Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage worldwide, after water? While tea brewed in the traditional way is still a dietary staple in many parts of the world, an ever-increasing range of healthy teas in varied forms is now available. Many of these teas offer multiple health benefits.
In fact, tea has been widely used throughout history as a therapy for specific health conditions. It has also been credited with lowering the risk of disease, including cancer risk. And what do you know – recent scientific and clinical research supports some, if not all, of these very intriguing health claims!
Let’s look at three healthy teas scientific evidence indicates you should be drinking daily to lower your overall risk of getting cancer.
Green tea is a very popular beverage in Japan and parts of China. And did you know that green tea, white tea, Oolong tea, and black tea are all made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis? The reason these teas look and taste different is because they’re processed differently. For instance, green tea is made from fresh leaves which are steamed or heated immediately after harvest. Black tea receives more processing, making it the most oxidized of the three.
Green tea contains many naturally occurring “bioactive” compounds – in other words, natural compounds that act in specific ways on our body. Bioactive compounds in green tea include caffeine, tea polyphenols, and so-called “volatile” compounds that contribute to this tea’s familiar odor and taste.
Tea Polyphenols and Catechins are Antioxidants
Tea polyphenols are bioactive plant compounds that include catechins, which are believed to be responsible for many of the promising health benefits attributed to green tea. The most active and abundant catechin in green tea is known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Epigallocatechin (ECG) is another catechin. Both have high antioxidant activity – together they act to neutralize many harmful “free radicals” in our body.
A free radical is a highly reactive molecule that can damage important biological structures in your body’s cells, such as DNA and proteins. Like vitamin C and vitamin E, antioxidants such as EGCG and ECG limit the damage free radicals cause by chemically neutralizing them.
Anti-Cancer Activities of Green Tea
Laboratory studies have shown that green tea:
- Slows down or completely prevents growth of cancer cells
- Blocks formation of new blood vessels that cancers need to feed themselves with nutrients
- May protect the body’s cells against ultraviolet (UV) damage
- May boost the immune system
- Appears to trigger natural detox enzymes in our body that help to protect against cancer formation
Although many of these anti-cancer benefits are believed to be the result of the strong antioxidant activity (and other bioactive properties) of green tea polyphenols such as EGCG and ECG, the exact mechanisms by which green tea acts to prevent cancer have not yet been clearly identified.
While regular green tea consumption is recommended for lowering cancer risk, its effectiveness in people who are already suffering from various forms of cancer is unclear at present. However,because of its lack of toxicity and numerous anti-cancer properties, it is both acceptable and advisable to consume two to three cups of green tea daily. It would be reasonable to expect that a preventive therapy that can help to lower cancer risk might also help prevent the progression of the disease.
The lowly dandelion weed has been used for centuries as an alternative herbal remedy to treat infections, lower inflammation, increase bile flow and correct liver problems. It is also considered to be an effective mild laxative, along withimproving appetite and digestion.
Recently, very promising studies have shown that extracts of the dandelion flower, leaves, and root – all of which are used to make healthy teas – contain bioactive compounds with potential anti-cancer properties.
Anti-Cancer Properties of Dandelion Root Extract
In a very exciting result for both cancer therapists and patients, dandelion root extract was found to kill aggressive, treatment-resistant human pancreatic cancer cells without harming non-cancerous cells.
Another cancer that is highly resistant to treatment is chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML). Dandelion root extract was shown to selectively kill CMML cells, suggesting that dandelion root extract has great potential as an effective alternative to conventional CMML treatment with toxic anti-cancer drugs.
The lethal and fast-acting skin cancer melanoma is known to be resistant to immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The only known way to treat it is surgical removal after early detection. Promisingly, dandelion root extract has been shown to kill human melanoma cells, once again without harming non-cancerous cells.
It’s important to remember that these studies on dandelion root extract have all been carried out in isolated cancer cells in laboratory conditions. The only way to know how effective dandelion root extract can be against various forms of cancer is to test it in human clinical trials. There is currently one human clinical trial underway at the University of Windsor in Canada where a research team is testing a potent form of dandelion root extract on a group of 30 patients with end-stage, blood-related cancers.
Until more research results are available, health experts say that it’s perfectly fine to drink a cup or two of dandelion flower, leaf, or root tea daily as a preventive therapy, because of its near-complete lack of toxicity. However, if you’re currently being treated for a health condition, you should play it safe and consult your physician before adding these healthy teas to your daily diet.
Chaga Mushroom Tea
Did you know that up to 100 species of mushrooms are being studied for their health-promoting benefits? It seems that some mushrooms contain very potent immune-boosting bioactive compounds. For this reason, health experts believe that mushrooms may one day be useful in preventing, as well as treating, cancer.
For instance, the chaga mushroom has been used for many years in folk medicine in Siberia and other parts of Russia, Poland, and many Baltic countries. Chaga is used as a cleansing agent as well as to treat stomach diseases, worms, liver and heart conditions – and even cancer.
In recent years, this exotic mushroom – which grows almost exclusively on birch trees and is said to look like a large growth of burnt bark – has been studied closely because of its high nutritional and antioxidant levels. In fact, its popularity has grown to such an extent that you can now buy a healthy tea made from chaga mushrooms.
The Chaga Mushroom – An Anti-Cancer Superhero?
Chaga mushroom extracts have been shown to kill human lung, glial, and colon cancer cells in laboratory studies without harming normal non-cancerous cells.
Further, a bioactive compound obtained from chaga was shown to kill multiple types of colon cancer cells, strongly suggesting that it can be used as a supplement in colon cancer therapy.
While these initial results are very promising, clinical trials are still needed to verify chaga’s safety and effectiveness as a potential cancer treatment in humans.
Health experts warn that it is not advisable to drink chaga mushroom tea if you are using a blood thinning drug or if you’re on blood sugar-lowering medications. To be on the safe side, be sure to consult your physician before adding this particular healthy tea to your daily diet, especially if you already have a pre-existing health condition.