Originating in China before making it's way to Japan in the 12th century, matcha has been used for centuries for its many health properties. Samurai warriors reportedly drank matcha green tea before going into battle because of its energizing properties, while Zen Buddhist monks have used it as a way to remain alert during long periods of meditation. Now that it's reached the rest of the world, matcha has become increasingly popular for its health benefits. For the skeptics out there, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow. However, matcha does come with benefits that various studies have confirmed. These include improved cognitive functioning, better oral health, improved states of relaxation and alertness and possible prevention against high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
So, let’s have a look at the science behind matcha it's and its many health benefits.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a fine powder made of stone ground green tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Matcha has been traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is prepared by whisking the matcha powder with hot water using a bamboo whisk.
While green tea is made from Camellia Sinensis, the process of harvesting and preparing matcha powder is different from that of regular green tea. Matcha needs to be shaded for three weeks before being harvested. This leads to an increase in the production of caffeine, theanine, and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green pigment, so it also means the color intensifies.
After harvesting the matcha leaves from the tea plant, the leaves are steamed to stop discoloration and then dried. The veins and stems are removed to reduce bitterness. Matcha is finely ground into a powder.
1. Antioxidants in Matcha
If you’ve looked into the health benefits of matcha green tea, one of the first things you stumbled across was probably its high antioxidant count or ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value.
Antioxidants help prevent free radicals from damaging our cells. This is necessary to prevent disease, as well as to stay youthful. The ORAC value refers to the in vitro antioxidant capacity of a certain food. (1) (2)
Matcha green tea powder has an incredibly high ORAC value at 1,384 per gram. As you use approximately one gram per cup, this is how much you get when drinking a cup of matcha!
The antioxidant most notably found in matcha is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — yes, the name is a handful and usually just referred to as green tea catechins. All you really need to remember is that matcha comes with a lot of antioxidants! In fact, the concentration of EGCG available from drinking matcha is at least three times greater than other green teas on the market. You consume the entire leaf when you drink matcha, unlike steeped green tea where you discard the tea leaves and just drink the water, ensuring more antioxidants are consumed (3)
Is there proof that the antioxidants in matcha actually make a difference in the body? Well, studies have found that consuming matcha can lower antioxidant stress in rats. They also have various other health benefits, as discussed below. (4)
The bottom line? Matcha has one of the highest ORAC values of any plant out there. By drinking a cup of matcha you get a healthy dose of antioxidants that can help keep your cells happy and healthy and prevent disease.
2. Can Help Protect Against Bad Cholesterol
Matcha tea powder may be able to help increase your levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-Cholesterol), while decreasing your levels of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-Cholesterol). In other words, matcha might help increase the levels of good cholesterol and decrease the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. (4)
Admittedly these results were found when testing it on rats, but matcha powder has had similar effects on both mice and men in other studies.
3. Might Help Lower the Glucose Level in Your Blood
Blood glucose has been linked to diabetes, so you want to keep your levels down. An aide in doing so, might be consuming matcha powder. Different studies on rats found it significantly lowered blood sugar levels. (4) (5)
4. Can Help Reduce Stress
One study carried out on both mice and people found that: “High contents of theanine and arginine in matcha [exhibit] a high stress-reducing effect.” In plain language: the two amino acids found in matcha have a stress reducing effect. (6)
5. Matcha Is Probably Good for Your Liver
If you are suffering from a non-alcoholic fatty liver, or want to prevent getting one, matcha green tea could be your new best friend! A study showed that it can help reduce liver enzymes. A high level of liver enzymes is a sign something is wrong, so this is very good indeed! (7)
Another study that compared 15 studies done on green tea and various liver diseases, found that the occurrence of liver disease was generally lowered by drinking green tea. So, in other words, drinking matcha appears to protect your liver in more ways than one! (8)
Yet another study found that matcha can help protect the liver in patients — or this case, rats — with diabetes. (5)
6. Will Give Your Brain a Boost and Help You Stay Alert
Coffee has been known to be a student, or shift worker’s best buddy because of its caffeine content, However, a cup of java leaves many people feeling jittery side effects once the high is over, followed by a sharp crash. (9) (10)
A gram of matcha green tea powder contains about the same as half a cup of coffee, but it also contains L-theanine, which helps prevent you from crashing after a caffeine high. It also promotes relaxation, as well as alertness. This is the reason matcha has often been used for meditation — you want to remain alert, but also relaxed. Or as one study put it: “L-theanine significantly increases activity of alpha waves which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.” (11) (12)
The fact that matcha green tea makes you feel relaxed, at the same time as it improves your alertness, is one of the main reason it’s become so popular in the Western world. People who want to avoid the jitters they get from coffee, as well as the caffeine crash, but still want to feel energized and alert, often switch to drinking matcha.
