Since the dawn of civilization there have been countless quests for the fountains of youth. Yes, I meant to pluralize fountains since many ancient societies have their own version. Though it would be wonderful to believe there is such a spring, river, grail, and elixir , unfortunately, (to the best of my knowledge at least), there is no such magic. But what if there is something we can drink that may help us age successfully? Seeing as how this is a tea blog, I am sure you have already guessed what I am going to say — what about tea?

Aging successfully, in part, is the concept that although we cannot stop the sands of time and its subsequent affects, what we can be is proactive and have determination in how we will age – I believe tea may be a meager but wonderful contribution to this process.

The ancient Chinese first used tea for medicinal purposes. Although its direct scientific health relation was not known, what was known was that tea simply made a person feel better . Not truly understanding why simply drinking tea could reenergize a person or lift the spirts were enough to exalt tea to a near mythical status. In fact, much of Chinese tea folklore revolve around tea’s restorative and curative properties.

shenThe legend of Da hong Pao “Big Red Robe” is possibly the most famous. The legend goes that Shen, a servant of the court was near death while on a quest for the emperor. The sickened Shen was given a tea made from 6 tea bushes located on the side of a cliff by the monks who had cared for him. Almost miraculously, after drinking this tea, Shen regained his strength and was able to return to his emperor. Two years passed and the emperor also eventually become gravely ill. Fortunately, Shen was given a small tin which contained the same tea which had cured him by the same monks who had cared for him – he brewed it for his dying emperor and it saved his life. The emperor was so grateful that he wanted to thank the WuYi monks personally and he provided the monks of the monastery a symbol of his gratitude – red robes made of the finest materials.

Of course this is just a legend and its accuracy is really not known, yet it is indeed an example of how heavily regarded tea is in Chinese medicinal lore.

*Disclaimer – although I personally believe in the health benefits of tea, the following statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and therefore any claims should be approached with this in mind.

Prevention of Heart Disease — Studies have shown that regular tea consumption can actually lower cholesterol levels circulating in the blood. In fact, some studies have shown tea to reduce total cholesterol by as much as 6.5% and LDL cholesterol by as much as 11%. A reduction in cholesterol prevents atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries that carry blood become narrowed due to a buildup of plaque. The plaque that builds up in our arteries is created when LDL cholesterol oxidizes.

Tea for the Prevention of Cancer — Tea has been shown to reduce the risks of several forms of cancer. In fact, tea has been shown to reduce lung tumors in laboratory mice. Studies have shown that tea contains a molecule called Epigallocatechin-Gallet (EGCG). EGCG is important to cancer research in that studies have demonstrated that EGCG is known to neutralize Bcl-xl or the anti-death gene -the gene responsible for cancer proliferation. Although tea and cancer research is in its infancy, the findings are promising.

Oral Health — According to some researchers, drinking tea can help prevent tooth decay and bad breath. Some studies suggests chemicals in tea can destroy bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, dental caries and other dental conditions. Additionally, some teas contain fluoride which further protects from tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.

cup of tea

As you can see, tea may indeed be the life giving elixir that many have spent their lives searching for. Although nothing can replace a healthy diet and exercise, the addition of tea to our daily living may provide us with just enough defenses to protect our bodies from some of life’s stresses. Although more research needs to be done, the facts are evident that since its discovery, this leaf has been a powerful force in shaping our lives, history and hopefully our future – we don’t need science to understand this. Throughout the ages, tea has been a soothing balm for the soul, and perhaps in time, science will find that tea is also a balm for our bodies as well.

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