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Organic Functional Ingredients:  Doubling Down on Health and Wellness
by Mark Crowell, CRC
Organic Processing, July-September 2007

An-TEA-oxidants:  Antioxidants can be found in everything from blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates to dark chocolate - but out of all the sources, one of the most well-known and researched is green tea.  Studies have linked a wide range of health benefits to green tea including lowering the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, as well as weight loss and protection against Alzheimer's.

One way to measure the strength of an antioxidant is by its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of ORAC value.  The ORAC value is a measure of the capacity of the product to subdue free radicals that damage cells.  Green tea has a very high ORAC value, outranking blueberries and more than two times as powerful as pomegranates.

Red rooibos and white Fujian teas also have comparable ORAC values to that of green tea, and Darjeeling Makaibari extract boasts almost two times the ORAC value of green tea according to data from Moore Ingredients.  Green tea, however, is the most popular because of its high consumer recognition and proven health benefits, according to Tony Moore, owner of Moore Ingredients.  He also added that because it is much easier to extract polyphenols, the antioxidant rich phytonutrient in green tea, suppliers are able to offer green tea at lower prices and maintain higher availability.

Canada Approves Labeling of Health Claims on Tea, May 2007

On May 29, 2007, Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) announced that tea is a natural health product and officially recognized it for its role in maintaining good health.  After extensive review, the NHPD approved three health claims for tea:

1.  All types of tea infusions (black, green and oolong) are recognized as a source of antioxidants for the maintenance of good health.
2.  Tea is approved for increasing alertness.
3.  Tea helps to maintain and/or support cardiovascular health.

Tea Plantations - The Best of India, One Cup at a Time
By Matt Gross
The New York Times, Sunday, December 10, 2006

The cool, fertile foothills of the Indian Himalayas grow some of the world's most prized teas.  The region is also one of the most inaccessible in the world - 7,000 feet above sea level, reachable by a slow, narrow-gauge train or flights into Bagdogra, a military airport.  But tea estates from Assam to Darjeeling are now converting British-built 19th-century bungalows into luxury lodgings, catering to a growing band of sophisticated palates seeking the perfect cup of tea.

A good time to visit is March, when the tea harvest begins.  This is the first flush, when the youngest, most fragrant tips are plucked by workers on plantations across the state of West Bengal.  Guests at Makaibari....the world's first certified biodynamic tea farm, can hike through rain forests in search of tigers and leopards, watch tea leaves being plucked from slopes as steep as 80 degrees, and sleep in a four-bedroom stone house.

And, of course, there are daily tastings of the farm's crop, proclaimed as the Champagne of teas (and nearly as pricey - the Silver Tips Reserve sells for around $158 a pound in the United States).

A Cuppa Cancer Prevention?
Green tea, brewed or extracted, may help you dodge the big C.
By Lisa James
Energy Times, May 2006

Has anything garnered more health-news headlines than tea lately?  It seems that every time you turn around a new study is published that links this venerable beverage to increased well-being.  Of course none of this is news to the Chinese, who have been singing tea’s praises – and using it to fight fatigue, strengthen memory and aid digestion – every since its discovery by the semi-mythical emperor Shen Nung.

As tea spread throughout Asia, other folks were quick to catch on.  “Tea has an extraordinary power to prolong life,” proclaimed Kitcha Yojoki, who introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan.  “Anywhere a person cultivates tea, long life will follow.”

Anti–Cancer Activity
Today’s scientists might be less poetic than tea’s ancient admirers.  But they are no less impressed by this fragrant beverage’s lengthy list of health-boosting compounds, including a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that may interfere with potentially harmful genetic changes.  Researchers at the University of Rochester (New York) Medical Center have found that EGCG binds to a protein called HSP90, jamming an important gene-damaging mechanism (Biochemistry 4/5/05).  Tea may also help stymie cancer development by interacting with toxin-neutralizing enzymes in the liver and by encouraging apoptosis, a process that causes cells to die when their useful life is over.

Studies of actual tea-drinking humans have had mixed results;  some show a cancer-preventive effect, others don’t.  The most promising research comes from China, where green tea is the beverage of choice.  Among more than 18,000 men, those who drank tea were half as likely to develop cancer of the stomach or esophagus (which leads from the mouth to the stomach) as non-imbibers (Carcinogenesis 9/02).

Americans have traditionally favored black tea, which has different chemical properties.  A 2005 American Institute for Cancer research survey showed that only 15% of the US population drinks green tea on any given day and less than 1% matches the per-person consumption seen in Asia (although green tea sales have climbed considerably in recent years).
Meanwhile, the good news continues to pour in.  In February, an investigation published in the journal Carcinogenesis found a 22% drop in breast cancer risk among women who quaffed five cups a day.  And in two preliminary studies, green tea extract, which provides tea compounds in an easy-to-take form, has been linked to reduced risk of cancer in men with precancerous prostate changes and has benefited people with leukemia.

Your Brain on Tea
In addition to supporting heart health, tea’s powerful phytonutrients have been found to beef up bones:  British researchers found that women aged 65 to 75 who drank at least a cup a day had higher bone densities in their hips and spines – common sites for osteoporotic bone loss – than women who didn’t take tea (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 4/00).  What’s more, early studies indicate that tea might help moderate the excessive immune response that causes disorders such as lupus.

The most intriguing research, however, involves the brain.  According to Japanese scientists, drinking more than two cups of green tea a day drop dementia risk among older people (AJCN 2/06).

So remember the ancient Chinese proverb:  “Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one”.  And if you don’t have time for a freshly brewed cup, green tea extract is the next best thing.