If you are a tea connoisseur, you’d be delighted to know that it’s the second most popular drink in the world after water. (Yes, move over coffee!) And thanks to various beneficial components like theaflavins, thearubigins, catechins, and flavonols found in black tea, it’s absolutely worth the drink. So arm yourself with a cuppa because we have the lowdown!
While green tea grabs headlines regularly when it comes to health benefits, black tea usually flies under the radar. But as you’ll see in the next sections, a cup of plain old black tea is just as great for you. So how are the two different? While both green and black tea leaves come from the plant known as Camellia sinensis, they are processed differently and have different chemical compositions as a result. Green tea undergoes practically no fermentation while black tea is fermented. The process of fermentation is responsible for the dark color and bitter taste of black tea. While the total number of flavonoids in green tea and black tea stay comparable, the nature of the flavonoids undergo some changes during this process.
Essentially, some catechins are condensed or oxidized to theaflavins during fermentation, so when you compare the two, black tea has about 99 times higher content of theaflavins and 45 times higher content of thearubigins (both tannins) than green tea. Green tea, on the other hand, has 3.5 times higher content of catechins than black tea.1 2 And thanks to this chemical composition, a cup of black tea holds out the following benefits for your health and well-being.
1. Fights Free Radical Damage
Polyphenols like theaflavins, thearubigins, and catechins in black tea give it potent antioxidant properties, helping fight the damaging effects of free radicals.3 While free radicals are naturally made in your body during the process of converting food to energy, certain other factors can increase their numbers, making it a challenge for the body to neutralize these efficiently. Factors like environmental pollution, high intake of processed and refined foods and alcohol, smoking, and sun overexposure can all increase the presence of free radicals in your body. These, in turn, cause oxidative damage to your cells, not only contributing to aging but playing a role in diseases ranging from cancer and diabetes to heart disease.4 5 That cup of black tea you chug down translates to a shot of protective and anti-aging antioxidants that can fight the damaging effects of free radicals and bolster your overall health.
2. Tackles High Cholesterol Problems
High cholesterol levels can mean an increased risk of atherosclerosis and even heart problems. If you are struggling to keep your cholesterol under control, your daily cup of tea can chip in and help. One study looked at mildly hypercholesterolemic people who had 5 servings of black tea a day for a period of 3 weeks. Drinking black tea helped reduce LDL cholesterol by 11.1% and total cholesterol levels by 6.5%.6 Regular consumption of tea may also help inhibit the oxidation of LDL and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Tea catechins, specifically, gallate esters, are thought to counter cholesterol disorders by limiting the absorption of cholesterol in your intestine.7
3. Helps Manage High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension contributes to a range of serious medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.8 Fortunately, positive lifestyle habits such as eating a low-salt diet, keeping to a healthy weight, and getting enough physical exercise can go a long way in managing your blood pressure. Add a plain old cup of black tea to this regimen if you are at risk of hypertension.
According to a study, regularly having 3 cups of black tea in a day for 6 months significantly decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in subjects. Thanks to the flavonoids in them, tea may impact blood pressure by improving endothelial function, that is, the functioning of the cells which line your blood vessels and heart. Another possible mechanism relates to its ability to burn visceral fat, which in turn helps control your blood pressure.
