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All About Tea

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When I was a young girl and I was ill, the first thing my mother would do is make me a warm cup of tea. I was young a long, long time ago, and tea was not as popular in the United States as it is now. So I imagine my mom gave me tea because her mom did it and grandma did it because her mom did it...not because of the numerous health benefits that tea has to offer. My mom didn't know that the camomile she was giving me would relax me and help me sleep, or that the peppermint tea she would make from the fresh leaves in our garden would soothe my tummy aches. All she knew is that it made me feel better.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas are actually not teas at all. They are called tisanes, a French word meaning herbal infusion. Herbal teas are made up of dried fruits, flowers and herbs, making them all natural. They contain no actual tealeaves at all. These teas are full of the health benefits. They are known for they calming and relaxing capabilities, as well being naturally caffeine free, making them safe for pregnant women and children.

Camomile (anthemis nobilis)

Camomile tea, the most famous herbal tea, dates back to 1550 BC, ancient Egypt. Egyptions highly prized camomile for its curative properties. Camomile looks like a daisy-like flower, with a sweet, apple-like scent. Camomile comes from the Greek word, meaning ground apple. All of these hundreds of years later, it is still the most popular herbal tea.

Black, Green & Oolong Teas

Black, Green, Oolong and White tea start from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The way the tealeaves are processed determines the type of tea it will become. Natural flavors are then added to the leaves to give them a divine, distinct flavor. Black tea is recognized for its hearty full-bodied flavor. Black tea goes through an oxidation process known as fermentation, where enzymes and juices of the broken leaves are exposed to air causing the leaves to turn from a vibrant green to nearly black. Green tea is not oxidized. Immediately after harvesting the plant the leaves are steamed or pan-fired to prevent oxidation allowing the leaves to keep their rich green color. Some green teas have a pungent grassy taste. Oolong teas are the result of a process half way between Green and Black tea. They tend to carry a delicate orchid-like fragrance.

White & Red Teas

White tea is the most rare tea and least processed. White tea has a light, delicate taste.

Red teas are fast gaining acclaim in the United States. Red tea comes from a shrub-like bush in Africa and is packed full of health benefits. The tea is rich in iron, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, sodium, fluoride and magnesium, as well as being loaded with antioxidants. This tea is also naturally caffeine free.

Research

One great thing about tea is that until you add sugar and cream, which is not always necessary with all the flavors we offer, tea is virtually calorie free! Drink all you want, guiltlessly. In fact, tea is a great way to get your daily intake of water and it is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants (or polyphenols) are compounds that can attack the body's naturally occurring cell-damaging free radicals.

Hundreds of polyphenols can be found in tea; 30% of dry tea weight is made up of polyphenols. What do these powerful polyphenols do for us? Professor of chemistry Joe A Vinson,Ph.D. at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania has been studying the effects of these polyphenols on blocked arteries. Blocked arteries occur over many years, caused by the build up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that oxidizes and clings to arterial walls. Blocked arteries can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke. Vinson's studies have shown that the polyphenols found in tea are extremely effective in blocking cholesterol from oxidizing and fouling blood vessels. Polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been found to neutralize up to five times as much LDL cholesterol as vitamins C and E, which have long been considered the most powerful antioxidants. A Dutch study found that men who drank four cups of black tea per day lowered their chance of dying from heart disease by almost 58%. Another Dutch study showed that men who drank more than five cups of black tea per day lowered their chance of stroke by 69% compared to those who drank less. The Dutch are so intelligent!

The Medical College of Ohio discovered that EGCG in tea may actually halt cancer progression. When injected into mice with bladder tumors, it blocked cancer cell growth in 64% of the mice. Gayle A. Orner, Ph.D. of Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute explains that "teas exert significant protective effects in experimental animal models of skin, lung, esophageal, gastric, hepatic, small intestinal, pancreatic, colon, bladder and mammary cancer."

Tea has most recently been shown to increase the effectiveness of tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer. Teas also show a decrease in women's risk of getting ovarian cancer, and men's risk of getting prostate cancer.

What About Teeth?

Drinking tea everyday will help keep the doctor away. I love my doctor, but don't want to see him more then once a year. What about your teeth? This is really cool stuff I am going to share with you now. Not only have I become quite the tea connoisseur, but I am also a practicing dentist, so I know this part really well. Send questions to me, if you want!

I have been practicing in the dental field since 1986. During this time, I have treated thousands of patients. I have noticed that culture and lifestyle affect people's teeth. Let's get one thing straight - people are born with great teeth. They are made of enamel that is the hardest substance in the body (with the exception of those patients who are born with a genetic defect of the teeth, which is rare). I can't tell you how many people tell me that they have bad teeth because they were born with them. Cavities are not hereditary.

In my many years of practice, I have encountered a number of patients from India. Many of these patients are well into their 30's before they see a dentist for the first time. For the most part, this particular group of my practice has shown to have extraordinary teeth. I spoke to the managing director of a Ceylon plantation in Sri Lanka to find out why, and his answer was simple: "we drink tea everyday."

To get a cavity, you need three things: a tooth, bacteria, and sugar. If one of those things is missing you won't get a cavity. Tea has natural fluoride in it. Fluoride strengthens enamel systemically and topically and makes teeth more resistant to decay causing bacteria. The polyphenols in tea also reduce the production of bacterial enzymes associated with bad breath by 30%. Tea also helps to inhibit cell synthesis of bacteria in the mouth.

The regular consumption of tea is thought to make your teeth 98% impervious to the effects of acid. I do, however, caution you from sweetening your tea too much with sugar since the sugar will still cause an increase in decay. There are so many great flavors now that many people don't need any sugar. Tea can stain your teeth but do not worry about this since your dentist or hygienist can easily remove the stain with a routine dental cleaning.

Are herbal teas beneficial even though they don't contain tealeaves? Absolutely. Herbal tisanes contain numerous natural vitamins and minerals. They are far better for children then juices loaded with sugar or cola beverages. Even diet soda puts you at risk for tooth decay because of its acid content. Herbal teas are great tasting, refreshing, immunity building, low calorie, and low sugar teas. They make great popsicles too!

My mom was right on target. There are so many health advantages of drinking tea, that it seems silly not to incorporate a cup of tea into your regular daily routine. Remember to brew your tea for a minimum of three minutes to extract as many polyphenols as possible.

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