Science of Matcha: Health Benefits

Science of Matcha: Health Benefits

Matcha is super green tea in the whole powder form, after shade-growing for 3 weeks and removal of stems. It is more effective for offering mental energy and antioxidant benefits than regular teas, and longer-lasting mental focus than coffee. Before we dive into science digest, make sure you drink only organic matcha to avoid potential harm from pesticide or synthetic fertilizers and differentiate matcha from regular green tea powder.

1. Zenergy - Calm Alertness without Jitter and Steady Mental Focus without Crash

What is amazing about matcha is its combination of theanine and caffeine which works as Yin and Yang for helping us gain mental focus and energy. Zen monks in Japan started drinking matcha daily 900 years ago, to enhance mental clarity and focus. A 2014 review in Nutrition Reviews analyzed data from 11 studies and showed that participants reported both the feeling of alertness and feeling of calmness after the intake of caffeine and theanine and performed more accurately in cognitive tasks of identifying or searching objects. That’s why so many people are switching to matcha as a healthier alternative to coffee. 

Theanine, also spelled as L-theanine, is an amino acid that helps induce alpha-frequency brain wave which is a state of wakeful calmness, as opposed to anxiety or drowsiness. Studies found theanine helped participants focus and fend off distraction (Nutritional Neuroscience) and contributed to longer attention span in difficult cognitive tasks (Brain Topography). Theanine works its effect in our body much more gradually across a longer span of hours. The amount of theanine is very small in most types of teas, except in matcha. The reason is matcha green tea plants are shaded from the sun for 3 weeks before harvest. During shading, the plant grows more theanine. The theanine-caffeine combo in matcha offers a unique effect of "Zenergy" - mental calmness and alertness at the same time without jitter or crash. 

Encha drinkers reported that after drinking on average 1.5 cups of Encha organic matcha a day for one week, they felt the onset of mental alertness in 11 minutes and the onset of mental calmness and clarity in 22 minutes on average. They experienced more effective mental energy gain compared to drinking other types of teas. They reported mental focus lasting for 5.5 hours on average, longer than from drinking coffee. No one experienced jitter or crash. The key is to avoid interference of coffee, which doesn’t contain theanine.

2. Super-Antioxidant Powerhouse - as a Daily Superdrink to Improve Metabolism and Skin and Boost Immunity

Drinking matcha is a lot more effective for the intake of its powerful antioxidant catechins because you ingest 100% of the dissolved matcha powder, unlike throwing away brewed leaves in the case of loose leaf infusion. Catechin amount in matcha is roughly equal of the amount released in 10 cups of brewed green tea leaves according to the infusion data from Japanese Ministry of Science.

Compared to green tea in tea bags, one study published in Journal of Chromatography shows matcha contains 137 times more EGCG catechin than a cup of brewed tea bag. Tea bags are made of tea dust or fannings, very low-quality tea leaf crumbs which have lost much of its antioxidants because left-over leaf crumbs have more surfaces and longer time for air exposure and hence oxidation. 

Catechins belong to the family of flavonoids. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and exist in many plants, including blueberries, cacao and grape seeds and skins. Among 500 foods and beverages listed in the USDA databasegreen tea leaves rank #1 in flavonoid content with its catechins, with cacao beans being the second. Catechins scavenge free radicals in our body. Free radicals oxidize and damage our body cells, as a main process causing aging and cancers.

Over 2000 scientific papers have studied the benefits of catechins. Below is my very brief summary. 

  • Cancer prevention: U.S. National Cancer Institute provides a good summary. Studies show strong evidence of reduced risks for breast cancer, ovary, prostate, colon, and lung cancers. 
  • Preventing heart diseases: A summary article in Current Medicinal Chemistry thoroughly reviewed epidemiological, clinical and experimental evidence. Green tea catechins exert vascular protective effects through multiple mechanisms, including antioxidative, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, anti-thrombogenic, and lipid lowering effects (lowering LDL). 
  • Stimulating metabolism and burning fat: Catechins, particularly EGCG, are found to stimulate metabolism and oxidate fat (see a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), and limit intestinal absorption of dietary fat (see a study in Journal of Nutrition Chemistry).
  • Skin protection: An article in SKINmed describes evidence of green tea catechins for fighting skin aging, reducing inflammation caused by UV radiation, and suppressing acnes. A recent study published in British Journal of Nutrition found after 12 weeks of intake of green tea catechins, human skin showed catechin metabolites and one form of reduced damage from UV radiation.

Now we know quite a bit about the wonderful health benefits of matcha and the importance of drinking only organic matcha. What about how it tastes and how to drink it? Let's delve into the natural variation of matcha and how Encha made the best selection of three grades to suit three healthy ways of enjoying organic matcha. 

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