Oolong tea may have a long list of health benefits that range from treating chronic conditions and protecting your immune system, to improving the vitality of your hair and skin.
The health benefits of oolong tea have been observed for 400 years. It is a staple of Ancient Chinese medicine and it is still recognized as potentially being able to treat a number of conditions.
It’s made from the leaves, buds, and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is also used to make black and green tea.
Some of the health benefits of oolong tea include stress reduction, increased alertness and focus, weight management, as well as improved energy, skin, and hair treatment.
Oolong tea also has the benefit of being rich in antioxidants that can help maintain DNA to protect you from cancer, chronic conditions like heart disease, as well as inflammation.
In this article, we will discuss oolong tea benefits and side effects, important nutrition facts about the tea, and how it compares to green tea. Let’s get started.
Nutritional Facts of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea comes in a variety of flavors and is manufactured with intricacy. It is dried, rolled, withered, and shaped like black tea; however, the process is far more time-consuming and detailed. Because of the production process, oolong tea has a unique nutritional profile that falls somewhere between black and green tea.
The nutrition in oolong tea is what provides its wide array of benefits. It’s rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which help protect the integrity of the cells and fight diseases. It also contains vitamins and minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, carotene, selenium, potassium, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E and K. All of these nutrients help your body function more efficiently and help improve blood pressure and fight inflammation. Furthermore, it possesses compounds like folic acid and niacin amide that can help remove toxins and waste from the body.
Lastly, oolong tea can stimulate your nervous system by supplying a decent amount of caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine.
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Because there is a fermenting process involved in processing oolong tea (the length varies based on the type) it is exposed to oxidation that can limit its nutrition. That being said, it is still beneficial. The health benefits of oolong tea include:
People need an extra kick of energy most days; however, many of the stimulants they turn to are unhealthy. Sugar-laden sodas, energy drinks, and sugary coffee can offer a bit of a boost, but they also deliver a big crash and potentially dangerous extra calories. Oolong tea, however, is a decent source of caffeine that won’t shoot you up and cause you to come crashing down.
Assists with weight management
Caffeine can increase your body temperature and stimulate your metabolism, which can result in weight loss. This is especially true if you don’t put any sugar in your oolong tea. There are also reports that it may activate fat cells to be used for energy production, meaning oolong tea may help you shed pounds.
In 2009, the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine published a study finding that when overweight or obese people drank eight grams of oolong per day, for six weeks, they lost body fat. Participants lost between one and three kilograms over the test period, leading researchers to assert drinking oolong tea could aid a weight loss program.
Helps with skin care
Some of the compounds in oolong tea, and particularly vitamin E, help to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. It can reduce the likelihood and severity of blemishes, while adding a healthy glow. The vitamin K may also help keep your skin soft and elastic.
The calcium and vitamin K in oolong tea can also promote bone density, which means it might be an effective contributor in battling osteoporosis and tooth decay. Research indicates that people who drank oolong tea for a period of 10 years were less likely to see reductions in bone density than those who did not drink it.
Studies on mice have shown that oolong can be an effective means of reducing stress. Polyphenols have the ability to reduce oxidative stress, meaning they help your body’s cells and organs fight off wear and tear. Polyphenols help protect you from damage caused by inflammation and free radicals and can fight against a number of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
There are also amino acids in oolong tea that might have a direct impact on stress response. Some studies have shown these amino acids can block receptors in the brain that lead to increased stress response and cortisol levels. More work needs to be done to see how and why this happens.
The caffeine in oolong tea can also help keep you focused and alert, which can lead to stress reduction.
Lowers heart disease risk
There are various studies showing oolong’s impact on heart health. It has been found to stop the spread of atherosclerosis, which is a major feature of heart disease. One study showed that after a month of regular oolong consumption, patients displayed softer and wider arteries.
Oolong tea has also shown an ability to combat heart disease through its effect on cholesterol. Patients with atherosclerosis who consumed more than 600 milliliters of the tea per day (about 2.5 cups) had a drop in overall cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL.
If you’ve got high cholesterol, are at high risk for heart disease, or are currently living with the condition, including oolong tea into your daily routine could be helpful.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that drinking oolong tea—along with other varieties and coffee—lowered the chance of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
May reduce cancer risk
Oolong tea is very high in antioxidants, meaning it may help defend against certain cancers. Research has shown it may have an impact on stopping or slowing the growth of melanoma, and the National Cancer Institute has included oolong tea (and tea in general) as a cancer-fighting food.
