Is green tea the best tea for fighting cancer?
Can drinking tea help cancer patients? And if so, what is the best herbal tea for fighting cancer?
Keep reading to find out.
Herbal teas, sometimes referred to as herbal infusions or tisanes, are widely used in the traditional medicine of many cultures due to their health-promoting activities.
There is evidence that some teas may boost your immune system, alleviate inflammation, prevent heart diseases, and even help reduce the risk of cancer.
What Is Herbal Tea?
Tea is an aromatic beverage whose history spreads across many cultures, with the earliest tea-drinking dating back to ancient China.
During the Shang dynasty, tea was generally consumed as a medicinal drink.
Its popularity spread throughout the United States after the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
There are a huge massive variety of true teas made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, including;
- Oolong tea
- Black tea
- Green tea
- White tea
Herbal teas vary from true teas in that they are not always made from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Instead, they are made from herbs, spices, fruits, flowers, seeds, and the roots of other plants.
Hence, these herbal remedies do not typically contain caffeine.
Soon after the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are harvested, they begin to wilt and oxidize.
Oxidation is one of the primary factors determining a tea’s type and what it will look and taste like.
The leaves are exposed to air during oxidation, and some of their chemical compounds are broken down by specific enzymes.
This results in drying and darkening the tea leaves, contributing to a tea’s flavor, aroma, and strength.
How much oxidation the leaves undergo determines how dark they become.
For instance, black teas are made from wilted and bruised tea leaves that are fully oxidized.
Comparably, green tea leaves do not undergo oxidation or wilting.
Tea leaves that are bruised and partially oxidized create a kind of tea known as oolong tea.
White tea is made from new growth buds or young leaves that undergo minimal oxidation.
The oxidation process can be prevented by steaming or heating and then drying the leaves in preparation for sale.
Dried leaves or buds are often sold in tea bags to be steeped in hot water or in the form of ready-to-drink-iced teas.
What is the Nutritional Value of Tea?
On-going research has found that drinking just 4 cups of tea daily may provide significant health benefits.
In addition to contributing to your overall hydration level, tea may contribute to the recommended daily intake of some nutrients.
Tea on its own has no calories.
But when semi-skimmed milk is added, you get 13 calories per cup of tea plus other beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Tea possesses powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols have been shown to have positive effects on cancer prevention, anti-inflammation, antioxidants, and regulation of lipid metabolism.
A good example of polyphenols is flavonoids and catechins, which are believed to be responsible for the multiple health benefits commonly attributed to tea.
In addition to the nutrients described above, tea is also an excellent natural source of:
- Alkaloids (theophylline, theobromine, and caffeine).
- Amino acids
- Trace elements
- Minerals, including calcium, zinc, potassium, and manganese
- Volatile organic compounds which produce vapor, contributing to teas’ aroma
Black tea typically contains a lower concentration of catechins than green tea.
That’s because the extended oxidation boosts the levels of two complex polyphenols in black tea, known as thearubigins and theaflavins.
On the other hand, oolong tea contains a combination of both complex and simple polyphenols like catechins.
White and green tea possess the same amount of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (a type of catechin) and varying amounts of polyphenols.
Ready-to-drink teas, instant preparations, and iced teas tend to have a lower concentration of polyphenols than hot brewed teas.
The higher the amount of tea solids (tea leaves and buds), the higher the polyphenol content.
The polyphenol content is also determined by the amount of tea used, its brew time, and the temperature.
Ready-to-drink teas typically have a lower concentration of tea solids, and their base ingredient might not be brewed tea, hence the lower polyphenol content.
Other liquids like juice may also be added to these teas, further diluting the tea solids.
Green Tea for fighting cancer
Regular consumption of green tea can do wonders for your health.
Numerous studies suggest that green tea can offer multiple good health benefits.
This includes helping with weight management, alleviating skin inflammation, improving blood flow, supporting blood sugar control, and fighting cancer.
Green tea packs a nutritional punch, including alkaloids, proteins, volatile compounds, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and trace elements.
