February 08, 2009

Taking a Break from a Stressed-Out World

Scientists the world over have confirmed that tea produces countless health-promoting effects. But most people don’t realize that the simple acts of making and drinking the brew may have their own beneficial effects. One Japanese study of more than 3,000 women over the age of 50 who regularly practiced the Japanese tea ceremony found that these women lived longer than those in a matched control group who didn’t perform the tea ceremony.¹ In a stressed-out world, it appears that the calming and relaxing ritual of boiling water, adding the leaves, inhaling the delicious aroma, and taking the time to sit down and slowly sip the tea may be almost as beneficial as the brew itself.

Of course, no one knows for sure whether it was the tea ceremony or the catechins, theanine or other health-promoting ingredients in green tea that relieved stress and prolonged the lives of the Japanese women in the study. What we do know is that stress is an invisible killer that contributes to cancer, heart disease, stroke and other deadly diseases. It unleashes a barrage of super-charged hormones like epinephrine, norepineprine and cortisol that increase blood pressure, release high levels of fat and sugar into the bloodstream, and break down muscle tissue. Eventually, stress can overwhelm the body’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to disease. So keeping these powerful hormones at moderate levels is crucial to maintaining good health.

To test the ability of tea (in this case, black tea) to do this, scientists measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 75 healthy nonsmoking men.² The men were divided into two groups and given either tea or a similar, non-tea drink for six weeks, after which they were subjected to stress-inducing tasks. They found that those who had consumed the tea produced lower levels of cortisol and were more relaxed overall than those who had consumed the non-tea drink. The researchers concluded that drinking black tea may be able to speed recovery from the daily stresses in life and bring stress hormone levels back to normal.

Tea break, anyone?

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