Green tea is often touted as a wonder drink providing all sorts of health benefits. Studies have shown that this tea can prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce hypertension. Although this delicious brew often gets the spotlight, many of the same health benefits can be attributed to other varieties of tea, including oolong (also referred to as wulong tea).
The only difference between green, oolong, and black tea is the way it has been processed after harvesting.
White tea is a little bit different because of the way it is grown, but all tea is from the same plant -- Camelia sinensis. And this plant has naturally occurring antioxidants that are beneficial to human health.
Antioxidants are also present in other types of food such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and wines. They are good for disease prevention by combating free radicals - substances in the body linked to cancer, Parkinson's disease, senile and drug-induced deafness, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's.
There are several components in tea that act as antioxidants including catechins, flavanoids, and polyphenols.
Comparing the Benefits of Tea Types
Oolong tea is produced by allowing the tea leaves to oxidize for a short time after picking. Oxidation is the process which makes the leaves turn dark on exposure to oxygen. Oolong is semi-oxidized; black tea is fully oxidized; and green is un-oxidized.
Fresh tea leaves are high in catechins. Processing the tea reduces these levels, so the more the tea is oxidized the lower the catechin levels. This means that white tea has the highest levels of catechins closely followed by green tea.
Catechins are the media darling of tea promoters and usually receive the most coverage when discussing the health benefits of tea. There is one point, however, which is often overlooked: As the levels of catechins decrease during oxidation, the levels of theaflavins and thearubigins increase.
These two substances are found in higher concentrations in oolong and black tea than in green -- and have anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. A 2001 Chinese study indicated that the antioxidant properties of green and black tea are equal.
So it appears that oxidation does not eliminate the health properties of tea, but simply reduces one type of antioxidant while increasing other health-promoting compounds.
Making a Case for Oolong Tea
Many say that tea is good for you. Oolong in particular has been getting attention in some medical literature. Consider the following noted to be helped with oolong consumption.
Drink oolong tea for your health, but don't lose sight of this simple fact - people have been drinking tea for thousands of years because it is a great tasting beverage.