This tea is said to possess the highest levels of powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that inhibit the production of free radicals.
These can have negative effects on the body, like damaging our DNA, destroying our healthy cells, and causing cell death.
Researchers believe that the negative effects of free radicals on DNA have a significant role in the development of different types of cancers.
The main polyphenol and a key active ingredient in green tea are catechins.
These include epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), and more.
EGCG, the most active and prevalent catechin present in the tea, is thought to be responsible for the anticancer properties attributed to green tea extracts.
Most scientific studies into the possible use of herbal teas for cancer treatment and prevention primarily focus on EGCG.
The catechin has also been found to possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Other polyphenols in green tea include flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin.
Evidence from population-based studies suggests that green tea and black might play a vital role in protecting against cancer.
Further studies also point towards the potency of the polyphenols in green tea in preventing cancer.
According to some researchers, these antioxidants can also kill and prevent the growth of cancer cells.
Green Tea Effects On Breast Cancer
Test tube and animal studies have found that green tea polyphenols significantly hinder the development of breast cancer cells.
A human study involving more than 400 women with different stages of breast cancer noted that the women who drank the largest amounts of green tea had the most minimal spread of cancerous cells.
These effects were especially significant in premenopausal women with early-stage cancer.
The researchers also observed that the breast cancer patients in the early stages of the disease who drank at least 5 cups of green tea every day before being diagnosed with cancer had lower chances of experiencing a recurrence after finishing treatment.
In comparison, women with late-stage breast cancer experienced minimal to no improvement after green tea consumption.
The impact of green tea on breast cancer prevention is still unclear.
Researchers concluded from a large study that drinking green tea or other types of tea had no effect on reducing breast cancer risk.
However, when they split the samples by age, they observed that the risk of breast cancer development in women below 50 years who drank at least 3 cups of tea daily was reduced by a significant 37% compared to those who didn’t drink tea.
Green Tea Effects On Prostate Cancer
The findings of laboratory studies show that green tea extracts may hinder the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Researchers concluded that drinking green tea was not linked to localized prostate cancer after analyzing questionnaire-based data from a Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective (JPHC) Study.
This study involved 49,920 men aged between 40-69 years.
The researchers also noted that the risk of advanced prostate cancer reduced with increased dose and frequency of green tea intake.
Meanwhile, a lab study has found that green tea and black tea extracts can stimulate the genes that cause body cells to be unresponsive to chemotherapy drugs.
The study also shows that these teas can reduce the efficacy of radiotherapy.
Hence, patients undergoing these treatments should consult their doctors before drinking green tea or taking tea supplements.
Green Tea Effects On Ovarian Cancer
During a recent Chinese study involving patients with ovarian cancer, researchers discovered that women who consumed at least one cup of green tea daily had an increased maximum lifespan with the disease compared to those who did not drink green tea.
Women that drank the most tea lived the longest.
However, some studies have found no positive effects of green tea on ovarian cancer.
Green Tea Effects On Colorectal Cancer
Studies on the impact of green tea consumption on colon and rectal cancer are inconclusive.
Researchers of a recent study conducted a dose-response meta-analysis on the data gathered from 29 works of literature published in Pubmed and Embase databases.
They noted that the cancer patients who drank at least 5 cups of tea daily experienced a protective effect with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
However, men who drank the tea did not experience the protective effect.
The researchers of a different study that involved 352 subjects found that increased green tea consumption had no beneficial effects on colorectal cancer.
In summary, researchers note that the available data on green tea consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer is insufficient.
More studies are needed before green tea can be recommended for colorectal cancer prevention.
Green Tea Effects On Esophageal Cancer
Laboratory studies on animals show that green tea intake can inhibit the growth of esophageal cancer cells, thanks to its polyphenols.
A clinical study that analyzed data from 51 esophageal cancer patients found that EGCG dietary supplements reduced esophagitis and swallowing difficulties without negatively impacting the effectiveness of radiation therapy.
However, some studies have produced conflicting results.