According to the researchers, when applied to a general population, the kind of improvement seen in the study would translate to a 10% reduction in the risk of hypertension and a 7–10% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.9
4. Fights Cavities
Yes, your cup of tea can help keep your teeth healthy too! Research shows that components in tea can inhibit cavity-causing bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. They also suppress the activity of the enzyme amylase which breaks down food starches into low molecular weight sugars and plays an important role in the development of dental cavities. Moreover, tea contains fluoride which helps to keep tooth enamel strong.10 11
5. Promotes Weight Loss
If you are trying to lose weight, black tea could be your secret ally. One animal study found that it changed the composition of bacteria present in the intestine, increasing the percentage of beneficial bacteria associated with lean body fat and reducing the bacteria associated with obesity. So while it’s still important to pay attention to diet and exercise regularly to lose those extra pounds, black tea can provide an extra boost to your energy metabolism from within.12
6. Boosts Immunity And Fights Infections
We’re constantly exposed to attacks from harmful germs that can cause a range of illnesses. Fortunately, our immune system is usually successful in mounting a defense against them and protecting us from diseases. But your immune system needs all the help it can get and that’s where black tea can step in. One study found that regularly consuming black tea for a period of 6 months positively impacted biomarkers which indicated the activation of the immune system.13 Compounds present in tea have also been found to act against a range of disease-causing microorganisms.14
7. Helps Fend Off Diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a spate of problems, including heart disease, eye problems, kidney disease, and nerve damage.15 Your blood sugar is regulated by a hormone known as insulin which moves glucose into cells from your blood so that it can be broken down to release energy. In diabetics, glucose is not broken down into energy either because they have insufficient insulin or the insulin doesn’t function properly.16 If high blood sugar is something you are at risk of, black tea to the rescue once again!
Research indicates that compounds such as epigallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate, theaflavins, and other tannins present in tea improve insulin activity. No surprise then that a study found that long-term, moderate intake (1 to 2 cups a day) of tea was associated with a 70% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, do keep in mind that adding milk to your tea may reduce its beneficial effects as far as diabetes is concerned. One study found that adding 5 gm of 2% milk to a cup of tea reduced its insulin boosting activity by 1/3rd while adding 50 gm of milk to a cup reduced it by almost 90%. Soy milk and nondairy creamers also resulted in reduced insulin-enhancing activity.17 18
8. Is Good For The Heart
As we’ve already seen, tea can have a positive impact on various factors such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and blood pressure which affect your heart health. Having black tea can also improve endothelial function in people with coronary heart disease. Flavonoids in tea may also help it function as a blood thinner. In fact, research indicates that drinking black tea is associated with a lower mortality rate in people who have survived a heart attack.19
9. Reduces The Risk Of Stroke
A life-threatening condition that develops when the supply of blood to a part of your brain is blocked, stroke is a medical emergency which requires immediate attention. Factors such as hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and stress can increase your risk of having a stroke.20 But not surprisingly, your daily cuppa may help out here too. Research which considered the results of 9 studies found that people who drank 3 or more cups of black (or green) tea a day had a 21% lower chance of stroke than those who had less than a cup of tea a day.21 Again, the antioxidant properties of polyphenols in black tea may be at play here.
10. Improves Focus
Do you find your mind wandering often and that you’re unable to focus on work? Turn to your trusty cup of tea. Research indicates that drinking black tea may help you with focused attention, alertness, and accuracy. Two compounds present in tea, L-theanine and caffeine, may be responsible for these beneficial effects. The synergistic relationship between the two in tea can help enhance performance and boost concentration, stopping your mind from wandering or being distracted. Another advantage is that L-theanine can help counter overstimulation by caffeine. So a cup of black tea may be the best way to get your caffeine shot sans that classic jitteriness associated with excessive caffeine.22
11. Tones Skin
Tannins present in tea have a mild astringent effect. So if you’re looking for a natural toner, some leftover tea or a damp tea bag will just do the trick. It also works well on puffy eyes. When you brew yourself a cup of tea, leave some behind and soak this up with some cotton. Place this on your closed eyes for about 2–5 minutes and you’re sorted! A moist tea bag will do the trick too.23
12. May Protect Against Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects nerve cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps coordinate and control our body movements. A meta-analysis of studies shows that components present in tea such as caffeine, flavonoids, and theanine have a neuroprotective effect. Drinking black tea regularly may lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease via different mechanisms – by promoting secretion of dopamine, improving circulation to the brain, and boosting locomotor activity. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits also help play a role.24
13. May Offer Some Protection Against Cancer
Some studies show that regular black tea drinkers may be at a lower risk of cancers such as that of the ovaries and colon.25 As one study found, women who drank 2 or more cups of black tea in a day recorded a 30% decline in ovarian cancer risk. Phytochemicals in tea are credited for this effect.26 However, other cohort studies point out that black tea’s anti-carcinogenic activity may not be as potent as that of green tea. The researchers attributed this to the fact that many catechins in black tea are oxidized to forms that are not as powerful against cancer cells.27 So while black tea can contribute to your anti-cancer defense, don’t rely on it too heavily.
