Many people ask me about the virtues of green tea. In recent years the media has latched onto the amazing antioxidant effects of green tea, and then white tea, and now back to green tea. I have noticed more and more the frequency of patients proudly announcing to me that they incorporate cups of the beverage into their diet.
As practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) I am glad that my patients are utilizing the theory of food as medicine. However the problem is the western attitude to single out attributes of foodstuff and herbs. It is this view that has seen some very effective TCM herbs banned and the name of green tea praised to the skies. (I appreciate that green tea is not potentially lethal but often the issue surrounding strong herbs is that of unqualified practitioners. However that is another matter.)
It’s not always black and white, or green.
I don’t drink green tea. It has a cooling effect which isn’t suitable for everyone. This is why some people may get a sore throat after drinking too much of it.
I personally like pu’er, often referred to as “pensioners’ tea” in some Chinese quarters due to its warming characteristic which is ideal for the elderly who are no longer as “yang” as they used to be.
A sum of parts, not individual pieces.
In Chinese culture (and therefore in Chinese medicine), the food and drink we put in our bodies should have a time and purpose. In the hotter climates of southern China (including Hong Kong) it is customary for people to drink chrysanthemum tea in the hotter months or after a particularly “hot” meal such as a barbecue. However very few people would continue to drink it all day, every day as it is expected that your body has balanced the heat and you don’t want it to go into “cold” overdrive.
We apply this logic all the time. Putting on a coat and scarf during the winter months keeps us warm. But you couldn’t continue to wear that during a heatwave without feeling quite uncomfortable.
TCM treats the body as a whole, and we should take this system into our diet decisions. This involves knowledge but also the flexibility to adjust.
*Green tea does have antioxidant qualities that make it a great fighter of free radicals, and for most people it is indeed a wonderful beverage to enjoy.
Photo credit: Matteo via flickr
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