Cherish Your Chai
By Sabeen Faquir
This time of year, I really enjoy my chai lattes. But what is chai? Chai is the Hindi word for tea! Although Starbucks Chai Lattes are made from concentrate, you might enjoy a freshly brewed cup of tea when you’re feeling under the weather. I’m here to give you reason to drink it more often!
Now, it’s true that you can find many types of tea. Just go to Teavana and you’ll know how accurate that is. But, true tea comes from only one plant, Camellia sinensis. Most commonly, you’ll find three forms of tea made from this plant: white, green, and black. They are named for levels of oxidation achieved by the leaves before brewing. I want to talk to you about black tea. This is the tea most commonly drunk in the subcontinent of Asia.
What is tea oxidation? Think of it as a drying process. Some consider it a process of biological degradation. But, just like healthy oxidation is a necessary process balanced by the body, healthy oxidation of tea leaves releases different beneficial compounds of the leaves. The level of oxidation of tea marks its flavor and smell. Each tea (white, green, and black) has characteristic chemical compounds.
For instance, green tea is lauded for its EGCG component. EGCG or epigallocatechin-3-gallate has been known to have supportive effects when fighting different forms of cancer (Lecumberri et al). The characteristic chemical compounds of black tea are theaflavins and thearubigins. They contribute to the color of black tea. These unique flavonoids have a unique effect on arterial health. In a randomized controlled trial, it was found that drinking 3 cups of black tea a day for 6 months lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 points (Hodgson et al).
Also, black tea is associated with the lowering of high cholesterol levels. How? Essentially, it prevents your gut from taking up cholesterol in the first place (Vermeer et al). In fact, theaflavin-enriched green tea was found to have cholesterol-lowering effects, too (Maron et al). Thearubigins, the other beneficial constituent of black tea commonly studied, is another pigment. In 1969 it was identified as a polymeric proanthocyanidin (Brown, et al). It is characteristically red and also found in pine bark and grape skin, among other things. Thearubigins are strong antioxidants.
I’ve only discussed a few of the known benefits of black tea, here. Understand it is for more than just a rainy day. Consumption of black tea could benefit your vascular health, your cholesterol levels, and help annihilate oxidation. If you’re concerned about interactions with medication or underlying conditions, talk to your doctor. So, the next time you have a hankering for a warm drink this holiday season, reach for the tea!
Disclaimer: The content of this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease.
Elena Lecumberri, Yves Marc Dupertuis, Raymond Miralbell, Claude Pichard. Green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) as adjuvant in cancer therapy. Clinical Nutrition. December 2013Volume 32, Issue 6, Pages 894–903
Jonathan M. Hodgson, PhD; Ian B. Puddey, MD; Richard J. Woodman, PhD; Theo P. J. Mulder, PhD; Dagmar Fuchs, PhD; Kirsty Scott, BSc; Kevin D. Croft, PhD. Effects of Black Tea on Blood Pressure: A Randomized Controlled Trial. ARCH INTERN MED/ VOL 172 (NO. 2), JAN 23, 2012
Mario A. Vermeer*, Theo P. J. Mulder and Henri O. F. Molhuizen. Theaflavins from Black Tea, Especially Theaflavin-3-gallate, Reduce the Incorporation of Cholesterol into Mixed Micelles. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2008, 56 (24), pp 12031–12036
David J. Maron, MD; Guo Ping Lu, MD; Nai Sheng Cai, MD; Zong Gui Wu, MD; Yue Hua Li, MD; Hui Chen, MD; Jian Qiu Zhu, MD; Xue Juan Jin, MS; Bert C. Wouters, MA; Jian Zhao, PhD. Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of a Theaflavin-Enriched Green Tea Extract: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(12):1448-1453
A.G. Brown, W.B. Eyton, A. Holmes, W.D. Ollis. The identification of the thearubigins as polymeric proanthocyanidins. Phytochemistry. Volume 8, Issue 12, December 1969, Pages 2333-2340