White Tea: A Teapot Of Youth
A recent study out of England that looked at the healthful qualities in a number of plant and herbal extracts found that white tea came out on top. In fact, it has been suggested that white tea might even help slow down the outward effects of aging (i.e., wrinkles) by retarding the degenerative processes that affect the skin.
Interestingly, most, if not all, of the plants tested had beneficial qualities, but it was determined that white tea had particularly high anti-aging potential. The reason for this is because white tea helps to maintain the integrity of certain structural proteins in the skin, namely elastin and collagen. Elastin helps maintain the elasticity of our skin (as well as lungs and arteries), where it helps repair wounds and reduce sagging. Collagen is in the connective tissue and is important for skin strength and elasticity, as well.
White tea is able to do this because it contains compounds that are known to inhibit enzymes and oxidants that are associated with our body’s inflammatory response. Though they are normal processes, these inflammatory responses are also linked to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, as well as wrinkles. Interestingly, the levels of white tea used in the study were far below what a person would normally drink, surprising the researchers by how effective it actually was.
White tea comes from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) as green, oolong, and black tea, except that unlike oolong and black tea, it is neither oxidized nor cured. A specialty of the Fujan province in China, white tea contains buds and young tea leaves and is believe to be higher in caffeine content than green tea.
Previous research has found that white tea has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, and compared to green tea, is higher in caffeine and the amino acid theonine, both of which have mood enhancing qualities. And because it comes from fresh, unfermented and unbroken tea leaves (i.e., it is less processed), white tea is higher in catechins than other teas.
Catechins are antioxidants that are believed to help prevent stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart failure. Previous research in animal models has shown that they, too, have certain anti-ageing properties. They are also thought to help protect our DNA from oxidative stress and damage, and have antibiotic qualities, prompting some experts to call for its classification as a vitamin.
While more work needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be made, the news is exciting in that something as simple and natural as a cup of tea could have so many health benefits. So enjoy a cup in conjunction with a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.