Green Tea or not Green Tea – that is the Question!
With the ever increasing popularity of Green Tea, both as a beverage and in skincare, green tea antioxidants are the must have ingredient, but do you know your tea leaves from your tisanes?
Let’s take a closer look at what ‘green’ tea means and how the antioxidant capacity of green teas compare.
Green Tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, which is native to China. In fact, black tea and white tea come from the same plant.
For black tea, the leaves are first rolled and then exposed to air to start a process of oxidation that darkens the leaves and gives the tea its characteristic flavour. Green tea on the other hand is processed to prevent oxidation and, as a result, it has a much higher phenolic content and antioxidant potential. More specifically, green and black tea contain a subgroup of polyphenols called flavonoids. Green tea contains a much higher amount of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), whereas black tea is a rich source of theaflavins. Green, black and white tea have a high content of caffeine.
Matcha also comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. Matcha was discovered by a Buddhist monk and brought to Japan. Matcha is 100% green tea leaves which have been stone ground into a fine powder. It is made into a beverage from its powdered form, such that the whole tea leaf is consumed.
Matcha is grown and prepared differently to green tea, with one of the main differences being that green tea undergoes more processing, which involves the tea plants being cultivated in the sun. Comparatively, matcha tea plants are shielded from the sun for around 20-30 days before harvest, which concentrates the chlorophyll and amino acids in the leaves and increases the caffeine content.
Green Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is an herb native to the Western Cape of South Africa, called Aspalathus linearis. For centuries, the indigenous Khoisan women of South Africa have sipped the distinct red coloured herbal tea and sworn by its soothing and healing properties. They bruised the wet, freshly cut, needle-like leaves of the native shrub and allowed it to ferment in the hot African sun, turning the herb red. The resultant rooibos tea, better known as ‘redbush, was traditionally used as an herbal medicine for a wide range of ailments.
The fermentation process however destroys 90% of the Aspalathin, a unique flavonoid abundant in rooibos and largely responsible for its antioxidant activity.
In recent years, Green Rooibos, has become popular, both as a tea beverage and for use in the pharmaceutical industry to treat Type II diabetes. Green rooibos is harvested from the fresh green, unfermented leaves and has a much higher polyphenolic content because the flavonoids have not been destroyed by oxidation. Whilst loosely referred to as a ‘green’ tea, because it is made from the fresh leaves and is not oxidised, strictly speaking green rooibos is a tisane, or herbal tea.
Unlike green tea, (and black tea or white tea), rooibos tea does not contain caffeine.
So how does Green Rooibos compare to Green Tea?
In terms of antioxidant potential, green rooibos has perhaps been seen as the poor relation to green tea. That is, until 2019 when MAYSAMA, a new British skincare brand, set up a research collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Institute in South Africa to look at the cosmetic potential of rooibos and their studies have some remarkable findings. These recent studies show that the antioxidant potential of MAYSAMA’s green rooibos powered extract is comparable to green tea and, what’s more, its mode of action within the cellular environment may trigger the same metabolic pathways as green tea. Other antioxidants tested in the study, including resveratrol and vitamin E, whilst delivering substantial antioxidant activity outside of the cell, did not deliver the same antioxidant protection inside the cell and appeared to work against the cell’s natural antioxidant defences. Green tea antioxidant and green rooibos tea extracts, on the other hand, were bioactive to a similar degree, scavenging free radicals inside the cell and stimulating the cell’s intrinsic defence network.
Whilst green tea is best known for the catechin EGCG and rooibos is best known for the flavonoid Aspalathin, both green tea and green rooibos tea contain a plethora of polyphenolic compounds that work together and have additive effects for antioxidant protection. Rooibos in fact has more than 187 phenolic compounds that work synergistically to enhance its antioxidant capacity beyond the sum of its parts.
On account of the results to their scientfic studies, MAYSAMA launched Green Rooibos Pressed Serum in February 2020. This antioxidant serum is formulated with pharmaceutical grade, aspalathin-enriched Green Rooibos extract as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient. The patented extraction process concentrates the aspalathin to produce a cosmetic ingredient with far greater potency and antioxidant potential.
Green Tea and LED Therapy
LED therapy has found favour as an anti-ageing and anti-acne treatment in recent years. A 2009 science paper reports the use of green tea antioxidants with LED therapy, which was observed to speed up results for skin rejuvenation ten-fold! The paper states that
‘Exposure to intense LED light is also involved in generating high levels of reactive oxygen species as by products that can potentially damage cells.’
To combat that effect, the researchers combined the LED with a potent antioxidant in green tea extract.
The science backed skincare brand, MAYSAMA, are often asked,
‘Would MAYSAMA Green Rooibos Pressed Serum also work with LED light therapy?’
The simple answer to this is that neither MAYSAMA, nor any other beauty brand, can make any claim regarding results with LED therapy because neither MAYSAMA Green Rooibos Pressed Serum, nor any other green tea skincare product, has undergone claims testing to demonstrate this.
What MAYSAMA can say is that red light therapy and green tea antioxidants have complementary actions; one produces free radicals, the other mops them up. MAYSAMA’s medical grade green rooibos extract offers comparable antioxidant capacity to green tea, and evidence suggests that rooibos triggers the same metabolic pathways as green tea that activate the cell’s own antioxidant defences. This double antioxidant protection of green tea and green rooibos tea appears unique to green tea polyphenols and is what makes ‘green’ tea antioxidants extremely interesting as bioactive ingredients for cosmetic application.
So, in summary, ‘green’ teas are harvested from the fresh leaves, which have not been oxidised. As a result, green tea antioxidants, both green tea and green rooibos tea, have a higher phenolic content which results in an increased antioxidant potential. Green tea and green rooibos tea, unlike other antioxidants, work in harmony with the cell and, aside from their own free radical scavenging capability, enhance the cell’s natural antioxidant network and increase the cell’s ability to resist oxidative stress. Whether green tea or green rooibos tea, ‘green’ tea polyphenols have indeed got you covered for antioxidant protection!