Tea's Benefits

December 5/London/Mail on Sunday -- It is the traditional British solution for soothing away worries, but now it seems a nice cup of tea may have health benefits beyond stress relief.

Researchers from Newcastle University found that a certain type of mint tea, Brazilian Hyptis crenata, could be as effective as aspirin in relieving pain.

Brazilian healers have been using the tea as medicine for centuries, but this is the first scientific proof of its healing properties -- albeit only in lab animals. Traditional tea also has proven medicinal properties. Its leaves, picked from the Camellia sinensis plant to produce black, green, or oolong tea, have a high concentration of flavonoids, which protect against heart disease, and polyphenols, which protect against cancer.

The antioxidant properties help build defences against skin cancer and other cancers, and lower cholesterol. Decaffeinated teas are marginally less effective owing to the processing to remove caffeine.

Green tea has strong anti-inflammatory properties; some studies have discovered that it can relieve arthritis pain. Japanese researchers have found oolong tea may help prevent tooth decay and relieve itching.

Simon Gibbons, professor of phytochemistry at the University of London School of Pharmacy, says, "You need to drink three cups a day to get the benefits. Let the tea steep for at least five minutes to allow the hot water to extract the plant material."

From the December 7, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition