In holistic medicine, green tea and green powder extract have been used as safe and efficient well-being and restoration techniques for millennia. In this realm, the evidence confirms that Matcha green tea is the best. In this blog-article, i will first highlight the originality of this plant (Section A). Once that is done, I’ll briefly talk about its cultivation, (Section B) and follow-up with an analysis of its mechanisms of action and health benefits. (Section C).
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha (抹茶?, pronounced [mat.tɕa]) is less an infusion tea than a finely ground powder that one can insert in a smoothie, culinary sauce or hot water. Of all of the green teas on the market, Matcha appears to be the best. Confirming this claim, one of its key polyphenolic catechins, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has recently been shown via chromatography to be one hundred times more bioavailable than China Green Tips tea and at least three times more potent than other green teas. These results are significant given the safety, cost friendliness and efficiency of this powerful multi-biological pathway nutrient.
“Using a mg catechin/g of dry leaf comparison, results indicate that the concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) available from drinking matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from China Green Tips green tea, and at least three times higher than the largest literature value for other green teas.” (1)
Top picture: Matcha tea powder extract, licensed under Matcha tea CC3.
Cultivation & Production
In the same way that certain wines have a greater therapeutic bang thanks to diligent and labor-intensive viticulure and vinification, in a similar way, Matcha green does too.
Matcha’s production is characterized by a dual-processed farming and processing procedure. First off, the Matcha green tea plants are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest, just like with gyokuro. (2) Thereafter, contrarily with other teas, the stems and veins are delicately removed and the leaves stone grounded, at which point the magic of Matcha is. (3)
Benefits & Mechanisms
Thanks to matcha’s abundant l-theanine, a natural constituent in tea that is even more concentrated in matcha, there is a significant increased activity in the brain’s alpha frequency band, (4) which indicates that the mind is relaxed and aware, without drowsiness. This conclusion is empirically supported by multiple studies.
“Participants were resting with their eyes closed during EEG recording. There was a greater increase in alpha activity across time in the L-theanine condition (relative to placebo (p+0.05). A second study replicated this effect in participants engaged in passive activity. These data indicate that L-theanine, at realistic dietary levels, has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or arousal”. (5)
Furthermore, when the L-theanine rich matcha green tea is combined to caffeine, there is an enhancement of attention without caffeine’s crash.
“The L-theanine and caffeine combination improved both speed and accuracy of performance of the attention-switching task at 60 min, and reduced susceptibility to distracting information in the memory task at both 60 min and 90 min. These results replicate previous evidence which suggests that L-theanine and caffeine in combination are beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks.” (6)
In addition, there is a dose-response relationship confirmed in several epidemiological studies that show pronounced cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits thanks to the regular consumption of 5-6 or more cups of green tea per day, which means way less with matcha. (7)
Likewise with the increase of thermogenesis and fat oxidation, thanks to which obese people can lose weight.
“These findings suggest that EGCG alone has the potential to increase fat oxidation in men and may thereby contribute to the anti-obesity effects of green tea” (8).
Matcha is also useful for cancer control given its high EGCG levels, including, but not limited to its mitigating effect with regard to radiotherapy’s ionizing damage, for both breast and prostate cancer tissue. To this end, EGCG was shown to suppress:
“… cell proliferation and invasion; (2) arrest of cell cycles at the G0/G1 phase; (3) reduction of activation of MMP9/MMP2, expressions of Bcl-2/Bax, c-Met receptor, NF-κB, and the phosphorylation of Akt. MDA-MB-231 cells exposed to 5-10 µM EGCG also showed significant augmentation of the apoptosis inducing effects of γ-radiation, concomitant with reduced NF-κB protein level and AKT phosphorylation. These results provide hitherto unreported evidence that EGCG potentiated efficacy of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, and raise the possibility that this tea polyphenol has potential to be a therapeutic adjuvant against human metastatic breast cancer. (9)
EGCG-rich matcha also has a favorable influence on prostate cancer, in particular on the PSA, HGF and VEFT pathways.
“Our results show a significant reduction in serum levels of PSA, HGF, and VEGF in men with prostate cancer after brief treatment with EGCG (Polyphenon E), with no elevation of liver enzymes. These findings support a potential role for Polyphenon E in the treatment or prevention of prostate cancer.” (10)
As we have seen, the health benefits associated with green tea consumption in general and matcha in particular have been corroborated in many studies showing a favorable impact on mind clarity, chemoprevention, cancer control, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders.
Another comparative benefit of matcha over other green teas is that its active antioxydant-rich polyphenolic catechins, particularly epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the most active catechins are much more concentrated, thanks to which its bio-availablity is much better. In addition, matcha has a much better nutrient profile, loaded with amino acides, chlorophyll, minerals and vitamins, in particular, A, B-complex, C, E, and K). One cup of matcha usually contains the benefits of 10 cups of green tea and thanks to its powder form, it can be blended in vegan omega-rich smoothies, thanks to which its bio-availability is enhanced.
However, because matcha’s production is quite labor intensive, (It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha leaves), (11) Matcha green tea tends to be expensive. But it is well worth it. And one does not need to consume as much matcha powder as green tea infusions in order to benefit from this plant’s benefits. The flavour of high-grade matcha (dominated by its amino acids, in particular L theanine) is analagous to some of the best wine bouquets while its soothing and health benefits help to activate many biochemical pathways.
Christian Joubert CSO & HMI director
REFERENCE AND COMMENT FOOT-NOTES
(1). Journal of Chromatography A Volume 1011, Issues 1–2, 5 September 2003, Pages 173–180 (Source)
(2). The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest and can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids, in particular theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked.
(3). After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. However, if the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha (碾茶). Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, fine powder. This is matcha green tea. known as matcha. For the details regarding this “mise en préparation”, see this Source.
(4). Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that the amino acid L theanine has a direct effect on the brain (Juneja et al. Trends in Food Science & Tech 1999;10;199-204)
(5). Nobre AC1, Rao A, Owen GN., L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.
(6). Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA., The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8.
(7) Wolfram S. Effects of green tea and EGCG on cardiovascular and metabolic health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):373S-388S.
(8). Boschmann M1, Thielecke F. , The effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate on thermogenesis and fat oxidation in obese men: a pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):389S-395S.
(9). Zhang G1, Wang Y, Zhang Y, Wan X, Li J, Liu K, Wang F, Liu K, Liu Q, Yang C, Yu P, Huang Y, Wang S, Jiang P, Qu Z, Luan J, Duan H, Zhang L, Hou A, Jin S, Hsieh TC, Wu E., Anti-cancer activities of tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate in breast cancer patients under radiotherapy. Curr Mol Med. 2012 Feb;12(2):163-76.
(10). McLarty J1, Bigelow RL, Smith M, Elmajian D, Ankem M, Cardelli JA. , Tea polyphenols decrease serum levels of prostate-specific antigen, hepatocyte growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor in prostate cancer patients and inhibit production of hepatocyte growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor in vitro., Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Jul;2(7):673-82.
(11). Han Wei, “Tang Dynasty Tea Utensils and Tea Culture: Recent Discoveries at Famen Temple,” in Chanoyu Quarterly no. 74 (1993). Tsutsui Hiroichi, “Tea-drinking Customs in Japan,” paper in Seminar Papers: The 4th International Tea Culture Festival. Korean Tea Culture Association, 1996.
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Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational blog should be construed as medical advise.