Green tea has been consumed for its health benefits and healing properties in China, Japan and India for centuries. It is made from the dried un-oxidised tea leaves – as opposed to black tea made from the oxidised leaves – of the Camellia sinensis tea bush. Since it is among the least processed types of tea, it contains much higher levels of anti-oxidants and beneficial polyphenols than common black tea.
This healthy beverage has been used in traditional Asian medicine for improving digestion, heart and mental health, as well as wound healing and body temperature regulation.
Recent clinical studies have found that green tea can have a preventative and therapeutic effect on a range of health conditions including heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, stroke, type 2 diabetes, skin disorders, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia and liver disorders.
Of note, are the findings of two recent studies into the effects of the use of green tea products on oral health.
In early 2015, researchers from Pennsylvania State University conducted a study into the effects of green tea on oral cancer cells.
The American researchers looked specifically at how both healthy and cancerous tissue reacted upon exposure to a green tea polyphenol compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). The researchers used concentrations of EGCG that are typical of levels found in saliva – after chewing gum containing green tea.
The results of the study showed that EGCG formed a reactive oxygen species in cancer cells leading to cell death.
The healthy tissue, on the other hand, was unharmed, unlike the effects of current anti-cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy which damages healthy cells. In fact, EGCG appeared to improve the protective function of healthy cells while killing cancer cells.
A second more recent study published in December 2016 by the University of Malaysia, studied the effects of an all natural green tea and miswak mouthwash on dental plaque accumulation over a six day trial period.
The subjects of the study were separated into three groups: the 1st group rinsed with the green tea formula, the 2nd had a placebo (distilled water), and the 3rd group used a formula containing chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is the gold standard active ingredient in mouthwashes designed for chemical plaque control.
The surprising results of the Malaysian study showed that the green tea mouthwash outperformed the other two mouthwashes.
Even more surprising was the finding that a chlorhexidine mouthwash wasn’t much better at plaque control than the placebo mouthwash.
Plaque index readings showed that the green tea mouthwash significantly reduced plaque accumulation. The researchers also noted that the green tea mouthwash prevented the formation of biofilm promoting organisms. These organisms are known as primary colonisers on teeth surfaces – without them, plaque cannot develop.
With centuries of medicinal use and mounting clinical evidence of its health benefits, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of including green tea in your diet, and as part of your oral health care.