Some of you might know that feeling — the one where you’ve had a very tough day at work, you’re all stressed out, and you need to wind down a bit. What do many of us crave at these times? A nice, hot cup of tea.
Now, some British researchers (of course, they are famous tea lovers, after all!) have found some evidence to back up this popular practice. Tea could actually assist people in recovering from stress and therefore also in avoiding its negative effects as well. We’re talking about black tea here, and not green tea or any other herbal concoctions.
The double-blind study, carried out in London, England, looked at 75 healthy men who were at an average age of 33. Prior to the outset of the study, the participants went through a “fasting” period of four weeks, during which they were not allowed to consume caffeinated drinks of any kind (e.g. soda, coffee, or tea), certain drugs and supplements, or flavonoid-rich produce. This was done to ensure that all the men were basically at the same level when it came to consuming the primary ingredients found in tea.
Next, the subjects were broken up into two different groups; one group was assigned to drink a caffeinated beverage containing black tea and the other a caffeinated placebo drink that tasted the same, but that didn’t contain the other usual ingredients of black tea — such as flavonoids, catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and polyphenols. The men all drank four cups of “tea” a day, respectively, for six weeks.
After the six weeks were over, the researchers had the men participate in some activities that were meant to raise their stress levels. The subjects were monitored after this for blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone levels, and were asked to rate their feelings of stress. Immediately after the tasks were completed, all these factors were equally high for both groups.
However, almost an hour after the stressful event, the levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” fell in both groups — by 27% in the placebo tea group and by 47% in the black tea group. That’s a 20% difference, which is quite significant. The black tea drinkers also felt more relaxed during their recovery from the stressful task set for them by the researchers. Perhaps more importantly, a risk factor for heart attacks (“blood platelet activation”) was discovered to be lower in the black tea group compared to the placebo group.
Since prolonged stress has been linked to heart disease (not to mention a great many other illnesses), this finding is quite important for our physical health, in addition to our mental and emotional well-being. They’re not saying that drinking black tea regularly could prevent stress, but rather that it could help a person bounce back quicker from a stressful event — and that it could help ward off the more dangerous by-products of fear and anxiety.
It has yet to be discovered which actual black tea components or combination thereof could be related to the quicker and greater reduction of cortisol after a stressful activity. Another question is whether or not green tea could have the same effects. Researchers need to take a closer look before tea can be taken seriously as a true remedy for the aftereffects of stress. Until then, check with your doctor to see if adding more black tea to your diet would be okay for your particular health profile.