TEA LEAF (Camellia sinensis)

Latin: Camellia sinensis
Sanskrit: Chai
Chinese: Hong cha

WHAT IT DOES: Tea leaf is bitter and astringent in taste, and stimulating in action.  There are two different types of this medicinal tea.  Black tea directly neutralizes external viral outbreaks, while green tea prevents cancer, strengthens immunity, stimulates the nerves and neutralizes bacterial, chemical and radiation poisons.

RATING: Gold (green tea), Silver (black tea)

SAFETY ISSUES: Excessive long-term internal use of black tea is not recommended due to astringency and caffeine content.

• Topical application of teabag: apply externally as directed below for lesions
• Tea: drink one to two cups per day for general protective benefits

Green tea and black tea both come from the same plant.  Black tea leaves are fermented, which elevates the tannin content, while green tea is steamed to preserve important medicinal constituents.  The caffeine, theobromine and theophylline found in tea leaves can help relax bronchial spasms, and may be used to treat asthma attacks in emergencies when no other medicine is available.

Herpes sores are very ugly and embarrassing, and getting rid of them quickly is a high priority.  According to a report in the journal New Scientist, external application of black teabags is a simple cure for viral infections like herpes.  It works better than the common treatment acyclovir, costs less, and has fewer side effects.  You can apply cooled liquid from brewed black teas such as Earl Grey to lesions, including cold sores, genital herpes and shingles.  Simply put a teabag in boiling water for a few minutes, cool it, and apply it to the skin for five minutes two or three times per day.  The tannins in the tea calm the lesions, dry them up more quickly, and keep them from recurring for longer periods of time than usual.  At the first warning tingle that typically precedes a herpes eruption, I tell patients to apply ice to the area for a few minutes, for as long as they can stand the cold.  Then they use the teabag cure for about three days.  I capitalize on the success of this simple symptomatic treatment to get patients to trust me so they will work seriously with me to treat the real cause of the breakouts–usually an underlying problem of weakened immunity.  Fast symptomatic cures are an important part of herbalism.

By far the greatest attention has been given to the anti-cancer effects of green tea. As little a one cup per day can provide clear benefits for a growing variety of health conditions.

Black tea is also a very good home treatment for haemochromatosis. Studies show that drinking black tea with meals inhibits iron absorption by one third and thus reduces the need for phlebotomy.

Research Highlights

• In a study of rats with chemically induced gastric ulcers, hot water extract of black tea significantly reduced gastric lining erosion (ulcer formation).  The results suggested that the tea helped preserve the cellular antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (Maity et al., 1998).

• Both green and black teas show the ability to prevent various kinds of bacterial infections (Chosa et al., 1992), and in one study, green tea inhibited the growth of various bacteria species that cause diarrhea (Toda et al., 1989).

• Promising experimental results on green tea continue to accumulate.  Researchers have identified a wide variety of benefits, including the existence of a polyphenol (epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG) that encourages cancer cells to kill themselves (apoptosis).  There are approximately 200 mg of this compound in a single cup of tea (Hirose et al., 1994, Wang et al., 1994).

• According to one study, tong-term administration of EGCG to mice via their drinking water significantly prolonged their life span after lethal whole-body X-irradiation (Uchid et al., 1992).

• Another group of researchers concluded, “the main constituent of Japanese green tea, EGCG, is a practical cancer chemopreventive agent available in everyday life” (Fujiki et al., 1992).

• Green tea extract (EGCG and caffeine) is known to stimulate thermogenesis, the natural heat production process in the body that aids weight loss.  In a recent double blind study, subjects experienced an increase in daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation, concurrent with increases in the concentration of the extract (Dulloo et al., 1999).

• Clinical studies indicate that increased consumption of green tea lowers cholesterol levels, even when subject rankings are adjusted based on smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, and body mass index (Kono et al., 1992).  One warning – use of milk with tea negates the cardiovascular benefits.

• Green tea has also been shown to prevent the formation of dental caries in animals by inhibiting the attachment of bacteria to teeth (Otake et al., 1991).