A BRIEF HISTORY OF GREEN TEA
Although there are many legends about the discovery of tea, what is known for certain is that tea in its greenest and most natural form was discovered in China about 5,000 years ago. The unprocessed green tea leaves were used in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of maladies, including digestive problems, headaches, body aches, and weak immune systems. It was also used to improve overall well-being and life expectancy. For centuries, green tea was the only form of tea. The cultivation of green tea gradually spread to other Asian countries, starting with Japan. Eisai, the founder of Japanese Zen Buddhism, brought the custom of making tea from China to Japan between 1187 and 1191. From that time onwards, the custom of making green tea became an integral part of the Japanese culture. The Japanese have even earned recognition for creating many variations of green tea that are enjoyed around the world today. In the 17th century, the British learned about tea from China and adopted it as a defining characteristic of their culture. In the 19th century, Britain introduced tea to India and launched a tea industry in the Assam region by using Chinese seeds and cultivation techniques.
Green tea is from the Camellia sinensis plant, a small evergreen tree with beautiful white flowers. Generally, the leaves and leaf buds are used for tea consumption. There are varieties of green tea that differ based on the time of harvest, location, climate, cultivation method, and production processing of the plant. Most teas, such as white, yellow, black, oolong, pu-reh, and kukicha, are also harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant. What impacts the color and flavor of tea is mainly the level of oxidation that is applied to the leaves in the harvesting process. For example, white tea is lightly oxidized while black tea is fully oxidized.
NUTRITIONAL AND COMPOSITION VALUES
Known as one of the healthiest drinks on earth, green tea is known to offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial benefits. Key elements of green tea include polyphenols (catechins), amino acids (L-theanine), alkaloids (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline), chlorophyll, fluoride, proteins, carbohydrates, phenolic acids, aluminum, trace elements, essential oils, vitamins (A, C, and E), and minerals. Because green tea contains high amounts of polyphenols that comprise the catechins, it offers potent medicinal and therapeutic properties. It also contains much higher amounts of catechins than black tea (25 percent versus four percent). The polyphenols in green tea are responsible for the strong antioxidant values that are far greater than vitamins C and E. The most potent catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) followed by epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechi gallate (ECG), epicatechin (EC), and gallocatechin (GC).
The phytonutrient values of green tea not only make it a fabulous health-boosting beverage and supplement, but also a treasured beauty-enhancing ingredient for the skin and hair.
Consuming green tea as a beverage or supplement in the right amounts has been shown to have many health benefits.
Metabolic Enhancement – According to the United States National Library of Medicine report, various studies suggest that green tea might lower blood sugar by improving glucose metabolism. Therefore, it can have a positive impact on the treatment of type 2 diabetes and the prevention of obesity.
Cancer Prevention – The EGCG in green tea is responsible for its cancer-fighting effect. Some studies have shown that green tea may reduce risks of cancer in the lungs, colon, breasts, ovaries, and prostate.
Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – According to Harvard Health Publications, a number of studies investigated the possible link between green tea and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Some studies found positive results in lowering the risk of coronary artery disease and death from heart attack or stroke. When taken with a meal, green tea can reduce the absorption of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) from that meal.
Mental Concentration – The caffeine content of green tea is known for its ability to increase mental alertness, cognitive performance, and energy.
To date, research studies on the dermatological impact of green tea have mainly evaluated its healing properties through diet and supplements. Furthermore, not all claims on the topical use of green tea in creams, lotions, and serums are supported by a sufficient amount of quantitative clinical data.
What is known for certain is the value of antioxidants as potent free radical scavengers that can help to prevent premature signs of aging. It is also known that green tea is one of the strongest antioxidant herbs, based on its polyphenols composition. With this knowledge, it is reasonable to conclude that realizing the full dermatological benefits of green tea requires oral consumption as an accompaniment to topical applications.
However, not all personal care products that have green tea as an ingredient – or as part of their name – necessarily contain any benefits of green tea. The production method, purity, extract strength, and dosage of the green tea in personal care products are significant factors in how effective they can be and how much they truly deliver green tea's nutritional properties to the skin and hair. No herb can show its true benefits when used at low dosages, exposed to heat, or mixed with harmful chemicals. Products containing green tea can only be effective if they contain a sufficient amount of high-quality green tea extract; if not, it is only marketing jargon and false promises. Accordingly, an adequate concentration of green tea in products that are produced with the proper processing techniques can include many dermatological benefits.
Age Defying – The rich amount of polyphenols in green tea delivers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to the skin that can help to slow the aging process, maintain the vitality of the skin, and improve its natural tone and glow. Be wary, however, of age-reversing claims, as there are no definitive studies that link green tea with firming saggy skin, diminishing wrinkles, or erasing dark spots.
Acne Management – The catechins in green tea, especially EGCG, act as antibacterial agents that detoxify the skin and eliminate acne-causing bacteria. Additionally, green tea reduces the inflammation in the pores, which is associated with acne. Offering natural astringent qualities, green tea also decreases excess sebum production.
