Can Tea Improve your Mental Health?
Studies have validated the positive effect of tea on the brain in terms of reduced anxiety, improved cognition as well as benefits to memory. Additional studies have concluded that tea has a positive effect on depression and those who consumed tea regularly saw an improvement in their symptoms. It is believed that the compounds responsible for these results are both the presence of caffeine and L-theanine as well as the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
With mental health in America declining it is no wonder studies are being done to understand the link between nutrition and the brain. Even pre-COVID19, from 2017 to 2018 mental illness increased in America by 1.5 million adults over the previous year. Since COVID19, from 1/20 to 9/20, we have seen a 93% increase in people seeking help concerning their anxiety and depression.
24% of adults don’t receive the proper treatment, while 60% of youth with depression have not received any mental health treatment at all. With this being the case, the need for mental healthcare is undeniable and while there are far too many factors at play here, we know that physical health and nutrition play a role.
How Can Tea Help?
Tea has a way of relaxing us and helping us become more alert to the world around us. Is it because of the relaxing nature of the brewing ritual or could it be the brief moment away from the chaos of life we are given as we sit and sip? These are all helpful to a healthy mental lifestyle, but is there something in the brew that gives us a mental boost that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved? This is something scientists have sought to determine through study and analysis.
While all tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, the most popular of these teas is green tea, which is why it seems to be used the most in these studies. Green tea is popular for many reasons, but because of the processing method of green tea, it tends to hold on to more of those healthy compounds we’re looking for.
In addition, many of the studies done involved green tea extract which simply means a concentrated amount of green tea generally equivalent to a few cups of tea. These same nutrients can be found in all teas, but green tea is studied the most.
In a 2017 review of over 100 completed studies, green tea was found to have a positive impact on brain activity that…
- Reduced Anxiety
- Improved Attention Span
- Reduced Risk of Dementia
In South Korea, studies found that those who consumed green tea regularly were 21% less likely to develop symptoms of depression.
What’s In The Brew?
Tea, in general, is full of antioxidants such as polyphenols which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the brain. This reduction results in synaptic plasticity that helps with the cognitive function of the brain. In addition, green tea has small amounts of natural caffeine that contributes to alertness by blocking sleep receptors in the brain. When you combine L-theanine with caffeine you get a calming effect that contributes to improved memory and cognition.
There are also other mental health-promoting compounds found in tea such as catechins, which are healthy antioxidants that perform different functions. One antioxidant, in particular, found in high amounts in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate, better referred to as EGCG. It is probably more responsible for the calming and cognition effects of the brew than the L-theanine which only accounts for 3% of the dry weight of brewed green tea. EGCG accounts for 43%.
While there are many healthy compounds found in tea, some that have shown to have a positive influence on mental health and some that improve our physical health, pinning down one that makes the most difference is difficult. Tea with all of its nutrition provides the body with overall health that can bleed into every other aspect of the body including the brain.
Which Tea is Best for Mental Health?
The answer to this question is up to you. Which tea do you prefer and can see yourself consuming regularly? This is probably the tea for you. There is data that suggests that green tea is the most nutrient-dense tea, but all teas from the camellia sinensis plant such as Black, White, and Oolong come with very similar benefits. Herbal teas also are full of many health-promoting compounds that contribute to healthy brain function. The most important aspect is making it a part of your regular diet.
Below are some green teas we think you’ll enjoy. All contain the healthy benefits we talked about above, however, as mentioned earlier, many other tea options may be a better fit for you.