( Camellia sinensis )
The tea family includes some
thirty genera and 500 species indigenous to warm tropical regions throughout
the world. This particular variety is considered the most significant
commercial species of tea and is widely used in China.
Catechins ( epogallocatechin ),
gallate, polyphenols, tannins, triterpene saponins, acids, sterols, beta-amyrin,
Traditional rain forest use
Several relatives of green tea
are used by cultures native to tropical regions of South America. Used for
millennia, green tea is rich in bioflavonoids and has a high content of
polyphenols. The Taiwanos boil the flowers of the Bonnetia variety for chest
pains and to reduce leg swelling. The Kubeos have used Neotatea varieties of
tea to render them with ritualistic powers and they often pulverize the
plant flowers to use as snuff.
Modern medicinal applications
Green tea is typically used today
as an antioxidant, for digestive upsets, and to relieve respiratory
Recent studies of green tea
extract have found that one of its primary compounds can inhibit the
influenza virus and can also block the action of various carcinogenic
substances such as ultraviolet light. It has also been found to protect the
cardiovascular system from high cholesterol intake and to lower blood
pressure in laboratory animals. Pathogenic bacteria which causes food
poisoning has also been inhibited by green tea, a fact which may explain its
traditional use for digestive ailments. Green tea also has the unique
ability to increase the production of friendly bacteria in the bowel and to
block the action of mouth bacteria linked to the development of cavities. It
is also thought to reduce the development of stomach cancer.
No adverse effects have been
found to date and green tea is considered nontoxic. However, anyone who has
an irregular heartbeat, is pregnant or nursing or suffers from gastric
ulcers should avoid this herb.