White tea, which comes from the Camellia sinensis (or tea) plant, is the least processed type of tea, as well as the most delicate in flavor. It’s produced by picking the buds and leaves of the tea plant before they’re fully open. White tea gets its name from the fact that the buds have tiny white hairs on them at the time of picking.
As with other types of tea, the history of white tea dates back thousands of years. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), it was a luxury item, given as a form of tribute to the emperor of China. Today, there are several varieties of white tea, including silver needle, white peony, Ceylon white, Darjeeling white, and white pu-erh.
People in China have used white tea for centuries for medicinal purposes. It’s full of antioxidants that may provide many potential health benefits. There is research to back up some of the traditional medicine health claims about white tea, but more is needed.
One cup of brewed white tea contains:
- Calories: 0
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
While white tea may not have any macronutrients (nutrients such as fat or protein that our body needs in large amounts), it does contain many antioxidants, including as polyphenols, flavonoids, and tannins. Since white tea is minimally processed, it has more antioxidants than many other types of tea.
Research shows that antioxidants are beneficial for fighting free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage other molecules in the body. By keeping cell damage from free radicals in check, antioxidants help prevent many types of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Potential Health Benefits of White Tea
White tea has been linked to a large number of potential health benefits, including:
Test tube studies have shown that white tea powder is effective against inflammation of human skin cells caused by free radicals. While the results from these test tube studies are promising, more research is needed.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Some studies show that people who drink tea have a lower risk of developing heart disease. This could be due to the fact that Polyphenols in white tea may relax blood vessels.
Reduced Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone naturally produced in your body that helps control blood sugar. Insulin resistance, when your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, can lead to chronic health issues, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Some studies suggest that white tea may help to lower your insulin resistance, but most of these studies involve animals. More studies are needed to determine if white tea helps humans experiencing insulin resistance.
Lower Risk of Cancer
Several test tube studies have shown that white tea has anti-cancer effects. One study found that it could destroy different types of lung cancer cells. Another found that white tea could stop the growth and spread of colon cancer cells.
Better Dental Health
White tea provides catechins, tannins, and fluoride, all of which are beneficial for your dental health. These components help to prevent cavities by strengthening your enamel, which protects against acid damage caused by bacteria. Catechins, which are a class of flavonoids, may also help to prevent plaque growth on the surface of your teeth.
Lower Risk of Osteoporosis
Studies have shown that free radicals and the inflammation they cause can accelerate osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones thinner. Catechins in teas, including white tea, may interfere with cells that break down bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Improved Brain Health
Test tube studies show that certain compounds in white tea may help to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases by preventing proteins from clumping together. Several studies link drinking tea with a lower risk of both diseases.
While skin aging is a natural part of life, certain factors can accelerate it. Environmental factors play a role in external aging, while internal factors, such as free radicals, affect internal aging. White tea may help slow skin aging both outside and inside the body. One study found that white tea applied to the skin helps to protect it from UV damage. Other studies point toward the polyphenols in white tea, slowing premature aging.
Potential Risks of White Tea
White tea is generally considered safe to drink. There are, however a few risks to keep in mind:
Insomnia and Anxiety
Contrary to popular belief, white tea does contain caffeine. The amount of caffeine varies based on factors such as type of tea, brewing time, and water temperature. Caffeine, especially in large amounts, may affect sleep or lead to anxiety and restlessness.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Concerns
Some brands of white teas (and other types of teas) sold in tea bags may contain lead. Studies have shown that some teas sold in stores have levels that are unsafe for drinking during pregnancy and breastfeeding.