The Anti-inflammatory Properties of Tea

I recently received an email from a customer asking me what green tea I would recommend that would have superior anti-inflammatory properties. As I started my response I realized that I was giving him a lot more information than he probably wanted and that an article would probably be the better format for such a lengthy explanation. 

In the past few years tea has really been getting a lot of press with respect to its health benefits, particularly in connection with its ability to fight cancer and cardiovascular disease.  We read that tea has many flavonoids that are powerful  anti-oxidants/anti-mutagens/anti-inflammatories/anti-pathogens etc. Many studies have been conducted on teas most significant flavonoid, the catechin epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), and its cancer fighting and cardiovascular prevention properties, but until recently I have not seen any studies relating specifically to the anti-inflammatory

Tea leaves contain high amounts of polyphenols, particularly flavonoids. While both green and black tea contain these flavonoids, they differ in their chemical composition. Green tea contains high concentrations of catechins, or simple flavonoids. EGCG accounts for between 50 and 75% of the catechins in green tea. During the oxidation process used to make black tea the simple flavonoids are polymerized into theaflavins,  thearubigins and theabrownins. Recent studies have shown that EGCG and theaflavins are potent anti-inflammatory agents.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, infection or tissue injury caused by physical trauma, microbial agents or noxious chemicals.  Denaturation of the tissue proteins is one of the well-documented causes of inflammatory and arthritic diseases. A study published in the April-June 2012 issue of the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research  documents the inhibition of protein denaturation by both green and black tea. The effectiveness of green tea was twice that of black tea and both were dose dependent. In other studies green tea polyphenols, particularly EGCG, have also proven to be anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents for cardiovascular protection and potentially for ocular inflammatory conditions such as dry eye. Again, the effectiveness is dose dependent.

Getting back to my customer’s question about which green tea I would recommend that would have superior anti-inflammatory properties I would have to say the freshest, best quality whole leaf green tea you can find! Now I suppose the next big topic needs to be "So, what determines the quality of the tea?" Stay tuned! I'm working on that one.


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