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Camellia sinensis, commonly called the tea plant, is a plant used to make a variety of Chinese teas that have long been used to treat a wide range of medical conditions. The plant has astringent properties, so it is often used for digestive ailments, to soothe insect bites, treat burns, and reduce swollen eyelids. It is also used as a tonic for the nerves. Green tea, one variety made from the plant, is touted for its antioxidant properties, making it a popular preventative for cancer. In addition, it may help people with weight loss and tooth decay.
Interestingly, black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea are all harvested from Camellia sinensis, but they have different oxidation levels because they are processed in different ways. In its native form, the tea plant is an evergreen shrub that is usually clipped so that it stays about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. It has green leaves that are leathery in texture and white flowers that are quite fragrant. It typically grows well in China, India, and Sri Lanka.
The leaves of Camellia sinensis have been used for centuries to treat serious conditions, such as coronary artery disease and asthma. In addition, the tea plant has antibacterial properties. As a result, it is often recommended to treat bad breath and to prevent tooth decay. Research is underway to see if it can treat bacterial infections. In addition, initial research shows that a component of this plant may be used make antibiotic-resistant bacteria no longer resistant. Additional research is needed before any definitive results can be made.
Many people believe that drinking tea can help them lose weight. A research study indicated that if a person drank 5 cups (40 oz) of green tea each day, they could potentially burn 70 or 80 calories. The concept is that thermogenesis occurs in green tea that causes the body to make heat and consequently burn more calories. Much of the thermogenesis occurs because of the caffeine; there are a few additional properties, however, that also promote thermogenesis, making it a better beverage choice than others with high caffeine levels.
One of the most important scientific breakthroughs involves using Camellia sinensis to prevent cancer. There are antioxidants called catechins in tea that may inhibit cancer growth. In some animal laboratory studies, the catechins actually reduced the number and size of tumors and rid the cell of harmful oxidants before damage could occur. Additional research is underway to see whether tea can be used as a cancer preventative or during cancer therapy.
Tea is a household staple for many families across the globe. Side effects are rare, but people who are sensitive to caffeine and tannins should use Camellia sinensis with caution. The caffeine in the tea is the main cause of any side effects. For example, it may cause insomnia, increase the symptoms of stomach ulcers, raise the blood pressure and the heart rate, and increase blood sugar levels. As a result, it should be used in moderation for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, and ulcers.
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