Tea is the most frequently consumed beverage worldwide, besides water —and for good reason. In addition to the soothing calm that a nice cup of tea brings, drinking tea also provides a range of potential benefits, from improved cardiovascular health and brain function, to diabetes and cancer prevention.
Traditional Teas. The most common traditional teas—green, black, and oolong—all come from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Varying degrees of oxidation and fermentation give teas different color and flavor characteristics, as well as different levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants, known as catechins, are responsible for tea’s health benefits and are most abundant in green tea.
Cardiovascular health. Of all tea’s benefits, research most strongly supports its positive effects on cardiovascular health. Meta-analyses have found consuming green tea reduces risk of coronary artery disease by 28%, and three or more cups per day is associated with 13% decreased risk of stroke. Green tea may also help decrease cholesterol, blood pressure and atherosclerosis, as well as improve insulin sensitivity and vascular function.
Diabetes prevention. Tea appears to help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One analysis found individuals who drank three or more cups of tea daily had significantly lower risk of developing diabetes than those consuming no tea.
Cancer prevention. While tea appears to inhibit tumor growth in animals, human studies have provided mixed results. Additional research is needed in this area.
Neurological decline. Drinking tea may help your mind stay sharp and prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A considerable body of evidence suggests the more tea you drink, the less likely you are to experience cognitive impairment, decline, and disorders.
Herbal Teas. While not actually from the tea plant, herbal teas made from stems, leaves, bark, roots, seeds and flowers of other plants may offer their own health benefits:
- Chamomile—promotes relaxation, anti-inflammatory, helps lower cholesterol
- Cinnamon—lowers blood sugar
- Ginger—relieves nausea and vomiting
- Peppermint—aids digestion, relieves irritable bowel syndrome.
Risks. People have enjoyed drinking tea for thousands of years. However, consuming large amounts of concentrated extracts have led to several cases of liver toxicity and neurodegenerative disorders. Stick with brewed traditional or herbal teas to enjoy their benefits risk-free.
—Alyssa Northrop, MPH, RD