewed green tea, and the amino acid L-theanine makes up around 3%. EGCG is thought to make people feel calmer and improve memory and attention when consumed on its own. L-theanine is found to have a similar effect when consumed in combination with caffeine. Up to 5% of the dry weight of green tea is caffeine, which is known to improve mood, alertness and cognition. The effect of tea on behaviour is slightly paradoxical, says Andrew Scholey, a psychopharmacologist at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. ‘Tea is calming, but alerting at the same time,’ he says, while sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Super-high levels of L-Theanine are found in various types of tea, including green (that means matcha, too), white, black, and oolong teas. Some refreshing spring options from Heavenly Tea Leaves that will supply L-Theanine are Gaba Oolong (on Oolong that's oxidized in a nitrogen rich environment), Acai Berry White (which has the bonus of the superfood, Acai, infused into the blend), and the smooth-yet-tropical Passion Green.
What’s great about these two chemical compounds is that they are found across the tea spectrum, so you don’t have to limit yourself to one type of tea in order to get the benefits. And like any good habit, tea does its job best when consumed regularly, so make it a daily cup!