A Brief History
Discover the ancient origins and fascinating history of tea!
2nd Mar '22 - UKTIA
With many of us left frazzled by the effects of the global pandemic, a new study – Tea for Minds and Hearts: A Scoping Review – concludes that a simple staple of the British diet could help us get on top of common mental health concerns and benefit heart health. Highlighting the 1 in 4 Brits who experience mental health issues at some point in the last year, the study shines a light on the potential role of tea in helping to reverse this worrying trend.
Dietitian and Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) member, Dr Carrie Ruxton (www.teaadvisorypanel.com) says: “Depression, even when it’s not as severe as to be defined as ‘clinical depression’, has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and patients with major depressive disorder are known to have a higher prevalence of CVD. This is why many health experts claim, ‘what’s good for the heart is good for the brain’.”
Scientists have put their heads together to identify possible reasons for the link and have concluded that it could be down to neovascular health (development of new blood vessels, especially in tissues where circulation has been impaired by disease or trauma).
With the state of the nation’s hearts and minds in dire straits and glimmers of hope that the humble brew could help, the authors of Tea for Minds and Hearts: A Scoping Review set out to appraise the evidence.
In two minds about the benefits?
While there’s plenty of literature explaining the link between tea drinking and cardiovascular health, the study’s authors also found remarkable new evidence around the mental health benefits of putting on the kettle. Dr Ruxton says: “There’s emerging evidence that tea drinking (black and green) could aid relaxation and is associated with lower stress, dementia risk and cognitive decline, as well as potentially improving attention and psychomotor speed as we age. This adds to clear data over the past 20 years that drinking tea regularly lowers blood pressure and significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks.”
With a dramatic growth in scientific research linking tea drinking with brain health and function, the news is especially good for those who enjoy a strong brew. As reported in the journal, Psychopharmacology, drinking black (regular) tea has been found to improve feelings of relaxation and lower cortisol levels after performing a stressful task.
“There’s also evidence that drinking the equivalent of 1 to 2 cups of tea a day (containing 37 to 75 mg caffeine) may help perk you up, with the added benefit that it’s less likely to disrupt your sleep,” says Dr Tim Bond, one of the study’s authors and a member of TAP.
Tea for Minds and Hearts: A Scoping Review also found other evidence of brain and mental health benefits of tea drinking, including:
When it comes to green tea in particular, its constituent catechins, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may play a role in preventing inflammation, oxidative stress and the abnormal accumulation of fibrous proteins (particularly A? and ?-synuclein) – issues that contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as cognitive dysfunction and memory loss. Lowering inflammation and improving antioxidant power can also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, which explains studies finding that drinking 3-4 cups of tea a day provides benefit for the heart.
GP and study co-author, Dr Gill Jenkins says: “Pioneering research using electroencephalogram technology (a way to measure brain activity) showed that the brain waves (supporting learning, memory, and spatial navigation) increased significantly 30 minutes to one hour after drinking green tea. A study in Nutritional Neuroscience suggests that this could be one way in which the healthy hot drink exerts its potential effects on alertness, attention, and cognitive function.”
More recently, a study in the journal Molecules proposed that green tea can suppress brain ageing.
EGCG and theanine – bioactive components that are unique to green tea – are thought to play a role by activating nerve cells and reducing stress.
Connecting over a cuppa
However, there’s more to the custom of tea drinking when it comes to mental health. For example, an independent survey of 1000 UK adults found that:
Dr Tim Bond adds: “These qualitative findings suggest that tea drinking has wider social ramifications that could impact mental health, which is worthy of future investigation, especially as many of us have suffered huge mental health pressures since the pandemic began.”
With the UK Eatwell Guide currently advising us to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid every day, which can include sugar-free drinks such as tea, there’s even more reason to ensure you’re making time for your daily brew.
 Bond T, Derbyshire E, Jenkins G; (2021) Tea for Minds & Hearts: a scoping review. Nutrition and Food Technology Journal. https://sciforschenonline.org/journals/nutrition-food/NFTOA176.php
 Harshfield, E.L., et al., Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Incident Cardiovascular Diseases. JAMA, 2020. 324(23): p. 2396-2405.
 Dudek, K.A., et al., Neurobiology of resilience in depression: immune and vascular insights from human and animal studies. Eur J Neurosci, 2021. 53(1): p. 183-221.
 Steptoe, A., et al., The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2007. 190(1): p. 81-9.
 Hindmarch, I., et al., A naturalistic investigation of the effects of day-long consumption of tea, coffee and water on alertness, sleep onset and sleep quality. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2000. 149(3): p. 203-16.
 Okello, E.J., A.M. Abadi, and S.A. Abadi, Effects of green and black tea consumption on brain wave activities in healthy volunteers as measured by a simplified Electroencephalogram (EEG): A feasibility study. Nutr Neurosci, 2016. 19(5): p. 196-205.
 Unno, K. and Y. Nakamura, Green Tea Suppresses Brain Aging. Molecules, 2021. 26(16).