Tea is a wonderfully refreshing beverage. But can it really lift the mood? According to some research the answer is yes. In fact it appears that tea may not only lift our spirits but improve focus and perhaps ward off depression.
For centuries, people across the globe have testified to the relaxing and invigorating effects of tea. In fact the calming effects of Camellia sinensis have elevated it to more than a thirst quenching beverage; it is now consumed as an aid to meditation, to soothe the nerves or quite simply to relax. Until now these benefits were mainly anecdotal. However, scientists are now examining how tea effects mood and cognition.
Researchers have found that drinking tea lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Further evidence of long-term benefits are also emerging: drinking at least 100 millilitres of green tea may lower the risk of depression.
Scientists are attempting to identify the active compounds that give tea its mental health benefits and whether they work alone or in combination with other compounds present in the beverage. Tea antioxidants account for up to 42% of the dry weight of brewed green tea which is thought to aid people feeling calmer and improve memory and attention. A further 5% of green tea is caffeine which is known to improve mood, alertness and cognition.
Explorations into the effects on behaviour and mental health coma at a time of growing interest in the role of nutrition in mental health and preventative medicine. This is due to the growing burden aged related decline put upon the health system.
Stefan Borgwardt of the University of Basel is cautiously optimistic that the benefits of tea can aid clinically depressed patients stating that there is clear evidence of moderate improvements to mood through tea consumption. This optimism is confirmed by research in Korea were it was shown that 21% of people that habitually drink green tea are less likely to develop depression over a lifetime than non-drinkers.
In other studies, it appears that one compound of tea - L-theanine - improved memory and reaction time when consumed with caffeine. This has been described as "relaxed, capable state of mind." This relaxed state has been ascribed to L-theanine relaxing areas of the brain not required to perform tasks.
Another component of tea - epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) - also seems to contribute to the drink's mental health benefits. EGCG appears to increase brain activity bringing about "a relaxed, attentive state of mind". This achieved by the EGCG chemical aiding in improving the health of blood vessels and boost the supply of other nutrients enhancing cognitive function.
Currently, it appears that tea is a tremendously beneficial addition to an individual's diet. In fact, tea may also provide a more leisurely addition to the mood boosting effects of exercise. In other words, another reason to regularly enjoy delicious tea.