By Stacy Mosel, LMSW
Matcha green tea is a ceremonial powdered green tea that has been used in Japan since the 12th century in ritual tea ceremonies known as chanoyu. The word “matcha” actually means “powdered tea”; when you drink matcha, you are drinking dried, powdered tea leaves, whereas with ordinary green tea (or any other type of tea that comes in a bag or as loose tea leaves), you infuse the tea leaves into water and then throw away the tea bag or leaves, so in essence, you’re probably not gaining as many benefits as you would with matcha.
Matcha tea leaves are steamed, dried, aged to increase flavor and then ground into a rich green powder that you can use in a variety of ways. When shopping for a matcha powder, it’s important to know what you’re buying, as there are many inferior grade products on the market; Green Foods matcha is made from the finest quality organic matcha leaves that are cultivated and handpicked by Japanese farmers.
But what explains matcha’s recent popularity, and why are people using matcha in everything from lattes to baked goods — and even facial masks?
What Does Science Say About Matcha Benefits?
As with other forms of green tea, many of matcha’s benefits are largely attributed to its high content of specific antioxidants called catechins. Scientific research has demonstrated that one particularly beneficial catechin found in green tea known as EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, has been linked to a wide range of health benefits. One study found that matcha may have a concentration of ECGC that is three times higher than that found in regular green tea.
Some of the possible benefits of matcha may include:
- Helping prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer
- Promoting weight loss
- Reducing blood pressure
- Improving cognitive performance
- Increasing relaxation
- Lowering LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol
Matcha also contains high levels of theanine, an amino acid that may help reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, one clinical study by researchers in Japan found that participants who drank matcha had significantly lower stress and anxiety levels when compared to the control group who did not drink matcha.
Are There Any Side Effects?
How healthy is matcha? Matcha is considered safe and does not cause any side effects in most people. However, people who are sensitive to caffeine should know that matcha contains more caffeine than regular brewed green tea but less than coffee or black tea. Additionally, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has noted an increased risk of esophageal cancer in people who drink very hot tea and smoke or drink alcohol (but this risk is not increased if you do not smoke or drink alcohol).
How Do You Use It?
Matcha is traditionally enjoyed as a hot beverage, in which you whisk 1 to 2 teaspoons of the powder (depending on how strong you like it) with hot water or a warm milk of your choice, but you can also use it in different recipes. You might try adding it to baked goods, like muffins or cakes. Some other creative ideas to experiment with include adding a teaspoon to granola, dusting pancakes with matcha instead of powdered sugar or mixing a teaspoon of matcha with your morning coffee or smoothie.
Many cosmetic companies have jumped on board the matcha bandwagon as well, but you don’t need to go the commercial route; you can try adding matcha powder to different homemade beauty recipes. For example, try making a homemade, moisturizing beauty mask by adding ½ teaspoon of matcha powder to 2 ounces of organic honey. Apply to your face and allow it to set for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse well and use a warm washcloth to remove any remaining residue. Or, make your own muscle-soothing bath soak by adding a few tablespoons of matcha powder to one cup of Epsom salts and mixing in a full tub of warm water, then relaxing for 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to rinse your tub well, as matcha may leave a green ring around the edge.
The Bottom Line
Although matcha has countless uses in modern times, remember that matcha’s roots stem from the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which shows great respect and reverence for the seemingly simple act of preparing tea. Making and drinking a cup of matcha tea can be just one way to incorporate a sense of mindfulness into your busy day. However, the sky is the limit when it comes to matcha’s uses, so don’t be afraid to get creative by adding matcha into your next recipe or skin care product.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW is a contributing writer specializing in holistic health and well-being. She is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and musician. She received a Bachelor's degree in Music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a Master of Social Work from New York University in 2002.
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