Some amazing medicinal plants: tea

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In this series, we present medicinal plants from all the continents on Earth, this time featuring the tea plant.


TEA

botanical name:

Genus: Camellia. Species: Camellia sinensis.

common names:

Tea, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, yellow tea, white tea, kukicha, bancha, senchu, gyokura, matcha, chai.

habitat:

Believed to be native to western China, tea has been cultivated for centuries, first in plantations in China and later at high elevations in tropical southern Asia. In recent years it has also been cultivated in many other areas of the world with suitable mild and humid climates. Assam tea (var. assamica) occurs naturally in tropical and subtropical southeastern Asia and is cultivated extensively in India and Sri Lanka.

Seedlings and young plants should be shaded, while older plants grow best in full sun. The plants do best in a cool, frost-free climate. High quality teas are often grown at higher altitudes up to 2,000 meters, as the slower growth produces more flavor.

mythology & history:

Once upon a time, according to legend, in 2737 BC the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water. All of a sudden some leaves from a nearby small tree blew into the water. Shen Nung was an experienced herbalist, so he decided to try the infusion that his servant had unknowingly created. The tree was named Camellia sinensis, and the drink he tasted came to be known as tea.

Tea drinking was established in China many centuries before it reached the rest of the world, with tea containers found in tombs from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). During the Tang dynasty (618 – 906 AD) tea became the national drink of China, and in the late eighth century Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the classic Ch’a Ching. Shortly after this, tea was introduced to Japan by Japanese Buddhist monks who studied in China. Tea drinking then became a vital part of Japanese culture, with the development of the Tea Ceremony, which is similar to some of the rituals described in the Ch’a Ching.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century there are the first records of tea drinking among Europeans, mostly the Portuguese who lived in the East. But it was not the Portuguese who first shipped tea as a commercial import, it was the Dutch, who established a trading post on the island of Java, and in 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland. Tea soon became a fashionable drink in Holland, and from there it spread to other countries in Western Europe, as a drink for the wealthy.

The first dated reference to tea in Britain is from an advert in a London newspaper in September 1658 announcing that tea was on sale at a coffee house in Sweeting’s Rents in London. And the wife of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess and tea aficionada, established tea as a fashionable beverage among the wealthy classes. So the East India Company began to import tea into Britain in 1664.

Tea became a popular drink among the upper classes in Britain, but it was still too expensive to be widespread among the working classes due to heavy taxes, which led to a lot of smuggling and adulteration, and by the eighteenth century smuggling was rampant. It was as bad as Prohibition in the US in the 1920s. By 1784, the government realized that smuggling needed to be stopped, so they removed the heavy taxes and suddenly legal tea became affordable.

Originally all tea came from China, but in the 1830s the East India Company started growing tea in India, beginning in Assam. It was a great success, production was expanded, and by 1888 British tea imports from India were greater than those from China.

In India, the widespread popularity of tea began in the 1920s, after the government and the Tea Board of India promoted the drink using railway stations as a base. Today India is one of the largest producers and consumers of tea in the world.

The expansion of production in the 1830s ushered in the era of the tea clippers. Individual merchants and sea captains raced to bring tea to the West, using fast new clippers with sleek lines, tall masts and huge sails. In particular there was competition between British and American merchants, leading to the famous clipper races of the 1860s. These races came to an end with the opening of the Suez Canal, when the trade routes became open to steamships for the first time.

By 1901, tea had become firmly established as part of the British way of life, and even today British companies continue to play a leading role in the world’s tea trade and British brands still dominate the world market. In the last twenty years, there has been a resurgence of teahouses and teashops, along with a massive growth in tea culture around the world.

description:

An evergreen shrub or small tree with a strong taproot. The flowers are yellow-white with 7 to 8 petals, and produce a berry. The mature leaves are quite large, and the young leaves are preferred for harvesting. Different leaf ages produce different qualities of tea, due to varying chemical composition, with the youngest being the most potent. The genome of tea has around three billion base pairs, which is greater than most plants sequenced to date.

plants parts used:

Young leaves, flowers, twigs.

therapeutic uses:

Tea has long been known to soothe the mind, remove laziness and refresh the body. Recent scientific research indicates many health benefits of tea drinking. These include:

Boosts endurance, as the antioxidants in tea increase the body’s ability to burn fat.

Helps reduce the risk of heart attack and protect against cardiovascular diseases if drunk without milk. May improve the ratio of HDL cholesterol to LDL cholesterol.

Is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This is a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer and inhibit the growth of cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

Green tea may improve bone density, and help with degenerative neurological diseases.

The polyphenols in green tea may also help maintain brain health.

Contains natural fluorine and the catechin, glucosyl transferase, which reduces the formation of cavities, destroying the cariogenic bacteria that cause plaque and the oral bacteria that produce bad breath.

Acts as a sterilizing agent for many types of bacteria that cause food poisoning without harm to the helpful bacteria necessary for proper functioning of the intestinal tract.

current ecology:

Ranges from warm temperate through tropical, the tea plant tolerates annual precipitation of 70 to 310 cm, although 120 cm or more is best, annual temperatures of 10 to 30°C and soil pH of 4.5 to 7.3. Although evergreen, tea is intolerant of frost, although some Chinese tea varieties can tolerate cooler climes. Thrives on tropical red earths and deep, well-drained, acid soils, ideally on a slope of 0.5 to 10 degrees and up to 2,000 meters above sea level.

Because of its specific habitat, tea production is geographically limited to a few areas around the world, and it is highly sensitive to changes in growing conditions. Unfortunately, its ideal growing conditions are at high risk due to climate change, and its distribution may change significantly.

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