Matcha, What Should I Know About It?
Updated August 02, 2013
Reviewed by a board-certified health professional. See About.com’s Medical Review Board.
Matcha is a type of green tea that comes in powdered form. Matcha tea is prepared by whisking matcha powder with hot water, which forms a frothy liquid. Matcha powder is also sometimes used as an ingredient in foods and non-tea beverages (such as smoothies).
Long used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, matcha has recently gained popularity among tea drinkers in Western countries.
Matcha vs. Green Tea
Unlike most green teas, matcha contains the entire leaf of the Camellia sinensis (the species of plant used to make green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea). In cultivating matcha, the plant is shade-grown for several weeks prior to harvest. After harvesting the plants, processors grind the leaves into a fine powder.
Matcha and Health
Some proponents claim that matcha contains more antioxidants than other forms of green tea. In addition, matcha is purported to promote weight loss, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, support detox efforts, enhance mood, reduce stress, increase energy, keep blood sugar in check, and stimulate the immune system.
The Science Behind Matcha’s Health Benefits
Although there is a great deal of scientific evidence for the health benefits of green tea, very few studies have specifically focused on matcha.
The available research on matcha includes a preliminary study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2009. In tests on rats with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that treating the animals with matcha led to decreased levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, and harmful blood fats. What’s more, matcha appeared to protect the rats from liver and kidney damage. According to the study’s authors, matcha may contain higher amounts of epigallocatechin 3-O-gallate (a potent antioxidant) than other forms of green tea.
While research on the specific health benefits of matcha is currently lacking, some studies suggest that regular consumption of green tea may offer a wide range of health benefits. For instance, green tea appears to prevent age-related cognitive impairment, reduce risk of stroke and diabetes, keep blood pressure in check, and strengthen bones.
Additionally, there’s some evidence that green tea may help prevent several forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Although matcha is generally considered safe, the National Institutes of Health warn that green tea may cause stomach upset and constipation in some cases.
Additionally, the NIH cautions against consuming more than five cups of green tea daily. Due to the caffeine content, excessive consumption of matcha or other forms of green may trigger certain side effects (such as headache, insomnia, irritability, diarrhea, and heartburn).
Where to Find Matcha
Widely available for purchase online, matcha is sold in many natural-food stores and tea shops.
Using Matcha for Health
Due to a lack of supporting research, matcha cannot currently be recommended as a standard principal treatment or prevention of any health problem. However, it’s possible that drinking matcha (or other forms of green tea) may help enhance your overall health.
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