The rich antioxidants present in matcha tea help in cancer prevention, improved mental alertness and clarity, detoxification, free radical scavenging activity, and stronger immune defense. Polyphenols and catechin-rich matcha promotes relaxation and contributes beneficially to prevention and treatment of various medical conditions. These include bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. Matcha tea also assists in maintaining cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal health, and works as a superb energy booster.
What is Matcha?
Matcha or maccha is a finely ground, bright emerald-green tea powder with the scientific name Camellia sinensis. It is prepared from a high-quality shade-grown leaf known as tencha. The tea bushes are sheltered to avoid the exposure of direct sunlight which reduces the pace of photosynthesis and slows down the growth of plants. This provides the leaves with a darker shade of green and stimulates the production of chlorophyll and amino acids.
Matcha is a time-honored beverage which is a source of essential nutrients.
- It is rich in vitamin A, C, E, K, and vitamin B-complex
- Matcha tea contains trace minerals including selenium, chromium, zinc, and magnesium.
- It is rich in components with super antioxidant activity including polyphenols, catechins, and chlorophyll.
- Matcha tea contains a high level of dietary fiber.
- Presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline in the matcha tea makes it a multi nutrient-packed drink.
- This green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regular green tea.
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
The important health benefits of matcha tea have been listed below.
Matcha tea works wonderfully well in providing a calming effect on the body. L-theanine, a unique amino acid present in this green tea, possesses anti-anxiolytic properties, which assists in boosting alpha waves in the brain. These alpha waves enhance mood, encourage relaxation, induce a profound feeling of mental clarity, and help achieve an alert state of mind.
Rich Source of Antioxidants
Matcha tea has antioxidants such as catechins – EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which detoxifies the body. A research study assessing the antioxidant power of this tea has revealed that as compared to other green teas matcha has the highest amount of EGCG. These antioxidants seek out for the oxygen free radicals and neutralize their harmful effects. Thus, protecting the body from the occurrence of disorders or inflammations associated with the oxidative stress.
Detoxifies the Body
Chlorophyll present in matcha is an excellent detoxifier which helps in cleansing the blood. It aids in maintaining the alkalinity of blood and tissues. Chlorophyll also helps in preventing the association of harmful toxins with colon walls and flushes them out of the body.
Matcha helps prevent cancer due to the presence of EGCG which has chemopreventive properties. Multiple studies have shown that polyphenols present in this tea prevent the proliferation of malignant cancerous cells, and promotes induction of apoptosis. It also assists in reducing the risk of developing various cancers including bladder, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.
Matcha contains a healthy form of caffeine; not to be mistaken with the one present in regular coffee. This unique form of caffeine known as theophylline sustains the energy levels without any adverse effects. The slow release of energy due to theophylline helps in supporting the functionality of adrenal glands. It also maintains optimum hormonal levels.
Prevents Eye Disorder
Consumption of matcha leads to absorption of catechin in the tissues of the eye, which helps prevent blindness caused by cataracts. It also boosts vision and prevents eye disorders such as glaucoma.
A study suggests that theanine found in matcha tea acts as a neurotransmitter. It exerts a calming effect on the brain without causing any drowsiness. This soothing effect helped the Buddhist monks in maintaining deep concentration during their meditation sessions and was the main reason behind its popularity. Another study has revealed the anti-stress effects of theanine present in this tea, which assists in reducing the physiological and psychological stress responses by inhibiting the neuron excitation. Matcha tea is also believed to boost memory and concentration.
Protects from Infections
Matcha tea rich in EGCG helps fight various bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. According to a research study, EGCG binds to the lipid membrane and exerts inhibitory action against the growth of various human pathogens. These include influenza A virus, hepatitis B, and C virus, herpes virus, adenovirus Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and Candida albicans yeast.
Protects against HIV
Epigallocatechin present in matcha also helps in protecting the brain of HIV patients. This defensive act attributes to its penetration power through the blood-brain barriers, which are not feasible for the commercially available anti-retroviral drugs.
Improves Gastrointestinal Function
Matcha tea is useful for treating gastrointestinal disorders. A research study conducted in this field has revealed that consumption of this tea stimulates the fecal excretion. It also helps the body to get rid of harmful chemicals and toxins.
Prevents Renal Damage
A research conducted on diabetic subjects administered with matcha tea suggests that it helps prevent renal and hepatic damage. It does this by restraining the accumulation of advanced glycation end products in the kidneys. Green tea extracts also help to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Controls Type-2 Diabetes
Matcha tea is beneficial for those suffering from type-2 diabetes. It helps in maintaining a healthy metabolism by lowering blood sugar levels. This antioxidant-rich tea also aids in reducing the levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and hepatic glucose content in diabetic individuals.
Strengthens Immune System
Matcha contains various antioxidants, polyphenols, epigallocatechin gallate, and L-theanine. All of these collectively contribute towards boosting the immune system and protecting against various antigens.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
EGCG present in the matcha helps to lower the cholesterol levels thereby maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. A research study has suggested that EGCG also helps in reducing the accumulation of lipids and promotes autophagy in the vascular endothelial cells.
Matcha is a healthy green tea with multi-dimensional benefits, but it is better not to consume it in excess because of the following:
- Caffeine content: Matcha tea contains some amount of caffeine which may trigger allergic reactions. These reactions may include diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Caffeine can also cause drug interactions basis the amount consumed. If you are new to matcha and are unaware of its sensitivities, then it is always advisable to ensure natural vigilance while trying it for the first time.
- Lead: Matcha plant can absorb lead from the soil. Even organic matcha may contain some amount of lead. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid excess intake of this tea.
- During Pregnancy and Lactation: Prior to considering matcha tea for therapeutic purposes, an expert medical opinion would always help to better understand its effects especially during special conditions such as pregnancy and lactation.
Apart from healthy gains, matcha is widely popular as an ingredient in a range of food items. It is used to add flavor to a variety of confectionary items and drinks like:
- Green tea ice-creams
- Alcoholic beverages
How Is Matcha Harvested?
- Harvesting of matcha is done by hand to ensure selection of youngest and smallest leaves for the finest quality tea.
- Unlike other green teas, leaves used for this tea are briefly steamed to protect them from oxidation and preserve its flavor and nutritional content.
- This is followed by ultra-fine milling of the tencha leaves by using granite stone mills resulting in a beautiful green powder which is the raw material for this tea.
History Of Matcha Tea
It is a natural, organic green tea which has been the heart of the famous Japanese tea ceremony for over 900 years. The Buddhist monks honored matcha tea as the ‘health elixir’ for its potential to heighten the concentration and enhance metabolism. Originating in China in the 9th century, this was used as a drug for curing various ailments. However, its word somehow got elapsed in China. It was only after the Zen Buddhist monks from Japan realized its true potential at the end of the twelfth century, the perfection in the cultivation of these leaves picked up. Matcha is still scarcely grown accounting for just 0.6% of total tea yield.
According to a popular adage, there is special etiquette which is followed in Japan while drinking this tea .i.e. ‘if you drink matcha with your back straight, the pleasure of the experience would double’. So, sit straight and sip it right!