Brew Yourself A Hot Cup Of Tea
Brewing a cup of tea has to be the easiest thing in the world. All you need to do is pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of tea leaves, let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes, and your hot tea is ready. And you can experiment with this popular drink too. Add grated ginger which works as a blood thinner and combats insulin resistance to boost black tea’s heart-healthy powers.28 29 Or how about a dash of antioxidant rich honey to sweeten the deal??30 If you prefer a citrusy tang to your tea, add a squeeze of vitamin C-rich lemon after brewing the tea.
Remember, while tea does offer a range of benefits, it’s important to limit consumption to moderate amounts. Too much black tea, say more than 5 cups a day, can cause a range of side effects such as a headache, tremors, diarrhea, sleep problems, heartburn, and irregular heartbeats. You also need to keep an eye on your caffeine intake and check whether it interferes with any medication you are on. In general, black tea has 2–5% caffeine, so 2 cups of black tea will give you around 200 mg of caffeine. Be wary of having more than this during pregnancy. In fact, limit your intake to no more than 2–3 cups a day, also factoring in other sources of caffeine you’ve had.
Some experts recommend that you limit your consumption of black tea if you’re at risk for osteoporosis since caffeine can increase calcium excreted by your body. According to some studies, however, habitual tea drinking only has a small impact on bone density.31 While there are some claims that black tea hinders iron absorption, this is not well-established. To be safe, if you are iron deficient, drink black tea between meals instead of with your meals and simultaneously pay closer attention to your intake of iron-rich foods.32 33
|↑1||Bhagwat, S., G. R. Beecher, D. B. Haytowitz, J. M. Holden, J. Dwyer, J. Peterson, S. E. Gebhardt, A. L. Eldridge, S. Agarwal, and D. A. Balentine. “Flavonoid composition of tea: Comparison of black and green teas.” Agricultural Research Service. USDA database for the flavonoid content of selected foods. (2003).|
|↑2||Khan, Naghma, and Hasan Mukhtar. “Tea and health: studies in humans.” Current pharmaceutical design 19, no. 34 (2013): 6141-6147.|
|↑3, ↑5||Łuczaj, W., and E. Skrzydlewska. “Antioxidative properties of black tea.” Preventive medicine 40, no. 6 (2005): 910-918.|
|↑4||Antioxidants: What You Need to Know. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑6||Davies, Michael J., Joseph T. Judd, David J. Baer, Beverly A. Clevidence, David R. Paul, Alison J. Edwards, Sheila A. Wiseman, Richard A. Muesing, and Shirley C. Chen. “Black tea consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults.” The Journal of Nutrition 133, no. 10 (2003): 3298S-3302S.|
|↑7||Ishikawa, T., Michio Suzukawa, Toshimitsu Ito, H. Yoshida, M. Ayaori, M. Nishiwaki, A. Yonemura, Y. Hara, and H. Nakamura. “Effect of tea flavonoid supplementation on the susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein to oxidative modification.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 66, no. 2 (1997): 261-266.|
|↑8||High Blood Pressure. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Hodgson, Jonathan M., Ian B. Puddey, Richard J. Woodman, Theo PJ Mulder, Dagmar Fuchs, Kirsty Scott, and Kevin D. Croft. “Effects of black tea on blood pressure: a randomized controlled trial.” Archives of internal medicine 172, no. 2 (2012): 186-188.|
|↑10||Sarkar S1, Sett P, Chowdhury T, Ganguly DK. “Effect of black tea on teeth.” J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2000 Dec;18(4):139-40.|
|↑11||Goenka, Puneet, Aditi Sarawgi, Vinayak Karun, Anant G. Nigam, Samir Dutta, and Nikhil Marwah. “Camellia sinensis (Tea): Implications and role in preventing dental decay.” Pharmacognosy reviews 7, no. 14 (2013): 152.|
