Black Tea Health Benefits
The most well known type of tea in the western world is black tea. While the health benefits of green tea have been very well publicized by both medical sources and commercial interests, black tea seems to have been forgotten. This is unfortunate as it turns out that black tea is an effective aid to the body's ability to resist disorders separately from lighter types of teas.
While green tea is a recent commercial success in the west, black tea has been part of the table setting for hundreds of years in Europe and then the Americas. This history ties to the longer processing time that results in a product that travels well and stores beautifully for merchants and explorers. Pressed blocks of black tea would make the extensive trip from China and India to all points of the world. This created a familiarity with the deeply colored beverage that made it part of the pantry rather than the medicine chest.
Because of the perception of a distinct difference between medicine and food in the west, black tea was not considered “healthy” like it was in Asian countries. The mid 20th century was a point in time when statistical studies began to show a marked difference in the occurrence and severity of multiple diseases between eastern and western populations. Not only were people active longer in Asian populations, but their elderly were seemingly more aware and less prone to disorders that degraded their mental faculties. Cancers were less prevalent as where coronary problems. When all other factors were studied, including environmental and genetic, the lifestyle differences were looked at, relieving that even in populations where smoking was at a higher rate, people were still generally living longer and healthier. The final thing studied was diet.
Food has long been seen in the orient as a type of medicine. Healers strived to create a balance of types of ingredients for the body. But this did not explain the resistance to cancer and the markedly lower rates of heart disease. The variations in diet were so great from place to place that there was only one common factor. Drinking tea seemed to be such a subtle thing that western scientists were almost dismissive of suggestions that there was something about tea that contributed to improved health. The familiarity of tea hid its secrets in plain sight.
When tea was finally examined, it turned out to have high levels of antioxidants. These chemicals occur in many foods, including grapes. Interestingly, for decades the puzzle of why the French diet that was rich in rich sauces did not increase the number of heart attacks was called “the French Paradox”. Like Asian diets, the French unknowingly included antioxidants in their diet. The difference is that the French used wine as much as Asian diets used tea!
The exact type of antioxidant compounds in tea would vary according to how long the leaves would be allowed to oxidize prior to a final drying and packaging. The kinds found in higher concentration in black tea are being studied because they are slightly easier to absorb into the body. A study conducted by the Boston School of Medicine shows that there is an improvement in the functioning of blood vessels in as soon as two hours after drinking a cup. Between studies conducted in the Netherlands, America and multiple other countries, black tea has also been shown to be key in the reduction of swelling of joints caused by some types of arthritis.
Research conducted at Pace University indicates that black tea fights mouth viruses and prevent diarrhea. Similarly Rutgers University has been looking at tea as a possible prostrate cancer deterrent. Men can decrease the chance of having heart disease by as much as half just by enjoying three cups of black tea daily. What are you waiting for? While research needs to continue, the future for black tea looks very promising indeed.
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