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    By Lynne Konstantin

    Country Living Magazine

    The wisdom of the sages still holds true—tea heals and beautifies our bodies and souls.

    Legend has it that nearly 5,000 years ago, Shen Nong, a mythical Chinese emperor known as the Divine Healer, issued an edict requiring everyone to boil all drinking water. One day dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the emperor's boiling water. Intrigued by the aroma, he drank some of the serendipitous creation and proclaimed it heaven-sent. It is plausible that Shen Nong's infusion was actually made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, whose leaves are broken down into three types of tea: Black tea, the most popular in the United States, is fermented completely before baking; oolong tea is partially fermented; green tea is not fermented at all.

    Since Shen Nong's discovery, tea has become key to hundreds of healing remedies. Alchemists and herbalists touted the benefits of various teas believed to energize, to calm, to prevent everything from depression to hair loss—and recent scientific studies are proving the cancer—preventing qualities of green tea.

    Green Tea Benefits

    Unlike black and oolong teas, green tea is not oxidized (fermented) at all, but produced by steaming fresh leaves. Although green tea—the tea used for the traditional Japanese tea service—makes up only 10 percent of the world's tea production, it owes its recent surge in popularity in the United States to its attributed health benefits. Green tea has long been held to resolve a multitude of ills: It is said to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, and fight heart disease. Recent studies have found that EGCg, an antioxidant compound in green tea, neutralizes free radicals 100 times more effectively than vitamin C and 25 times more so than vitamin E. EGCg inhibits an enzyme called tNOX, which is required for cancer cell growth. As a result, it is thought that drinking green tea may reduce the effects or aid in the prevention of all types of cancer; positive results have perpetuated studies focusing on reducing the effects of cigarette smoking and preventing oral, esophageal, and breast cancer, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Tea beautifies—inside and out. One cup of tea contains 55 milligrams of caffeine (compared to coffee's 125-185 milligrams), offering a gentle lift.

    Tea is a key to beauty: The tea oil in Naturopathica's Peppermint & Tea Tree Foot Balm naturally deodorizes; Earth Therapeutics' Green Tea Herbal Soap smells divine.

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