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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 08:46, January 19, 2006
Herbal leaves stand for harmony between man and nature
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Everyone wants to start the New Year with healthy habits, but make sure you do not kick out the good ones with the bad when making your resolutions.

According to the United Kingdom Tea Council, an independent non-profit making body dedicated to promoting tea, 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK every day but few people realize that not only is tea an integral part of daily life, it's also good for you.

Great benefits

New research has shown health benefits from drinking four cups a day like fruit and vegetables, tea is a natural source of antioxidants which are known to be beneficial to heart health, and tea can also contribute towards your daily fluid intake.

There's nothing like a cup of tea to lift your spirits and help you through the long winter, and according to this research you can now enjoy four cuppas a day knowing you're also keeping on track to a healthier new you.

Contrary to the misunderstanding that tea is dehydrating, the drink has now been found to be re-hydrating. In fact, due to the volume of fluid that is drunk whilst enjoying a "cuppa," the British Dietetic Association advises that tea can contribute to the daily recommended intake of 1.5 to 2 litres.

Four cups of tea contain only moderate amounts of caffeine which, taken throughout the day, can aid concentration and therefore help performance.

Both green and black teas offer similar amounts of antioxidants, substantially greater than that of fruit and herbal teas.

Green tea is a nutritious drink full of vitamins. It contains a kind of hydroxybenzene, which can restrain cancer cell development and thus prevent or resist cancer.

Black tea is mild, which is good for reducing catarrh, digestion and arousing appetite. This is especially good for people with weak spleen and low appetite.

Oolong tea can control the body's absorption of dextrose and can help with weight loss.

Pu'er tea can prevent cardiovascular diseases and has long been internationally known as "Tea of Longevity."

Like fruit and vegetables, tea is completely natural. Tea leaves are simply picked and dried before being packed for sale. Nothing is added or taken away as all the flavour and goodness is already in the leaves and because they are dried there is no need for any preservatives.

Modern science has found over 450 chemical substances in tea, some of which are microelements capable of providing nutrients needed by the human body, some others can prevent or cure diseases.

A study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drank at least two cups of tea a day had a lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who did not drink tea.

More specifically, scientists observed a 46 per cent lower risk of ovarian cancer in women who drank two or more cups of tea per day compared with non-drinkers. Each additional cup of tea per day was associated with an 18 per cent lower risk of ovarian cancer.

The research was carried out at the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, The National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden and examined the association between tea consumption and the risk of ovarian cancer in 61,057 women, aged between 40 to 76.

The Tea Council welcomes this new research, and encourages further studies to be carried out to confirm these latest findings.

Today, tea is no longer confined to just a drink. The essence of tea can now be found in toothpaste, shampoo, and healthcare products like herbal ointments also contain tea.

Chinese view on tea

Since ancient times, the medical benefits of tea have been attractive to the Chinese, who regard tea as a practical herbal medicine.

Emperor Shen Nong (about 2700 BC), the acclaimed founder of herbal medicine, has also been credited with the introduction of tea (Camellia sinensis).

It is said that he once tasted 72 poisonous plants in a day and lay on the ground barely alive. Several leaves dropped from a tree beside him, giving off a fragrance.

Shen Nong, out of habit and curiosity, put the leaves in his mouth and chewed them. After a while, he felt well and energetic again. With more leaves, he cleared all the poison in his body.

This is just one of the many stories in which the Chinese attribute the discovery of tea to Shen Nong.

"Shen Nong's Materia Medica" (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing), compiled by people of the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC-AD 220) in the name of Shen Nong, says that "tea tastes bitter. Drinking it, one can think quicker, sleep less, move lighter and see clearer." This is the earliest known book laying down the medical functions of tea.

Li Shizhen (1518-93), a famous doctor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), wrote in his "Compendium of Materia Medica" (Ben Cao Gang Mu): "Tea is bitter and cold, the coldest of colds and most able to subdue human heat. Once the heat goes, the body goes right."

The present Chinese character for tea, which originated from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), has many interesting connotations. Its bottom is "wood" (mu); the top is a radical, meaning "grass" and between them is the character for "people" (ren). This suggests the harmony between human beings and nature.

Ancient people thought that tea trees are not regarded as high or low quality because of their types. The differences in quality come from their growing conditions. Regions with advantageous environments help produce rare types of tea. That is why it is said that "famous mountains give birth to famous tea."

Rock tea is from Mount Wuyi, Fujian Province; Maofeng tea from Huangshan of Anhui Province; Cloud-and-Fog tea from Lushan of Jiangxi Province; Maofeng tea from Emei of Sichuan Province; Maojian tea from Wuling of Hunan Province and Snow-Bud tea from Qicheng of Sichuan.

"Tea is a soothing, satisfying drink that, as well as being enjoyable, is also great for your health," said British nutritionist Cath MacDonald. "In the depths of winter we all need some extra comfort diet drinks, water and juice have their place but tea can hit the spot that cold drinks can't, and with these health benefits, it means you can keep an old habit that also fits in with the healthier new you for 2006."

Source: China Daily

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