By Dr. Mary Jo Ruggieri

Steep it, boil it, use it as a cream. It prevents tumors from forming, reduces high cholesterol, helps digestion, inhibits the growth of prostate cancer, enhances the function of the immune system, and even promotes weight loss. It has thousands of years of use without any adverse effects and is one of the most researched substances in modern medical history! It comes from the camellia sinensis plant and its anti-carcinogenic effects come from the group of polyphenols called catechins.

If you haven’t a clue what “it” is by now, read on.

Long used in China as a medicine, this wonder drug called green tea has been a source of great health benefits for centuries.

The monk Eisai who founded Zen Buddhism in Japan in 1211 wrote a book on the wondrous benefits of drinking green tea. He believed that green tea was a miraculous medicine with extraordinary power to heal and prolong life.

Thousands of years later, medical research centers, including Ohio State University, have lined up their grants and research teams to study every possible aspect of the healing qualities of green tea. The major focus is how the “catechins” in green tea prevent cancer. Imagine cancer prevention in a tea cup!

In 1990, the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research reported that consumption of green tea lowered the risk of colon cancer. Other studies have clearly shown that two or more cups of green tea per day decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer by 60 percent. Laboratory studies reveal that the flavonoids of green tea (polyphenols or catechins) are primarily responsible for green tea’s antioxidant properties. Green tea’s antioxidant activity–more effective than the combination of vitamins C, E and beta carotene–is the key to all the cancer prevention data.

Nadine Taylor, in her book Green Tea, explained ways in which the catechins in green tea may prevent cancer:

  • Lowering the toxicity of certain carcinogens,reducing their cancer-causing potential
  • Interfering with the binding of cancer-causing substances to the DNA of healthy cells
  • Antioxidants protecting the body against free radical damage
  • Working with antioxidants and enzymes in the small intestine, liver and lungs to prevent tumors from starting or activating

The May issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine included an extensive research review on green tea. In this review, evidence was derived from data indicating that long-term consumption of green tea is without any adverse effects and may be associated with significant health benefits.

So it is time to toss out the habit of a daily vanilla caf latte and keep a pot of green tea brewing all day long. It may well be a wise investment to also change those curbside coffee carts to tea pot domes on wheels, serving fresh green tea daily. I’m sure Seattle will be the first to make this switch.

Because of its popularity, finding green tea is not a problem. Becoming a well-informed connoisseur of green tea is another story.

  • Higher quality teas preserve their polyphenols. Choose one that includes tea leaf tips or whole leaves. If the leaf fragments are broken, the quality of the tea declines.
  • Most high-quality Green Tea is yellow-green in color. Light green tea may have a more mellow taste.
  • Specific names for specialty teas are Hyson, Gunpowder and Dragonwell. Sencha is a common green tea from Japan. Using organic tea eliminates any pesticides and toxic qualities.

Brewing a good pot of green tea is an art and essential to the quality of the process.

  • Start with fresh, cold spring or bottled water and bring the water to a high boil.
  • Place one teaspoon of loose tea per cup of water, or one tea bag, in a warmed tea pot.
  • Pour the water over the leaves. Steep two to three minutes.
  • When using a tea ball, only fill it half way; the leaves will swell during steeping.

Don’t throw the used tea leaves away! Place the leaves around your plants, use as a mulch, for washing your face, as a disinfectant for minor cuts, soaking your feet or, in your spare time, make a mixture of green tea and organic cream for facials.

Go ahead substitute that Diet Coke or hazelnut coffee with a brew of green tea, hot or cold, sweeten with honey or maple syrup, add a little green tea cake and viola! You can start counting the added years to your life.As the monk Eisai often said, “Anywhere a person cultivates green tea, long life will follow.”