|↑12||Black tea may help with weight loss, too. University of California.|
|↑13||Gostner, J. M., K. Becker, K. D. Croft, R. J. Woodman, I. B. Puddey, D. Fuchs, and J. M. Hodgson. “Regular consumption of black tea increases circulating kynurenine concentrations: A randomized controlled trial.” BBA clinical 3 (2015): 31-35.|
|↑14||Friedman, Mendel. “Overview of antibacterial, antitoxin, antiviral, and antifungal activities of tea flavonoids and teas.” Molecular nutrition & food research 51, no. 1 (2007): 116-134.|
|↑15||Diabetes. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑16||Diabetes. National Health Service.|
|↑17||Anderson, Richard A., and Marilyn M. Polansky. “Tea enhances insulin activity.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 50, no. 24 (2002): 7182-7186.|
|↑18||Panagiotakos, Demosthenes B., Christos Lionis, Akis Zeimbekis, Kyriaki Gelastopoulou, Natassa Papairakleous, Undurti N. Das, and Evangelos Polychronopoulos. “Long-term tea intake is associated with reduced prevalence of (type 2) diabetes mellitus among elderly people from Mediterranean islands: MEDIS epidemiological study.” Yonsei medical journal 50, no. 1 (2009): 31-38.|
|↑19||Mukamal, Kenneth J., Malcolm Maclure, James E. Muller, Jane B. Sherwood, and Murray A. Mittleman. “Tea consumption and mortality after acute myocardial infarction.” Circulation 105, no. 21 (2002): 2476-2481.|
|↑20||Stroke. National Health Service.|
|↑21||Arab, Lenore, Weiqing Liu, and David Elashoff. “Green and black tea consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis.” Stroke 40, no. 5 (2009): 1786-1792.|
|↑22||Bryan, Janet. “Psychological effects of dietary components of tea: caffeine and L-theanine.” Nutrition reviews 66, no. 2 (2008): 82-90.|
|↑23||Balick, Michael. Rodale’s 21st-Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants. Rodale, 2014.|
|↑24||Li, Feng-Jiao, Hong-Fang Ji, and Liang Shen. “A meta-analysis of tea drinking and risk of Parkinson’s disease.” The Scientific World Journal 2012 (2012).|
|↑25, ↑33||Black Tea. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑26||Baker, J. A., K. Boakye, S. E. McCann, G. P. Beehler, K. J. Rodabaugh, J. A. Villella, and K. B. Moysich. “Consumption of black tea or coffee and risk of ovarian cancer.” International Journal of Gynecological Cancer 17, no. 1 (2007): 50-54.|
|↑27||Goldbohm, R. Alexandra, Michaël GL Hertog, Henny AM Brants, Geert van Poppel, and Piet A. van den Brandt. “Consumption of black tea and cancer risk: a prospective cohort study.” JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 88, no. 2 (1996): 93-100.|
|↑28||Verma, S. K., J. Singh, R. Khamesra, and A. Bordia. “Effect of ginger on platelet aggregation in man.” The Indian journal of medical research 98 (1993): 240-242.|
|↑29||Mozaffari-Khosravi, Hassan, Behrouz Talaei, Beman-Ali Jalali, Azadeh Najarzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Mozayan. “The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Complementary therapies in medicine 22, no. 1 (2014): 9-16.|
|↑30||Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi. “Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16, no. 6 (2013): 731.|
|↑31||Chen, Zhao, M. B. Pettinger, C. Ritenbaugh, A. Z. LaCroix, J. Robbins, B. J. Caan, D. H. Barad, and I. A. Hakim. “Habitual tea consumption and risk of osteoporosis: a prospective study in the women’s health initiative observational cohort.” American journal of epidemiology 158, no. 8 (2003): 772-781.|
|↑32||Zijp, Itske M., Onno Korver, and Lilian BM Tijburg. “Effect of tea and other dietary factors on iron absorption.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 40, no. 5 (2000): 371-398.|