At first it seemed like just another fad. But it has shown to have staying power and is now classified as a superfood. We are talking about matcha, a form of green tea that is said to be even more powerful and beneficial. We shall look at the health benefits of matcha tea shortly. First a brief introduction.
What Is Matcha?
As mentioned, matcha is a form of green tea and is derived from the same plant known as Camellia sinensis. It’s origins and use trace back thousands of years in Japan, matcha use is only beginning to catch on in the West. Some sources place the origins in China. (Continued below).
However, matcha differs from green tea in the way it’s grown and processed. Matcha is shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest, and the stems and veins are removed during processing.
When one consumes green tea, the leaves are infused in hot water (cold green tea is just a cooled down version of this). The leaves are then discarded, along with some of the active ingredients. Sort of like throwing away potato or apple peels. Matcha, on the other hand, consists the leaves in form of powder.
Shade-growth is attributed to production of more theanine and caffeine in matcha. Also known as L-theanine, L-?-glutamylethylamide and N5-ethyl-L-glutamine, theanine is a nondietary amino acid that is associated with green tea’s relaxing and rejuvenating effects.
Matcha is also known as maccha, although according to Wikipedia, this is a non-standard and uncommon spelling.
Hardly known not too long ago, matcha has grown in popularity in the health and natural medicine circles. Today, matcha has found its way into cafes. You will also find matcha products virtually everywhere, including matcha teas, drinks, foods, pastries, and even beauty products.
Matcha powders are available in various grades and flavors. These range from cooking grades, to more expensive ceremonial grades and others in-between.
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
Matcha is a form of green tea and therefore it provides all the benefits of green tea. However, matcha contains higher concentrations of the active ingredients of green tea, thus making it superior to green tea.
Being a superior form of green tea, some of the benefits of matcha are similar to those of green tea, only that matcha may work better. Let’s now look at some of these health benefits:
1. Boosts Brain Performance, Alertness and Focus
Matcha is a nootropic or cognitive enhancer. It is said that Zen Buddhist monk used to drink matcha tea to help them stay calm and alert during long hours of meditation. You would think that being highly disciplined Zen monks they would simply sit it out but, apparently, they had some help.
If it is good enough for Buddhist monks, it just may be good enough for you.
Many matcha users today say that it helps them feel calm and focus better. Like green tea, matcha contains theanine, but in greater concentrations than in green tea. As mentioned earlier, theanine is an amino acid that is linked to relaxing and rejuvenation effects.
Since it promotes calmness, matcha may also be a good natural treatment for reducing anxiety.
A study involving 27 participants showed that theanine and caffeine combination improved both speed and accuracy of performance on cognitively demanding tasks. Matcha naturally has this combination.
Perhaps it is the next big thing in late night study or work.
2. Boosts Energy Levels, Without the Jitters
Another legend has it that samurai warriors drank matcha green tea before going to battle in order to stay alert and energized for long hours. The same ingredients in matcha that are linked to mental focus (#1 above) are also linked to its energy-boosting effects. These are theanine and caffeine.
But there is a difference. Unlike tea or coffee, matcha boosts energy levels without the buzz or jitters that comes with caffeine alone. This is attributed to theanine, which promotes relaxation and may counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine while maintaining energy and alertness.
3. Loaded with Antioxidants
Like green tea, matcha is loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals, only that matcha contains much more of these. Some sources say matcha contains up to 10 times the amounts of antioxidants of green tea. The antioxidants, in form of polyphenols, may provide a number of benefits including protection against cancer, blood pressure reduction, and reduced risk of heart disease.
4. Supports Cardiovascular Health
Another potential benefit associated with EGCG present in matcha green tea is the boosting of cardiovascular health. Besides cholesterol-lowering effects, the tea may help reduce risk of type II diabetes as well as coronary heart disease. Matcha may also help lower blood sugar in people with type II diabetes.
5. Boosts Metabolism and Aids Weight Loss
The benefits of matcha green tea would not feel complete if weight loss and metabolism were not somewhere in the mix. So, can matcha help you lose weight? Asked another way, can matcha help you maintain a healthy bodyweight?
Going back to green tea – because this close cousin of matcha has been more extensively studied – the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea may boost metabolism and aid weight. This polyphenol is much more concentrated in matcha than in green tea.
6. Lowers Cholesterol
Drinking match green tea may help improve cholesterol total levels as well as lower LDL cholesterol (the bad type). One study of rats indicates that matcha may help reduce cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides.
7. Improves Skin and Slows Aging
Yet another benefit of antioxidants present in matcha, is anti-aging properties. Free radicals are known to accelerate aging, and therefore scavenging them – which is what antioxidants do – may help slow skin aging. Regular matcha consumption can also help promote skin health and combat skin aging.
8. Helps Reduce Cancer Risk
Due to, again, the high levels of antioxidants present in matcha, it may help reduce the risk of cancer. Tea polyphenols have been found to inhibit tumor growth and induce cancer cell distraction in laboratory animals.
Matcha Safety and Side Effects
Like regular green tea, matcha is likely safe for most people. Excessive consumption should be avoided – 2 to 3 cups a day is considered safe.
Matcha may cause stomach upset and constipation in some people. Because matcha is whole-leaf tea, you may get higher concentrations of caffeine than in a cup of regular tea, green tea, or coffee. Though some say the effects may be reduced by the presence of theanine, it may not be wise to consume it close to bedtime. Green tea may inhibit absorption of iron from food (drinking it between meals might help get around this).
Consulting your health care professional before starting on matcha green tea is recommended, and emphasized if pregnant, nursing, on medication, and/or if you have a known medical condition. Those with a known tea or caffeine allergy should avoid matcha and so should those who want to reduce their caffeine intake.
Getting Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea and other products that contain it are available in health stores and in online stores including amazon. To get the best quality matcha, look for a bright green color, and possibly organic.
To check out matcha tea products at Amazon click here.
 The Matcha Miracle: Boost Energy, Focus and Health with Green Tea Powder by Anna V. Zulaica, Mariza Snyder, Lauren Clum