Health Benefits of Maccha Green Tea

City Food Magazine

In the Summer, 2005 edition of CityFood magazine, they write, “Afficianados claim [maccha] offers a positive buzz which can last for up to 8 hours, and yet unlike what you’ll find in the bottom of a coffee pot, no jitters, gut rot or headaches. The lack of jitter factor is attributed to the presence of L-theanine, a chemical compound in green tea which creates alertness but also counters the caffeine stimulation of black (fermented) tea or coffee.
Office workers claim it helps them to relax and stay focused on the job. Plus, green tea has large quantities of polyphenols with antioxidant properties that may protect against several types of cancer. One type of polyphenol has yet to be discovered in any other plant and is apparently stronger than vitamins A and C. The beta-carotene factor is said to be nine times stronger than spinach and up to 70 times stronger than that of oranges. And okay, we might as well mention it,… if you’re constipated, it apparently will also move what ails you.”

New Scientist

An article in New Scientist magazine (20 March 2004) mentions that numerous studies suggest that green tea protects against a range of cancers, including lung, prostate and breast cancer. The reason is the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), according to Hirofumi Tachibana’s team at Kyushu University in Japan. Their research showed that growth of human lung cancer cells that have a cell receptor
called 67 LR is slowed significantly after drinking just two or three cups of green tea, which contains EGCG. The research also showed that 67 LR is involved in the propagation of prion diseases such as mad cow disease in humans. So knowledge of EGCG’s effect on 67 LR might have implications in the treatment of these diseases too.
(Full report in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, DOI:10.1038/nsmb743).

University of Geneva

Clinical trials conducted by the University of Geneva in Switzerland indicate that green tea raises metabolic rates and speeds up fat oxidation. In addition to caffeine, green tea contains catechin polyphenols that raise thermogenesis (the rate at which calories are burned), and hence increases energy expenditure.

U.S. National Cancer Institute

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, in laboratory studies using animals, catechins scavenged oxidants before cell damage occurred, reduced the number and size of tumors, and inhibited the growth of cancer cells. White tea is said to be even more effective. However, human studies have proven more contradictory, perhaps due to such factors as variances in diet, environments, and
populations.

Furthermore, there have also been numerous studies that attribute green tea to lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and raising HDL levels.

Breakdown of the Health Benefits of Maccha

~ Polyphenols ~

Polyphenols are a class of phytochemicals found in high concentrations in green tea, and have been associated with heart disease and cancer prevention. The slight astringent, bitter taste of green tea is attributed to polyphenols.

~ Tannins ~

A group of simple and complex phenol, polyphenol, and flavonoid compounds. Produced by plants, all of the tannins are relatively resistant to digestion or fermentation. All tannins act as astringents, shrinking tissues and contracting structural proteins in the skin and mucosa, making for healthy skin.

~ Catechins ~

Catechins are a category of polyphenols. In green tea, catechins are present in significant quantities, more specifically; epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG makes up about 10-50% of the total catechin content and appears to be the most powerful of the catechins with antioxidant activity about 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. A cup of green tea may provide 10-40mg of polyphenols and has antioxidant activity greater than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots or strawberries.

~ Theanine ~

An amino acid that produces tranquilizing effects in the brain, theanine is a unique amino acid found in the leaves of green tea. Theanine is quite different from the polyphenol and catechin antioxidants for which green tea is typically consumed. Through the natural production of polyphenols, the tea plant converts theanine into catechins. This means that tea leaves harvested during one part of the growing season
may be high in catechins (good for antioxidant benefits), while leaves harvested during another time of year may be higher in theanine (good for anti-stress and cortisol-controlling effects). Three to four cups of sencha are expected to contain 100-200 mg of theanine. Maccha generally has 10-100 times the property concentartion of popularly consumed sencha.

~ Flavonoids ~

Flavonoids are plant pigments, and are the brightly colored chemical constituents found in most fresh fruits and vegetables. A simple definition describes flavonoids as “any group of substances found in fruits and vegetables essential for processing vitamin C and needed to maintain capillary walls. They are important antioxidants in the diet. They have been shown to boost immunity, help with the maintenance, protect against infection and proper functioning of blood vessels, and in one study to slow the growth of cancer. Deficiency can result in a tendency to bruise easily.

Maccha & Your Mind

(article from September 2008 Fellowship of the Maccha)

Maccha, Buddhism & Meditation

Maccha has been used as a mediation aid for quite sometime. There are records of Zen Buddhists developing the tea ceremony in Sung dynasty China, elevating the preparation of tea to a symbol of spiritual practice.
As far as history is concerned, one of the creation stories has the Prince Dharma of Buddhist history reach out and grab some leaves while meditating and having them aid him in staying awake. These leaves were the then yet to be discovered green tea leaves.
From a scientific perspective, current research says that the tannins in maccha (and green tea in general) help to slowly deliver the heightened awakening effects of caffeine, and the L-theanine, a property of green teas, actually works to counteract any addiction and/or nervous system stimulation, leaving room for a very calm energy. L-theanine has actually been shown to encourage Alpha brain-wave activity, which makes you happy.
Chlorophyll is a very interesting phenomenon in maccha. In our bodies, we have a chemical produced called guanadine that causes drowsiness. It seems that chlorophyll dissapates guanadine, effectivel disappating weariness in the body.

Maccha & Memory Retention

In the early years of my University career, I would drink a bowl of maccha and find that I could actually stay awake during lectures, even when I had unfortunately had close to zero sleep. What I also noticed is that things seemed to soak in better and stay there.
Since then, I have found numerous studies that say that this experience has also been proven by empirical study.
Apparently, scientists from East Asia to Europe to North America have found that epigallocatechin gallate (EPCG) found in the catechin antioxidant in green tea, works to aid in memory retention, among other things.
Similar research has also been applied to Alzheimers. Although you do not get the amount of EPCGs to duplicate the results in a single cup of green tea, the magnified properties of maccha could prove to be the way to go.
Still more Japanese studies warn against taking EPCGs out of context. They say that green tea definately incurs great memory retention, but it is not a good idea to extract EPCGs as they may not do the same thing out of context and seperate from the other properties in green tea. It seems that the complex relationships between the plethora of  properties in green tea also are proving to be major contributing factors.
Because of this positive relationship with the brain, scientists have also applied the EPCG research to studies working on fighting Mad Cow Disease, with promising results.
It is interesting to note that the mental clarity probably caused by L-theanine, caffeine, chlorophyll and the EPCGs has been utilized by artisans, spiritual practitioners, emperors, and just regular people for a very very long time, at least as far back as the 5th century. It would seem to me that having them as holistically as possible, meaning green tea (where they all happen to be in the same place at the same time) is a good way to go.