Diabetes is another major health issue that may benefit from oolong consumption. Studies have shown that drinking oolong tea may prevent and even treat diabetes, as it can decrease blood glucose levels substantially. In a study looking at diabetics, those consuming oolong for a month noticed significant drops in blood sugar, compared to a group following the same diet and drinking only water.
Supports a healthy brain
There is plenty of research indicating tea’s impact on brain health. Its caffeine and L-theanine offer short-term benefits like improved alertness, attention, comprehension, and calmness. Over the long term, the benefits are even more notable.
Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is an active polyphenol found in teas that helps maintain and encourage learning and memory Studies have shown that regular consumption of tea can prevent cognitive decline and improve brain function in older adults. Drinking tea may help delay, or at least lower the risk of, Alzheimer’s.
Oolong Tea vs. Green Tea
First, by no means are oolong tea and green tea adversaries. They come from the same plant and have many of the same benefits, and it’s not like you should stick with one and avoid the other. In fact, including both might be ideal.
Two of the main differences between these teas are their colors and flavor. Green tea, as the name suggests, is green. Oolong, on the other hand, is light brown. And while green tea tends to have a milder, standard taste, oolong is more complex and has a taste quality that runs the spectrum from fruity to woody.
From a health standpoint, green tea has more documented benefits, likely to due to its higher catechin content. These polyphenols are responsible for the health benefits of all teas, and are present in oolong, just not to the degree of green tea. From an overall health standpoint, green tea moves ahead of oolong.
As far as caffeine goes, both teas provide nine to 50 mg per cup.
Side Effects of Oolong Tea
Because oolong tea is a source of caffeine it may pose a potential threat to some individuals; however, most individuals should not notice any negative oolong tea side effects unless it’s being consumed in very high amounts.
To be safe, cap daily usage at two cups per day, which will supply roughly 200 mg of caffeine. Your ability to handle caffeine, of course, is individualized. If you have a relatively low tolerance, or suffer from anxiety, you’ll likely want to consume mush less caffeine.
In order to avoid experiencing the negative effects of caffeine, start by drinking one cup of oolong tea per day. As tolerance builds, you can incorporate more servings every day. Try not to drink more than five cups of oolong tea per day, because that will likely be too much caffeine that may result in anxiety, nervousness, sleep trouble, heartburn, diarrhea and dizziness. People who’ve got heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes should also closely monitor their caffeine intake.
Other potential effects of too much caffeine from oolong (more than two cups) include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- May cause added pressure in the eye for those suffering from glaucoma.
- May cause problems for people with osteoporosis because it can flush calcium from the body.
Also, if you’re taking any medications/antibiotics, you might want to talk to your doctor. Oolong tea may impact their effectiveness.
How to Make Oolong Tea
There are a variety of flavors and blends of oolong tea that can range from earthy to nutty to fruity. There are a number of prepared blends you can purchase from tea shops. Oolong is unique in the way that the same leaves can be steeped multiple times, actually improving the flavor. It should be noted, however, that this is true for only high-quality leaves. You should also place the leaves directly in the water to allow the leaves to fully open:
- Get your brewing vessel of choice: a gaiwan, teapot, or measuring cup.
- Add the amount of tea you wish to brew.
- Heat the water, but not to a full boil.
- Pour enough water into the vessel to cover the tea.
- Immediately strain the liquid into a decanter or a tea cup.
- Pour out the liquid. Now the tea has been rinsed.
- Pour some more water onto the tea in your vessel.
- Let it brew for 30 seconds to a few minutes (depending on your taste).
- Strain the liquid into a decanter or a tea cup.
- Repeat as many times as you’d like until the leaves give you more flavor, increasing steeping time slightly as you go. You can store the leaves for later use, as good-quality oolong leaves can have at least three to five brews.
Oolong tea can help you relax and enjoy a number of other health benefits. Sit down with a cup and pass the time. It will do your body some good this holiday season.
Oolong Tea: A Tasty Drink with Health Benefits
Including tea in your daily routine—whether oolong or green—can be a smart move for both short-and long-term health. Its versatility and health benefits can make it an enjoyable form of treatment and prevention for a host of conditions at a relatively low price. Adding both oolong tea and green tea to your health regimen will likely offer the most benefit by providing complementary effects. And remember, although tea has plenty to provide, it should not be your primary prevention or treatment option. Use it as part of a preventative lifestyle and as a complement to other treatment techniques.
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