Sun Protection – Research has shown that green tea can reduce sun damage. This sun damage reduction is due to its ability to combat free radical damage, not by blocking ultraviolet radiation.
Skin Cancer Eradication – Some scientific studies that evaluated the effects of green tea, both as a topical solution and as a dietary supplement, have shown promising reductions of tumors in epidermoid carcinoma and melanoma skin cancer types. This effect is due to the EGCG element in green tea that has the ability to repair DNA, protect against free radial damage, and boost the immune system.
Skin Disorder Treatment – Offering potent anti-inflammatory qualities, green tea can help to calm skin disorders such as rosacea and psoriasis.
Eye Puffiness Reduction – Due to its caffeine content and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea is an ideal solution for reducing puffiness around the eyes and eliminating water retention.
Hair Growth Stimulation – Some studies suggest that EGCG, present in green tea, stimulates the hair follicle and encourages hair growth.
Dandruff Removal – Green tea helps to remove the dry flakes on the scalp that are caused by dandruff while also improving the condition of the scalp.
APPLICATIONS IN BEAUTY PRODUCTS
To realize the maximum therapeutic values of green tea for the skin and hair, it is imperative to ensure that the integrity of the plant's nutrients is preserved. Fortunately, there are various ways to incorporate green tea as an additive in personal care products.
Green Tea Extract
The best way to take advantage of green tea in skin and hair care products is to incorporate it into formulas in extract form. It is essential that the extracts are made with organic and raw leaves, in natural and organic solvents, and are processed without heat. In this way, the true essence of the green tea leaves can be harnessed. The best natural solvents for the extraction method are organic oils, such as olive, sunflower, and jojoba; organic vegetable glycerin; and natural, organic ethyl alcohol, such as grain or grape. Depending on the desired concentration level, water can be added to vegetable glycerin or alcohol, extraction methods.
Of course, the quality of the extracts is of the utmost importance when it comes to product effectiveness. There are four concentration and purity factors that play a critical role in the effectiveness of skin and hair care products that contain green tea: the green tea herb used for extraction should be raw; the extract should be concentrated and potent; the solvent used for extraction should not contain added chemicals; and the percentage of extract used in the finished product should be sufficient.
While there are many suppliers of green tea extract on the market, skin care manufacturers should produce their own extracts to ensure purity, high concentration, and quality. Green tea extract can be used in a wide variety of skin care products, including cleansers, toners, serums, creams, masks, and exfoliants; it can also be used in hair cleansers and conditioners.
Camellia Seed Oil
Known as the ancient beauty secret of the Japanese geishas, this oil is either derived from the seed of the Camelia oleifera or Camellia sinensis plants. It delivers radiance to the skin, combats free radical damage, reduces scars, and slows the skin's aging process. This nourishing oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids – it is rich in omegas 3, 6, and 9 – vitamin E, and polyphenols. To achieve maximum purity and effectiveness, the use of cold pressed camellia seed oil is highly recommended. Much like green tea extract, camellia seed oil can be added to skin cleansers, serums, creams, masks, exfoliants, hair cleansers, and conditioners.
Dry Green Tea Leaf Powder
The organic, dry powder of green tea leaves can be added raw to a variety of masks and exfoliants. Skin care professionals can combine raw green tea leaf powder with warm water or other natural ingredients, such as botanical hydrosols or vegan or conventional yogurts, and then apply it to the skin as a super-charged antioxidant mask. For this mask, the Japanese Matcha tea is a wonderful option. Other types of dry green tea leaves can be ground in a coffee grinder very easily. Green tea leaf powder can be added to dry and wet masks, exfoliants, and soaps.
GREEN TEA POPULARITY
With a rich history throughout the world, green tea is gaining popularity in the United States based on its reputation as an excellent source of antioxidants for the body. Furthermore, recent research studies are validating the age-old beliefs of its health effects. With a multitude of physiological benefits, green tea also possesses many dermatological benefits when incorporated into personal care products. Whether it is used as an extract, camellia seed oil, or leaf powder, the effectiveness of green tea in personal care products is heavily dependent on a variety of factors, such as the concentration level, processing method, and quality of tea. Therefore, careful evaluation is essential when considering personal care products that claim to possess its benefits by listing green tea as an ingredient.
Kim, H.M. and Kim, J. (2013, June). The Effects of Green Tea on Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes & Metabolism Journal, 37(3), 173-5.
Harvard Health Publications. (2012, December). Green tea may lower hear disease risk. Harvard Heart Letter.
Vida Karamooz, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Blue Beautifly LLC, a plant-based, certified organic, non-GMO, and cruelty-free skin and body care product company in California. As an expert in botanical formulation, Karamooz has conducted years of research and trials in combining plants known for their skin and hair vitality in ancient sciences of India (Ayuveda), China, Middle East, Africa, and South/Central America with recent discoveries. In doing so, she has gained invaluable insight in creating innovative and effective, but simple, products that meet today's consumer demands for wholesome, natural, and genuine products that promote health of the body without harming the planet.