When it comes to tea, the more pure the leaf in your brew, the better the health benefits—and green tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves, which do not go through an oxidation process, have the richest nutrient profile among all varieties of tea. Research shows that people who drink four or more cups of green tea each day have a lower overall risk of cancer and women who frequently drink green tea have a lower overall risk (or “lower overall incidence”) for breast cancer.
The powerful micronutrients in green tea are called polyphenols. One type of polyphenol is EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which shows promise in protecting cells from cancer. Lab tests and animal studies have shown EGCG is able to inhibit an enzyme that is necessary for cancer cell growth.
EGCG also has been successful as a complementary approach in cancer treatment. For example, topical EGCG provides relief from radiation-induced dermatitis experienced by women in treatment for breast cancer. (Always consult with your physician before applying any ointment to your skin before or after a radiation treatment).
While promising, it’s important to note that scientists are still investigating the precise mechanisms through which polyphenols such as EGCG exert their effects in the body. One such mechanism is that these compounds are powerful antioxidants that gobble up cellular debris known as free radicals. This scavenging action helps protect cells from damage that could, over time, lead to the development of cancer.
While green tea overall is well regarded among health practitioners, scientists are still pursuing clinical trials to determine if green tea consumption, as well as a dietary supplement of EGCG, may play a role in the prevention and treatment of different cancers.
When selecting tea, be aware that the quality of tea and its nutrient content is degraded by processing. To reap the benefits of tea for wellbeing, use pure, loose leaf tea for hot or iced beverages. Choose organic teas whenever possible. Before taking an EGCG supplement, consult with a physician to ensure the product is pure and contains the appropriate potency for your health concerns.