Are the health benefits of tea really new?

It’s no secret that in the past 10 years, modern science has revealed myriad amazing health benefits of tea. Despite all the wonderful and innovative tastes and blends that have enticed new tea drinkers, it is these so-called newly discovered health benefits that have attracted a great deal of interest among tea novices. But are they truly new discoveries?

Yes and no.

The sophisticated technologies of modern research have, unquestionably, been essential in uncovering the underlying phytochemicals and mechanisms of action that explain how tea is beneficial to our health. However, all the claims that are being made about tea are not new. As we have found within many areas of science, modern research has essentially only been uncovering more details in support of what ancient wisdom has been espousing for millenia.

 A large-leaf variety of Camellia sinensis growing in Yunnan Province, China

Just as modern quantum mechanics has been slowly re-discovering the wisdom of eastern metaphyisics, so has current research validated what has been known and practiced for thousands of years with tea. Most of us are familiar with the cultural myths attributed to the Emperor Shen Nong and the discovery of tea. Shen Nong was known as the Divine Farmer because he was considered the father of Chinese agriculture. He was also an herbalist. He even created a catalogue of health benefits of plants that probably served as one of the first materia medica.

Why did monks use tea in meditation?

We all know that one of the main uses of tea was to create a calm alertness in those who consumed it. This is why it became the primary beverage of monks – it aided their meditation practices. In addition, tea was described as being used to improve mood, to detoxify the body, to heal skin ailments, to relax and refresh tired eyes, and to disinfect.  Ever wonder why the staff in a Chinese restaurant wash down the tables, between customers, with tea? There are even references to people using tea as a mouth rinse to promote dental hygiene (something that has only been re-discovered within the past 5 or 6 years by Milton Schiffenbauer – see Michelle Rabin’s interview with him in a post on our blog about 4.5 years ago).

So, as you can see, these wonderful new discoveries about tea that are enticing new tea drinkers are not really new at all. We actually are just beginning to catch up to what our wise ancestors already knew, as is the case in so many areas of science and life.