Oolong tea, is a Chinese tea with unique and distinctive characteristics, produced mainly in Fujian and Guangdong, as well as Taiwan. It is made from the leaves, buds, and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant – the same plant that is also used to make black tea and green tea. The difference is in the processing: Oolong tea is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented, and green tea is unfermented.
Consumption of Oolong tea is linked to numerous benefits, namely, to sharpen thinking skills, improve mental alertness, prevent cancer, tooth decay, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, eczema and to boost the immune system.
The tea contains caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), heart, and muscles. Oolong tea also contains theophylline and theobromine, which are chemicals similar to caffeine. The name Oolong, or Wu-long in Chinese, literally means Black Dragon (Wu means Black, Long means Dragon).
There are multiple theories for the origin of Oolong tea. Although the roots of the tea can be traced 1000 years back to a line of “tribute teas” (a tea given in tribute to the emperor or royal family), there is a popular legend about the origins of Oolong, during the Qing dynasty (from 17th century AD). A tea farmer in Fujian was picking tea one day when he saw a deer. Deciding to hunt the deer instead of processing the picked tea, it was not until the next day that he got around to finishing the tea. However by that time the edges of the leaves had partially oxidized, and gave off a surprising good aroma. So deciding to finish the processing as usual, he was surprised to find that the resulting tea had a completely new strong sweet flavor, that didn’t have any of bitterness that was usually produced. This guy’s nickname was Oolong (although, his original name, though similar, got misinterpreted over the sands of time), and so the new tea was named after him.
Health Benefits Of Oolong Tea
1. Helps in weight management
Oolong tea is very effective in controlling the metabolism of fat in the body. The polyphenol component present in the tea activates certain enzymes, thereby enhancing the functions of fat cells in the body. In short, it makes the fat in your body, “work out” for you. Refer to the study here.
2. Aids in removal of harmful free radicals
The polyphenolic compound in Oolong tea is also responsible for the removal of free radicals in our body as it functions as an antioxidant. Thus, consumption of Oolong tea helps in minimizing the probability of numerous ailments linked to these harmful free radicals, namely, cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegeneration, and diabetes. Refer to the study here.
3. Promotes healthy skin
According to scientific experiments, patients diagnosed with Eczema can benefit from drinking 3 cups of Oolong tea throughout the day. Although there is a debate on the active mechanism for this, many believe that the polyphenols present in oolong tea also work as anti-allergenic compounds, thereby relieving irritation and chronic skin problems, known as Atopic Dermatitis. Refer to the study here.
4. Improves bone density and health
The antioxidants present in Oolong tea protect teeth against decay, strengthen the bone structure, prevent osteoporosis and promote normal, healthy growth of the human body. Refer to the study here.
5. Controls Diabetes
Oolong tea can be used for treating Type-2 Diabetic disorders as an addition to other supplementary drugs for treating that disease. It regulates the amount of blood sugar and insulin that is in the bloodstream at any one time, so the dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar that can be so disastrous for diabetic patients gets reduced. Refer to the study here.
6. Has Anti-Cancer properties
There are studies that show tea-drinkers have a lower risk of getting cancer. Above that, the polyphenolic compound in Oolong tea promotes apoptosis-“cell suicide”, see here, in stomach related cancerous growths by throttling the activation of carcinogenic cells. Refer to this study.
7. Helps in stress management and mental alertness
The polyphenols in Oolong tea act as a great stress-buster, by keeping cortical neural excitement at bay, thereby keeping the mind at rest. Moreover, the Caffeine in Oolong tea may help in improving mental performance and alertness. Refer to the study here.
Side-effects Of Oolong Tea
In spite of this treasure-trove of health benefits, one should not forget that Oolong tea contains Caffeine in high amounts, which can cause a lot of problems if consumed without limits. Some of these negative effects are as follows:
• Irregular Heartbeat
Serious side-effects include, but not limited to:
• Diabetes (It is noteworthy here that moderate quantities of this tea control Diabetes whereas excess aggravates the same. This time, excess Caffeine is the culprit)
• High blood pressure
• Osteoporosis (Again, one should note that even though the other helpful components like polyphenols in Oolong tea prevent this, as mentioned earlier, the excess Caffeine can flush out calcium from the body, causing bone degradation)
Moderation is the key to good health. In other words, drinking several cups of Oolong tea a day, may keep a lot of diseases at bay. But one must also be aware that Caffeine present in the tea, which improves mental alertness in moderation, may wreak havoc in excess.