For instance, a large population study shows that green tea consumption can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, especially when taken as a strong and very hot beverage.
Therefore, more cancer research is needed before green tea can be recommended for esophageal cancer prevention.
Green Tea Effects On Lung Cancer
Test-tube studies show that the polyphenols in this popular tea can significantly hinder the growth of lung cancer cells in humans.
However, few clinical studies on the link between green tea consumption and lung cancer show conflicting findings.
During a population-based study, the researchers concluded that the consumption of Okinawan tea (a partially fermented tea similar to green tea) resulted in lower risks of lung cancer, especially among women.
Contrastingly, another study finds that green tea and black tea consumption can increase the risks of lung cancer.
The bottom line is that more well-designed studies are necessary before researchers can make any conclusions about green tea consumption and the risk of lung cancer.
Findings from numerous studies suggest that the use of green tea may also have an impact on the following types of cancer:
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Stomach Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
Black Tea for fighting cancer
Black tea is perhaps the most common type of tea among tea drinkers.
It has the highest caffeine content compared to other teas and is a popular alternative for coffee.
The beneficial active ingredients in black tea include thearubigins, catechins, theaflavins, and flavonols.
Unlike green tea, there is limited evidence of the anticancer effects and chemopreventive potential of black tea.
Some studies suggest that this type of tea can help with the following cancers:
Black Tea Effects On Breast Cancer
An analysis of a study supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed support for black tea as a cancer preventative.
The study involved 45,744 women aged between 35-74 years old throughout the United States suggests that consuming at least 5 cups of this herbal remedy every week reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Black Tea Effects On Ovarian Cancer
A study looking at the data gathered from a comprehensive literature search using electronic databases like Web of Science and PubMed shows that drinking black tea may not have any significant effects on ovarian cancer risk.
Black Tea Effects On Colorectal Cancer
There is scientific evidence from multiple studies suggesting that black tea can potentially act as an effective chemopreventive agent against colon and rectal cancers.
However, because of the inconsistent results across the twenty observational studies, the impact of black tea consumption on the risk of colorectal cancer is inconclusive.
Ginger Tea for fighting cancer
Made by steeping fresh grated ginger root in hot water, ginger tea offers numerous health benefits due to its antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.
The possible benefits of ginger tea are largely attributed to its polyphenols, which include catechins, shogaols, and gingerols.
Ginger root also possesses other beneficial compounds like polysaccharides, raw fibers, lipids, organic acids, and terpenes.
Ginger tea is known to offer many health benefits, including helping with cancer:
Ginger Tea Effects On Chemo-Induced Nausea and Vomiting in Cancer Patients
A 2019 systematic review analyzed 18 articles to determine the potential effects of ginger on the side effects of chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting in adults.
The researchers concluded that ginger-based herbal supplements might help with chemo-induced vomiting and nausea when used together with standard antiemetic care.
However, it’s important to note that the researchers could not find the ideal ginger dosage that should be given to cancer patients.
Ginger Tea Effects On The Treatment And Prevention Of Cancer
Some clinical studies have found that the polyphenol compounds in the ginger root may help prevent and treat different types of cancer.
This includes colorectal cancer, liver cancer, gastric cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, and pancreatic cancer.
Please note that while this herbal tea for cancer is associated with multiple health benefits, consuming excess of it can cause an upset stomach and loose stools.
Ginger tea is also related to other side effects like slowing down blood clotting. Hence, it should be avoided by people.
Best Tea For Fighting Cancer - The Bottom Line
Multiple studies have found that tea can offer numerous health benefits, including improving sleep, reducing stress, and potentially reducing cancer risk.
In recent years, drinking a cup of green tea, ginger tea, black tea, or hibiscus tea has become pretty common.
These teas may offer potential benefits that can help in cancer prevention and minimize chemotherapy’s side effects.
It’s important to note that most human clinical trials to support the efficacy of herbal tea for cancer treatment and prevention have primarily focused on green tea, and the results are promising.
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