Health benefits of drinking matcha tea include improved mental alertness and clarity, stronger immune defense, and detoxification. Polyphenols and catechin-rich matcha promotes relaxation and contributes beneficially to prevention and treatment of various medical conditions including bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. It 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. Matcha 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.
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 matcha 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 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, matcha 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 matcha picked up. Matcha is still scarcely grown accounting for just 0.6% of total tea yield.
After being prized in Japan for scores of years, recently matcha has been gaining recognition in other parts of the world attributing to its unique flavor and remarkable therapeutic qualities.
Matcha Tea Nutrition Facts
Matcha is a time-honored beverage which is a source of vitamin A, C, E, K, vitamin B-complex, and trace minerals. Matcha is rich in components with super antioxidant activity including polyphenols, catechins, and chlorophyll. Presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline in the matcha tea makes it a multi nutrient-packed drink.
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
The important health benefits of matcha tea have been listed below.
Matcha assists in the prevention of cancer due to the presence of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has chemopreventive properties. Multiple studies have shown that polyphenols present in matcha tea prevent the proliferation of malignant cancerous cells, promotes induction of apoptosis and assists in reducing the risk of developing various cancers including bladder, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.
Catechins present in matcha leads to a reduction in body fat. It also boosts metabolism which further leads to decrease in body fat mass.
Detoxifies the Body
Chlorophyll 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 tea works wonderfully well in providing a calming effect on the body. L-theanine, a unique amino acid present in matcha green tea, possesses anti-anxiolytic properties, which assists in boosting alpha waves in the brain. These alpha waves encourage relaxation, induce a profound feeling of mental clarity, and help achieve an alert state of mind.
Provides Mental Alertness
A study conducted on theanine suggests that theanine acts as a neurotransmitter which exerts a calming effect on the brain without causing any drowsiness. This soothing effect provided by matcha 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 matcha which assists in reducing the physiological and psychological stress responses by inhibiting the neuron excitation.
Strengthens Immune System
Matcha contains various antioxidants, polyphenols, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and L-theanine, which collectively contribute in boosting the immune defense of the body and helps provide protection against various antigens.
Matcha stores a wealth of natural antioxidants and polyphenols. A research study assessing the antioxidant power of matcha tea has revealed that as compared to other green teas matcha has the highest amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). These antioxidants seek out for the oxygen free radicals and neutralize their harmful effects, thereby protecting the body from the occurrence of disorders or inflammations associated with the oxidative stress.
Controls Type-2 Diabetes
Matcha tea may prove valuable for maintaining a healthy metabolism in diabetic individuals. Antioxidant-rich matcha tea aids in reducing the levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and hepatic glucose content in diabetic individuals.
Prevents Renal Damage
An investigative research conducted on diabetic subjects administered with matcha tea has shown that matcha exerts inhibitory action against the renal and hepatic damage by restraining the accumulation of advanced glycation end products in the kidneys.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) present in the match helps to keep cholesterol levels low, ultimately maintaining cardiovascular health. A research study has suggested that EGCG helps in reducing the accumulation of lipids and promotes autophagy in the vascular endothelial cells.
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 and maintains optimum hormonal levels.
Protects from Infections
Matcha tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is effective in fighting against various bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. An investigative research has suggested that EGCG binds to the lipid membrane and exerts inhibitory action against the growth of various human pathogens, including, 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 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 matcha stimulates the fecal excretion and helps the body to get rid of harmful chemicals and toxins.
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.
Apart from healthy gains, matcha is widely popular as an ingredient in a range of food items. Matcha is used to add flavor to a variety of confectionary items including chocolates, cakes, candies, cookies, and green tea ice-creams. Recently, a number of famous cafes have introduced matcha-based drinks such as smoothies, milkshakes, lattes, and alcoholic beverages.
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: it contains some amount of caffeine which may trigger allergic reactions in some susceptible individuals. Allergic 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 overconsumption of matcha.
- 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.
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!