I had a few alternate subtitles for this post - 'Getting some good Gu Qi down in the Osmanthus Valley' could definitely be one....
For all the Oolong in China
Before heading to China last month for a tea sourcing trip I was met with the familiar refrain of ‘You will definitely get sick...I did....so you will!’
I’ll admit it didn’t start well thanks to the food on the BA flight to Shanghai.
After that? Not a peep. And that was with 3 weeks of fast food, street food and all manner of unidentifiable delights.
Maybe I got lucky (and I’m a subject group of 1) but I can’t help thinking that my rumbling tummy was kept at bay by the consumption of gallons of tea - mostly oolong. Not to mention the pre-meal ritual of washing chopsticks, bowls and cups in - you guessed it - hot tea.
Wuyi tea farmer drinks from the communal bowl of fresh oolong
Health Benefits of Tea
Long before tea became a drink to be enjoyed it was drunk as a medicine and a food staple. For Tibetans living in the remote Himalayas - where vegetation is sparse - tea provided up to 75% of their dietary nutrition.
Tea contains Vitamin C, D, K and E, along with flouride, manganese, potassium, chromium, calcium, magnesium and folic acid. That’s before we even get to the good stuff…. caffeine, theanine and powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Fresh tea leaves ready to be processed into oolong tea
Specific Benefits of Oolong
If we look at research into oolong teas - the staple of my diet for much of my trip - we see why they might have been so supportive of my digestive health and nutritive qi (gu qi).
The long-term consumption of oolong tea (5-6 cups per day for 5+ years) has been shown to have a beneficial effect on lipid (fat) metabolism, bad cholesterol, hypertension, bone density, oral cavities and hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetes (see sources at foot of this post)
Using Osmanthus Valley Oolong in the clinic
Beyond the research in biomedicine, as Chinese medicine practitioners we have the added perspective of seeing the cha qi (energetics) of each tea in action.
The cha qi of Osmanthus Valley - our lightly oxidised oolong - is one of harmonising the Centre and thus supporting our nutritive gu qi. Patients often report feeling a tangible easing or change of sensation in the Middle or Upper Jiao where previously there was congestion, tightness or agitation.
Put another way, it balances the delicate but vital relationship in Earth between the Stomach and Spleen (without the more strongly tonifying and warming affect of Hidden Amber which is much richer).
We also have the benefit of knowing that the the tea we and our patients are drinking is 100% certified organic living tea - completely natural and untainted by pesticides or chemical fertilisers.
Oolong Research Studies
Thanks to The Tea Talk.com for this comprehensive list of recent studies:
He RR, Chen L, Lin BH, Matsui Y, Yao XS, Kurihara H. Beneficial effects of oolong tea consumption on diet-induced overweight and obese subjects. Chin J Integr Med. 2009 Feb;15(1):34-41.
Hosoda K, Wang MF, Liao ML, Chuang CK, Iha M, Clevidence B, Yamamoto S. Antihyperglycemic Effect of Oolong Tea in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 June;26(6):1714-1718.
Jones C, Woods K, Whittle G, Worthington H, Taylor G. Sugar, drinks, deprivation and dental caries in 14-year-old children in the north west of England in 1995. Community Dent Health. 1999 Jun;16(2):68-71.
Kurihara H, Fukami H, Toyoda Y, Kageyama N, Tsuruoka N, Shibata H, Kiso Y, Tanaka T. Inhibitory effect of oolong tea on the oxidative state of low density lipoprotein (LDL). Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 May;26(5):739-42.
Leung LK, Su Y, Chen R, Zhang Z, Huang Y, Chen ZY. Theaflavins in Black Tea and Catechins in Green Tea Are Equally Effective Antioxidants. J. Nutr. 2001 September 1;131(9):2248-2251.
Matsumoto M, Minami T, Sasaki H, Sobue S, Hamada S, Ooshima T. Inhibitory effects of oolong tea extract on caries-inducing properties of mutans streptococci. Caries Res. 1999 Nov-Dec;33(6):441-5.
Mineharu Y, Koizumi A, Wada Y, Iso H, Watanabe Y, Date C, Yamamoto A, Kikuchi S, Inaba Y, Toyoshima H, Kondo T, Tamakoshi A. Coffee, green tea, black tea and oolong tea consumption and risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese men and women. J Epidemiol Community Health. Pub online 2009 December 8.
Nagao T, Komine Y, Soga S, Meguro S, Hase T, Tanaka Y, Tokimitsu I. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):122-9.
Rumpler W, Seale J, Clevidence B, Judd J, Wiley E, Yamamoto S, Komatsu T, Sawaki T, Ishikura Y, Hosoda K. Oolong Tea Increases Metabolic Rate and Fat Oxidation in Men. J. Nutr. 2001 November 1:131(11):2848-2852.
Uehara M, Sugiura H, Sakurai K. A Trial of Oolong Tea in the Management of Recalcitrant Atopic Dermatitis. Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(1):42-43.
Wu C, Yang Y, Yao W, Lu F, Wu J, Chang C. Epidemiological Evidence of Increased Bone Mineral Density in Habitual Tea Drinkers. Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(9):1001-1006.
Yang, YC, Lu FH, Wu JS, Wu CH, Chang CJ. The Protective Effect of Habitual Tea Consumption on Hypertension. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(14):1534-1540.