Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general reference only and is not a replacement for professional health advice from a physician licensed by the American Medical Association.
Someone recently (and very rightly) pointed out in response to our article about green teas being healthy that black teas were healthy, too. I had intended to do a series here anyway that expanded on the more general article posted awhile back, and was just starting with the one about green teas since Spring is here. But might as well present the scoop on how black teas are healthy.
Recap of Black Tea Benefits
In a previous article we listed health benefit claims for various teas and herbals. Here is the list for black tea:
- Lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke with its anti-inflammatory properties and theophylline (increases blood flow in the capillaries, helps maintain normal blood pressure)
- Lowers the risk of diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels
- May protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke
- Can expand airways and ease breathing for asthmatics
- Protects skin from UV rays
- Has about half the caffeine of a standard cup of coffee
I’ll add a few more to that list:
- Good for oral health
- Very low in sodium, fat and calories (without milk and sugar, honey, etc.)
- Reduces the risk of kidney stones
- Lowers the chances of getting Parkinson’s disease
While green tea is rich in catechins (one of the three classes of flavanols), black tea is rich in theaflavins (another class of flavanols). They are developed during the production of the tea and help reduce clotting and improve blood flow, among other things.
In addition, black tea has manganese that helps cardiac muscle function. TF-2, a compound in black tea, programs certain types of cancer cells to self-destruct but leaves normal cells alone. It seems particularly effective in reducing the risk of oral cancer for smokers, along with polyphenols, which are also good to counter tooth decay and bad breath. Phytochemicals in black tea is said to help keep bones stronger. Tannins are supposed to help the digestive system, fight off things like flu, dysentery, and hepatitis, and retard the development of tumors.
Caffeine in black tea has a number of benefits: the low amount stimulates but not overly so, heightens mental focus, gives your memory a bit of a boost, and stimulates your metabolism which is good for weight loss. On the other hand, L-theanine in black tea relaxes you. Theophylline in black tea works with caffeine to stimulate breathing, blood flow, and kidneys. Plus alkylamine antigens are supposed to help your immune system.
Which Form Is Best
Just as for the green teas, I have to advocate that you stay with loose leaf tea. True, those bagged teas are convenient, but they are often also just stale dust. The loose tea is usually broken or whole leaf and can be infused a couple of times. The flavors tend to be more vibrant, so you can “take your medicine” and enjoy it at the same time.
A Word of Caution
Too much of a good thing… that’s the standard phrase. And it’s as true of black tea as it is of other things. According to WebMD, too much black tea can result in caffeine-related side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, headache, nervousness, tremors and more. What constitutes “too much” is up to you. We all have different levels of tolerances and you can build up some resistance to the effects. You should also watch out having a lot of black tea with other caffeine-laden products. The combined effect could be even more negative, with jitteriness, seizures, and higher blood pressure. And check with your doctor for possible interactions with medicines and supplements you are taking.
While research is ongoing, drinking a freshly steeped cup of black tea per day has certainly been shown to be helpful, but not a cure-all.