Drinking green tea is not a new past time. In fact, individuals have enjoyed drinking green tea for over 5,000 years. However, in the past several years, green tea is increasingly being studied as an agent with the potential to reduce inflammation, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.
Green tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a perennial evergreen shrub, and is rich in polyphenolic compounds, with catechins as the major component. Studies have shown that catechins have pharmacological properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-bacterial effects just to name a few.
In the past five years, researchers in the United States, Italy, and China have conducted studies on rodents to try to determine if the green tea polyphenols can have a direct affect on inflammatory bowel disease. In one of the studies, one group of mice were fed water alone, and the other group of mice were fed water with green tea polyphenols. After six weeks, the green tea group of mice had less severe colitis and greater weight gain.
In another recent study, rats were subjected to experimental colitis and then treated with green tea extract. In this study, treatment with green tea significantly reduced the diarrhea and loss of body weight in the rats.
There is also evidence to support the idea that drinking green tea may reduce an individual's risk of colorectal cancer. Researchers in China recently observed the green tea drinking habits of a group of Chinese women aged 40 to 70 years and found that women who reported drinking green tea regularly had a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
If you surf the internet long enough looking for information about green tea and IBD, you will find mixed reviews from the non-scientific community. Some say green tea is a cure-all, while others say it can actually cause a flare-up. The studies described above were published in scientific journals and held to scientific methods. That's the good news. The bad news is that as we all know, rodents are not humans, and visa versa. I suspect over the next several years, the studies above will serve as a platform for funding requests to further investigate the affects of green tea and IBD in humans.