Friday, May 10, 2013

Heaven & Earth in a Tea Cup

 Heaven & Earth in a Tea Cup
©2013 Kenneth S. Cohen

The Art of Tea, San Diego Chinese History Museum

From 1976 until his passing in 1999, I was the principle apprentice to Daoist (also spelled “Taoist”) Abbot Huang Gengshi (born 1910). In addition to his training in Daoism, Dr. Huang was an acupuncturist, qigong master, and martial artist. He had been a student of the famed Tiger-Crane Martial Arts Master Lam Sai Wing, who had learned from Wong Fei Hong. Dr. Huang was used to hard training and knew how to make the bone strengthening tonic wines as well as the tie da yao liniments necessary to treat martial injuries. But his real secret to health was in the little plastic bag he carried everywhere he went. If we were having lunch in a restaurant, he would order hot water, then take out his bag, and add the tea leaves in it to the cup. His favorite tea was a mixture of Pu-erh tea with Chinese dried chrysanthemum flowers. According to Chinese medicine, Pu-erh aids digestion and prevents bad cholesterol from accumulating in the arteries; chrysanthemum helps the liver spread qi, life force, throughout the body. Pu-erh is slightly yang and warming, chrysanthemum slightly yin and cooling—a perfect balance. But he drank other teas as well. From ancient times to the present, tea has been an important facet of every aspect of Chinese culture: cuisine, medicine, martial arts, poetry, and painting. There is a beautiful Chinese saying “The greatness of Heaven and Earth are in my tea. The longevity of the sun and moon are in my teapot.”

Today, scientific research confirms the extraordinary healing benefits of Chinese tea, whether white, green, oolong, black, or Pu-erh (all from the same plant camellia sinensis). Here are some recent reports:

An article published in The British Medical Journal in January 2013 analyzed black tea consumption in 50 countries and found that the more tea people drank, the less diabetes. See

A doctoral student from Curtin University, a leading university in Perth and Sydney, Australia, confirmed a reduction of ovarian cancer risk among women who drink green, oolong, or black tea. This study, from December 2012, is similar to many earlier studies that also show significant anti-cancer effects of tea.

A study published March 6, 2013 in the peer-reviewed journal Plos/One showed that a combination of epigallocatechingallate derived from green tea, vitamin C, and the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine worked synergistically to effectively combat mesothelioma, a deadly cancer associated with asbestos exposure. The powerful combination was found effective in both human cell cultures and in laboratory mice infected with the disease.

Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry on February 5, 2013 shows that tea can prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer's. One of the main chemicals in green tea prevents amyloid proteins from clumping and sticking to neurons (brain cells). This protein causes degeneration and death of brain cells, which leads to Alzheimer's. An abstract of the published paper may be found at 

(Similarly, in 2006, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published “Green Tea Consumption and Cognitive Function” Among 1,003 subjects over age 70, an inverse relation was found between degree of cognitive impairment and consumption of green tea, with the highest effect at 4-6 cups/day.)

The medical industry and mainstream media (whose job is to guard the status quo) sometimes spin information about tea in an effort to keep pharmaceutical companies happy. For example in late March newspapers and websites blasted warnings like this one from the Los Angeles Times “Warning” Excessive Tea Drinking Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.”,0,4719810.story The article admits that the information is based on a New England Journal of Medicine study that found that a woman who drank the equivalent of 100- 150 cups/day had brittle teeth. So warn all your friends who are drinking 100 cups per day to cut back!

Here’s a Mexico-China connection from an unusual source. A study published in March, 2013 in Stroke: The Journal of the American Heart Association found that both coffee and tea have significant effects preventing stroke. But before you start drinking the two or mixing them into a rather unsavory brew, it is important to note that previous studies have “shown inconsistent connections between coffee and stroke risk.” (WebMD March 15, 2013)

Tea and sex seem unlikely bedfellows. After all, tea makes the mind calm and meditative, but sex only has this effect when it is over (at least for some men). Yet research published in January 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that the enzyme that causes ED (erectile dysfunction) weakens tea’s ability to suppress cancer. This would also suggest its opposite: the capacity to have an erection makes tea more likely to prevent cancer. In addition, both men and women benefit from the way sex promotes production of endorphins, the “good mood chemicals” that also stimulate the immune system. The bottom line: drink tea and enjoy the union of yin and yang!

There are many reasons why I believe that tea contributes to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the well-researched benefits, tea encourages an attitude of relaxation, leisure, and grace. Learn more about tea on my website.

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