There's much talk about the health effects of a good #matchamoment – but what relationship does tea have with our brains? Take a dive into Neuroscience with your cup of tea!
By Cheryl Miller, author at Earl Grey Thoughts
During the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, many of us figured that now was the perfect time to make lifestyle changes that improve our health and mental well-being. Sadly, many lifestyle changes are hard to form. As the pandemic persists, it is often easier to sit back, binge some Netflix, and let your brain atrophy. Fortunately, it is never too late to find simple steps to take towards a healthier, happier life. For the brain’s sake, I propose that the first step you should take is to make tea-drinking a part of your daily routine.
Neuroscientists are finding that a regular dose of tea may have several positive effects on the brain. These include enhanced attention and memory, reduced anxiety, and improved mood. Scientists are also finding that the properties of tea may play a significant role in lowering one’s risk of developing brain diseases that such as Alzheimer’s.
A 2017 review of 21 studies found that green tea has a significant impact on several aspects of cognition. Green tea contains high doses of amino acids, which are used to strengthen the brain’s pathways involved in memory storage and retrieval. Matcha, a traditional form of green tea composed of finely ground tea leaves and has been popular in China for dynasties. Research shows that drinking Matcha leads to improved attention-switching and working memory– the type of short-term memory used to focus on a current action.
Caffeine, a natural stimulant, can be found in coffee, soda, and energy drinks. In high concentrations, like that found in coffee, caffeine can have several side-effects including anxiety, headaches, and agitation. However, these effects are not strictly caused by the presence of caffeine, but of the dosage. One cup of black tea contains 47 mg per cup, verses 92 mg in each cup of coffee.
Additionally, tea is the only known beverage to contain a natural combination of caffeine and "L-theanine"—a compound that relaxes the mind without reducing drowsiness. Together, this magical mixture creates a very productive effect by both relaxing and energizing the mind so that one is calm, eager, focused, and alert, ready to concentrate on the task at hand.
Teas can have various other benefits, depending on their chemical makeup. For example, when mixed with caffeine, L-theanine can boost mood and productivity. However, when mixed with other chemicals, such as GABA, L-theanine can promote sleep and reduce stress. GABA is a molecule that acts as the main inhibiting neurotransmitter, meaning it slows down processes in the brain. When GABA is mixed with the natural L-Theanine, certain teas support better, deeper sleep by inhibiting the wakefulness signals in the brain to create a restful, soothing state of mind. As a result of this effect, neuroscientists have begun using these types of teas to treat insomnia and anxiety.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are both forms of debilitating brain diseases that affect memory. While scientists continue to search for cures to these diseases, they have discovered that drinking tea is associated with a lower risk of developing them, regardless of which kind you drink. One study followed roughly 1000 adults over the age of 65, 70% of whom were heavy tea-drinkers. After five years, neuroscientists found that the tea-drinkers’ risk factor for both Alzheimer’s and dementia was 50% lower, compared to the non-tea-drinkers. While it remains unclear how these protective, preventative properties of tea work, the relationship is evident.
In almost any grocery store, you will find an aisle lined with colorful boxes of various teas, each with health benefits according to their chemical makeup. There are herbal citrus teas with Meyer lemon and sweet orange to perk you up if the gloomy skies are getting you down. Earl Grey and lavender chamomile are helpful for relieving stress and anxiety. When it’s time to focus on a looming deadline, green tea with peppermint is especially useful.
The varieties of teas are endless, but the benefits for both body and mental well-being have been demonstrated repeatedly. Tea has the potential to help prevent Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and insomnia, and boosts energy, mood, attention, and memory. In the midst of a pandemic, our mental health is vulnerable to neglect. It is time we listen to science and begin brewing!
The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.
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