6 therapeutic uses for matcha tea powder
Matcha tea is grown in the shade, resulting in a higher percentage of chlorophyll than other green teas, and is the centrepiece of ancient Japanese tea rituals. Before it can be used, matcha is forced through a sieve to remove lumps. For the Japanese tea ceremony, it’s placed in a small tea caddy or used straight from the sieve. Two to four grams of matcha is scooped into a bowl then 60–80mL of hot (70–85°C) — not boiling — water is added. The mixture is then whisked to a uniform consistency with a small bamboo whisk. This is traditionally served with a small sweet to balance the bitterness.
There are two main ways of preparing matcha: thick (koicha) and thin (usucha). Koicha has twice the amount of matcha and about half the water of usucha in each serve. Koicha is usually made from more expensive matcha — often from plants older than 30 years — and is milder and sweeter than usucha. As koicha is stirred rather than whisked it does not have the foam.
These days, matcha is used in cooking in many ways: as its traditional use in tea but also as a nutritional flavouring in ice-creams and cakes, as a topping for shaved ice, and mixed with milk and sugar as a cold drink, among other preparations.
Matcha contains L-theanine, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG — a uniquely powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound), caffeine (largely as theophylline, which boosts energy without the side-effects of caffeine) and chlorophyll (a major detoxifier and alkaliser). L-theanine contributes to the umami taste, promotes relaxation, improves concentration and learning ability and enhances immunity and liver function.
Overall, matcha is packed with antioxidants (including EGCG), boosts metabolism and burns calories, detoxifies effectively and naturally calms the mind and relaxes the body. It’s rich in fibre and vitamins, enhances mood, aids in concentration and helps lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Nutritionally, it provides vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium.
Matcha is reputed to have a higher antioxidant content than any other food, with 20 times more antioxidants than pomegranate and blueberries. This major antioxidant activity protects the body and its cells from the free-radical damage caused by pollution, UV rays, radiation and chemicals.
Matcha is referred to as a brain food as it has been shown to improve mood and cognitive performance. This was demonstrated in a human study which, at 60 minutes after ingestion, showed an improvement in attention ability, speed of spatial working memory and psychomotor speed in response to stimuli. It was more effective as a tea than as a food bar.
A further systematic review showed a reduction in anxiety, improvement in memory and attention and in working memory, possibly due to the synergistic activity of L-theanine and caffeine.
From the accumulating evidence that oxidation and inflammation play a pivotal role in neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, research indicates that green tea polyphenols (particularly ECGC), with their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, can improve cognitive deficits in older people.
Large-scale epidemiological studies are showing that matcha is a neuroprotective/neurorescue agent for neurological conditions and may help protect the ageing brain and reduce the incidence of various dementias. Green tea effectively may protect (and even repair) the brain as you age.
A very interesting study on rats showed that powdered matcha ingested over five days significantly increased the faecal excretion of a range of toxic polychlorinated compounds. In a study on humans, matcha exhibited protection against a variety of environmental insults such as those induced by pesticides, smoke, mycotoxins, PCBs and arsenic.
Both animal and human studies have shown that green tea may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Research also has shown that catechins lower plasma levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, possibly by inhibiting the intestinal absorption (and tissue accumulation) of dietary lipids.
Aligned with the risk for cardiovascular disease is the closely associated metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Green tea suppresses postprandial hypertriacylglycerolemia and reduces serum cholesterol concentrations, lowering cholesterol absorption by inhibiting its cellular solubility. It also slows the lymphatic absorption of triacylglycerols and reduces the deposition of visceral fat in both animals and humans, assisting in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by improving lipid metabolism.
The unique catechins in green tea have been shown to be protective against cancer as they possess biological activity that inhibits angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) and are antiproliferative (retarding spread of cells).
According to the scientific research (and to millennia of daily consumption in Asia), drinking several cups of green tea a day has been correlated with cancer prevention, reduction of cardiovascular risk by reducing atherosclerosis, and improvement of neurological function, reducing the risk of dementias. It has also been shown to be chemopreventive, reducing damage from environmental chemicals and improving age-related disorders.