Green Tea: Friend or Foe?

WELLNESS--Green tea has been touted as a healing elixir for centuries. In China and Japan green tea is treated with almost the same respect wine is treated in other countries. One can spend hundreds of dollars a pound on the world’s most rare teas

Green tea is different from other teas because it does not go through the same processing as black tea and ooh long teas. Trained individuals pick the more exclusive teas by hand to avoid damaging the fragile leaves. After they have been harvested, some teas are then left in the sun to dry up before they are packaged and sold. Other teas are actually damaged on purpose after they have been picked. This process is called Disruption and it’s used to promote the darkening of the tealeaves. Depending on the conditions the tea is grown in and the way it is cared for and harvested; these processes all have an effect on the flavor and the cost of the tea. 

Green tea has it origins in China and has been harvested and drank in ceremony and for healing purposes for over 4000 years. How long a tea is steeped and in what type of container varies from tea to tea and generally speaking the more expensive and delicate a tea the less time it needs to be steeped. For serious tea enthusiasts, different types of tea also have different temperatures they need to be steeped in. Delicate teas need lower water temperatures while cheaper teas can handle boiling hot water during the preparation process. 

Green tea contains an important chemical compound called a polyphenol, which is a phytocemical. These phytochemicals are antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities that are helpful in eliminating free radicals from the body and possibly helping to avoid cancer from growing. One study in Japan showed that drinking green tea helped to stave off liver cancer. In another study, Chinese women who consumed green tea daily had a lower incidence of esophagus cancer. 

Not long ago there was some research that came out that mentioned that green tea might actually be harmful. We have all heard that expression that too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Most studies agree that green tea in the form of actual tea is harmless for the vast majority of people, and that it may be beneficial to drink up to 10 cups a day. The green tea extract capsules on the other hand are where there might be a problem. The reason is the polyphonols that are present in green tea are concentrated in the capsules and the levels are so high that someone with a compromised liver may have a hard time processing them. In fact, even those without liver issues may be harmed by too much green tea extract in pill form. 

A study done using green tea extract by the University of New Jersey in the March 2007 found that when healthy people took green tea extract supplements in too high a dose (from 700 to 2000 milligrams) seem to have a toxic effect on the liver. As soon as the participants ceased the mega dosing of the green tea extract, the liver enzymes returned to a healthy level. 


People with liver disease or taking medications that affect the liver may need to be more careful with green tea intake, and if you are not sure if the liver medication you are on could interact with green tea, ask your primary care provider. For the rest of the population, there is plenty of evidence that green tea does indeed have powerful healing qualities, and drinking tea in place of coffee is another way to make better choices for your health and well being. Keep in mind that green tea does contain caffeine and will give you the jitters just like coffee if you have gone beyond your limit. 

(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)