7. Help Cognitive Functioning
If you’re worried about what will happen to your brain as you age, you will want to consider drinking matcha. Matcha might help improve cognitive functioning in the elderly (or prevent cognitive dysfunction). This might also be because caffeine, in general, improves cognitive performance. (13) (14)
8. Cancer Prevention
Various studies have found that green tea can help inhibit and sometimes kill cancer cells, as well as reduce the size of tumors. Plenty of studies have been done on this, related to different types of cancer. However, the studies done have been performed in test tubes and on animals, not humans. It’s also important to note that some of the studies used extracts from green tea (in high concentration), as opposed to just drinking a cup of green tea. (15) (16) (17) (18) (19)
The active compound that helps prevent and inhibit cancer, appears to be EGCG (a.k.a. the green tea catechins — the antioxidants). Interestingly, one study combined the EGCG with ascorbic acid (found, amongst other places, in lemon juice) with great effects. (19)
9. Matcha May Help Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke
As mentioned earlier, matcha tea is good for cholesterol levels, which means it’s good for the heart. Studies have also shown that it’s good for overall heart health and can, possibly also prevent stroke. However, studies have sometimes been contradictory where stroke is concerned. (20) (21)
10. Matcha and Weight Loss
Studies have shown that green tea extract can help you burn fat during exercise, increase overall energy expenditure and help with weight loss and maintenance. (22) (23) (24)
A 2008 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that green tea extract caused an increase in energy expenditure, and increased metabolism rate (fat burning).
So what does that mean? While drinking matcha tea alone won’t make you lose weight, when combined with a good exercise program it can help you lose weight. Also, if you are counting calories, a cup of regular matcha tea has almost zero calories, unlike a cappuccino or sugary frappuccino.
11. Matcha and Improved Sleep Quality
In one experiment, boys with ADHD were given L-theanine twice daily. This led to improved sleep quality compared to a placebo. For those who suffer from sleep problems, but love caffeine hits, matcha may be the perfect coffee replacement! (25)
12. Matcha Appears to Lower Blood Pressure
An analysis of 25 different studies, found that the consumption of green tea can lead to reduced blood pressure. This is great news for anyone suffering from hypertension. (26)
13. Improves Oral Health
If you fear having bad breath on a date, try drinking a cup of matcha tea. The polyphenols in tea help killing off bad smelling bacteria and green tea also appears to have a deodorizing effect. The effect is immediate, but does not last for longer periods of time, so sipping a cup of tea just before a kiss, is a great idea! (27)
As green tea helps inhibit bacteria, it also seems able to help prevent cavities. In fact, toothpaste companies have started catching up on this! Expect to find lots of very green toothpastes with matcha powder in them soon… (28)
14. Improved Skin Health
Green tea has shown promise, both when it comes to preventing skin cancer and preventing and treating acne. It can also help reduce oil production. Thanks to the many antioxidants and polyphenol found in matcha, both drinking it and applying it directly on the skin may help improve skin health. (29) (30)
As will be discussed a bit further down in this article, matcha also had anti-inflammatory properties. As acne is an inflammation, green tea could possibly help because of this as well.
That means that next time you’re making a face mask, you should consider adding some matcha powder!
16. Matcha and Your Immune System
When talking about the health benefits of matcha tea, many people refer to an improved immune system. This is because matcha contains EGCG, which has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. This means that it might help prevent fungal infections, like candida, viral infections, like herpes, hepatitis and influenza, and bacterial infections, such as staph infections. (31)
17. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Matcha powder has shown potential as an anti-inflammatory thanks to the EGCG, as well as the green tea polyphenols you find in it. Studies have been done with great results with inflammation related to arthritis and pulmonary fibrosis. As chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease, eating foods that help fight inflammation is important for your health. By eating an anti-inflammatory diet, you can help prevent inflammation in the body. (32) (33)
18. Matcha Might Relieve the Signs of Depression
As mentioned earlier in this article, matcha green tea has shown great potential for both promoting relaxation and mental alertness. It has also been proven beneficial for sleep. This is further backed by studies showing people suffering anxiety, depression and/or schizophrenia have some relief from their symptoms when taking L-theanine, which is naturally occurring in matcha powder. (34) (35)
19. A Natural Detoxifier
Matcha leaves are shaded during production, and this boosts levels of chlorophyll inside the tea leaves.
Chlorophyll is known for its powerful detoxifying properties which are said to naturally eliminate chemicals and heavy metals from the body. (36)
How to make matcha?
Easy! Sift 1/2 tsp of high-quality matcha in a bowl and mix using a bamboo whisk. See our matcha tea range for all the accessories you need.
Matcha tea shows a lot of promise where health benefits are concerned. It’s a great addition to a healthy and varied diet. As it can be used both in drinks and treats, it’s an easy addition, especially as making a cup of matcha is super simple quick. And the amount of antioxidants you get in a single one gram serving is incredible!
Some of the studies cited have used green tea, as opposed to matcha tea, but as green tea comes from the same plant, it should have similar health benefits. What’s important to note with studies related to disease, is that a lot of them are done on animals, or in test tubes, and often using extracts from matcha/green tea, which is not the same as drinking a cup of tea. Studies on cognitive functioning, improved alertness, etc. on the other hand, are usually done with participants drinking the tea.