Immune Boosting Benefits of Tea Leaves
WRITTEN BY OUR OFFICIAL SCIENCE STEEPER: ALLISON TANNIS, MSC RHN.
Life’s better when you’re well. Antioxidants in tea leaves are helpful to the immune system. Yet, how you consume tea leaves impacts how much of an immune boost you will get. Here’s what research says is the best way to boost your immune system with tea.
How to Not Get Sick
Imagine if we could never get sick. Realistically, that’s unlikely, but a better understanding of how your immune system works, and what you can eat to support it may help you avoid getting sick.
Your body is guarded by an impressive number of safety protocols to keep it immune from viruses. Immune cells are patrolling for invaders, killing them once identified. For those viruses that make it past the patrols, they bind with a human cell, infect it, and turn it into a manufacturing plant to create more viruses. There are various checkpoints in which the immune system can identify infected cells.
Despite your impressive layers of immune protection, you can still get sick. Luckily, certain plant compounds are known to support your body, helping it protect itself from infection. You likely already know many of these well-known immune-supporting nutrients.
4 Most Helpful Immune Boosting Antioxidants found in Tea Leaves
Tea leaves are very nutritious, containing many antioxidants to support health:
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
- Epicatechin gallate (ECG)
- Epigallocatechin (EGC)
- Vitamin C
Can Tea Boost Immunity?
An impressively large amount of research points to EGCG as an excellent immune-supporting nutrient. In fact, evidence suggests EGCG may help your immune system better fight off a number of viruses, including influenza (the flu), herpes simplex, zika, hepatitis C, and COVID.
But, how well tea boosts your immunity can be impacted by the way you consume tea. There’s an incredible amount of EGCG in tea leaves. Drying them to make matcha or other dried tea lowers the amount available. Eating tea leaves contains 15x more EGCG than what’s found in your typical steeped cup of dried green tea.
How Does EGCG in Tea Leaves Prevent Infection?
Sparking the curiosity of researchers, recent studies have been looking at how epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant component of green tea leaves, helps prevent viral infections.
3 Ways EGCG in Tea Leaves Help Boost Your Immunity
There are 3 ways scientists know EGCG protects your body from viruses:
- Less Invasive: makes it hard for viruses to invade your cells
- Curbs Gene Expression: retains how well viruses can thrive
- Inhibits Replication: deters viruses from multiplying
- Prebiotic: supports healthy microbe presence in the gut
Consider the cells in your body as a locked door with a keyhole, and viruses have keys that try to unlock the door. The keys are spike proteins on the virus. As an example, recent research on the COVID-19 virus has found the key on the COVID-19 virus’ have a harder time opening the lock on human cells when EGCG is present. The scientists explain it in geeky terms as: EGCG appears to stop a chemical interaction involving angio-tensin-converting enzyme 2 that lets the virus gain entry to cells.
Here’s what scientists say you should know about tea leaves and COVID-19.
Is Tea a Prebiotic?
Another immune-boosting benefit of tea leaves involves the gut. Some of the polyphenols found in tea leaves, such as EGCG, act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are needed to support the helpful microbes in the gut and help them thrive. With a healthy gut microbiome, there’s an immune boost: the gut-lung axis enables the gut microbes to beneficially influence the immune system in the lungs (site of most common virus infections). As prebiotics are fibres that support helpful microbes in your gut, eating tea leaves may be better than steeping them.
Can Tea Leaves Help with Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune diseases are dominated by a massive wave of cytokines; signals that turn on pathways causing a lot of inflammation. Turning off some of these pro-inflammatory signals could help with autoimmune diseases.
Researchers know EGCG is an impressive antioxidant and a helpful ally against inflammation. In fact, tea leaves contain a whopping amount of antioxidants (ORAC of 69,800) compared to steeped green tea (ORAC of 1,253).
Digging deeper, scientists have found that EGCG can inhibit some signals, enhancers, and transcribers of inflammation. In fact, Italian researchers note in a report that EGCG could restore the natural balance of the immune system in some autoimmune diseases.
Learn more about the Immune Boosting EGCG.
Which is Best for the Immune System: Tea Leaves or Matcha?
Interestingly, all tea is made from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinuses. Matcha is made by drying the leaves and grinding them into a fine powder. Drying a plant reduces the nutrients it contains. Why dry tea leaves at all? Millennia Tea is flash frozen tea leaves which means all the goodness is sealed in. Look in the freezer section of your local store. (Maybe we should have called it, immuniTEA!)
Discover the best way to buy tea leaves to boost your immune system.
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Epigallocatechin-3-gallate enhances hepatitis C virus double-stranded RNA intermediates-triggered innate immune responses in hepatocytes. Scientific Reports 2016; 6:21595.
Inhibition of Herpes Simplex Virus-1 by the modified green tea polyphenol EGCG-stearate. Adv Biosci Biotech 2018 Dec; 9:12.
Epigallocatechin gallate, an active green tea compound inhibits the Zika virus entry into host cells via binding the envelope protein. Int J Biol Macronol 2017 Nov;104(PtA): 1046-1054.
Potential application of tea polyphenols to the prevention of COVID-19 infection: based on gut-lung axis. Front Nutr 2022 Apr 14.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) attenuates severe acute respiratory coronavirus disease 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection by blocking the interaction of SARS-CoV2 spike protein receptor-binding domain to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. PLoS 2022 July 13.
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