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Oolong Tea Health and Medical Benefits

Updated on February 17, 2015
  • What is oolong tea? Historic facts

The oolong tea is a traditional tea originating from China. In Chinese the name means the black dragon tea. Its taste varies because of its numerous sub varieties. There is a fresh and green tea that has bouquet aromas, there is one with roasted aromas that is thick and woody and there is one sort of tea that has honey aromas and it’s fruity and sweet. All these different kinds of tastes depend on the method of production and the horticulture. Some of the most famous oolong Chinese teas are those that are produced in the mountains of Taiwan and in the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian.

Since there are many varieties, the tea is also processed in various ways. However, there are 2 main methods of forming the leaves. Some of them are wrap-curled so as to form small beads that have a tail. The other way, and the most traditional one, is to roll the leaves in order to become curly and long.

In English the term oolong tea is originating from the Chinese name that means the black dragon tea. There are 3 theories that can explain this name. The Anxi theory says that the tea originated from the Anxi oolong plant. This one had been discovered by a man whose name was Wuliang, Wulong or Sulong.

The Wuyi theory claims that the oolong tea was first found in the Wuyi Mountain. Some of the poems wrote for the Qing dynasty, Tea tale and Wuyi Tea Song, state this fact. Therefore, the name of the tea comes from one part of the Wuyi Mountain where the plant was produced.

The third theory, called the tribute tea, says that the tea derived from the Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake. When the loose tea appeared, the old name was changed into oolong tea. Because it was curly, long and, most of all, dark it was also named the black dragon tea.

The oolong tea appeared around the year 1644, when the innovative method of partially oxidized plants was discovered. Soon, the techniques of making this special tea began to spread throughout the country. From the north of the province Fujian arrived in the south in the area Chaozhou from the Phoenix Mountain, into the provinces Guangdong and Anxi. After that, in the year 1810, the oolong tea was brought in Taiwan. Even nowadays, these regions are the main areas where the most famous categories of oolong tea are produced: Taiwan Oolong, Guangdong Dan Cong, Anxi Oolong and the Wu Yi Mountain Rock Oolong.

  • Preparation and the making process

The oolong tea is one of the most difficult to produce teas. It requires experience and skills to manage to obtain all the liquor colors, fragrances and flavors. Mainly, the flavor is dependent of how much or how little the leaves are being oxidized. The maximum percentage of oxidation can be 75%.

Processes of manufacturing the tea may differ, but the main technique involves withering the fresh leaves in the sun for a couple of hours. After that they are put indoors into bamboo trays. They are being agitated so as to start their oxidation process. During this procedure, the tea is still withering at room temperature. After the plant is oxidized, it’s put into extremely high heat. Once this phase is finished, the tea leaves can be shaped in the desired form. The final step is roasting the leaves over charcoal in order to become very dry.

This is how the oolong tea is processed in order to reach its final form. Once the leaves have that curly long shape and they become a stable product, people have different ways of preparing the tea. The ideal method of preparation is called Kung Fu or gong fu cha. The oolong tea is usually brewed in a small vessel. In China people use a gaiwan cup or a YiXing pot. The tea is infused up to 8 times with steeping times starting from 20 seconds and reaching up to 1 minute and it’s served in cups of one or two ounces.

Another common way of preparing the tea is the subsequent. Usually there are needed 200 ml of water and 3 grams of oolong tea. For a perfect tea one has to always boil the water for around a minute and after that add the plant. The water must have a temperature of almost 96°C. The tea must be steeped for about 10 minutes. Unlike other teas, the leaves may be brewed more than once. Their taste is better with each brewing. However, be careful not to brew the tea more than 5 times.

  • Oolong tea medical benefits

As the studies show, there are many medical benefits of the oolong tea. Some of them are strengthening the bones and the immune system, helping in digestive disorders, preventing heart diseases and reducing the cholesterol levels. Now let’s see what the studies have shown about these benefits.

A study held in 2010 showed that the oolong tea can diminish the risk of mortality caused by the cardiovascular diseases. The case study involved 76,979 persons raging from 40 to 79 years. The participants that were selected had no conditions like cancer, heart diseases or stroke. The researchers split the individuals into several groups. Some of them drank green tea, some coffee, some oolong tea and others didn’t drink any of these beverages. The study revealed that those who consumed those drinks had a much lower risk of heart diseases than the others. Another previous test-tube research stated that, because of its antioxidant effects, the oolong tea can keep under control the cholesterol.

This tea is very beneficial for the individuals that have type 2 diabetes. That’s what a study that appeared in 2003 showed. Then, 20 diabetes patients drank daily 1,500 ml of oolong tea. The study lasted for one month. After 30 days the patients had an important reduction in the blood sugar levels. At the same time, all the participants took the prescribed hyperglycemic drugs.

Other important studies showed that the oolong tea is extremely helpful in the weight loss. In 2009 a study involving 102 obese and overweight patients was held. This showed that the oolong tea was able to reduce the weight and, at the same time, to improve fat metabolism. The case study lasted for six weeks. During this time period, the participants drank the oolong tea on a daily basis. At the end of the study 66% of the overweight patients and 64% of the obese patients lost about 2.2 pounds and 22% of the subjects lost 6.6 pounds. Researchers claim that the weight loss effect of the oolong tea is due to the caffeine content.

Another study published in 2001 showed that the oolong tea can help in skin disorders and eliminates the recalcitrant AD. In the research were involved 118 participants. Besides their dermatological treatment, they also drank on a daily basis 1 liter of tea. After two weeks the effects were already visible and after one month 63% of the participants showed some moderate improvements.

  • Oolong tea health benefits

As the various studies showed, the oolong tea has numerous health benefits. Some of them include reducing the risk of chronic conditions like inflammatory disorders and heart diseases. It’s also beneficial for the dental health, for the robust skin, for strengthening the bone structure and for reducing the cholesterol levels. Moreover, it’s low in caffeine, it has powerful antioxidants and it’s very relaxing. The oolong tea health benefits are improved because it combines the qualities of green and black tea.

The oolong tea has many antioxidants, that’s why it is so beneficial. Additionally it contains vitamin K, E, C, B and A, potassium, selenium, carotene, copper, manganese and calcium. Other powerful minerals that can be found in the oolong tea are detoxifying alkaloids, niacin amide and folic acids.

The very first health benefit of the oolong tea is that is controls the obesity. That is due to its polyphenol compound that is known for controlling the fat metabolism. This ingredient activates the enzymes that help the fat cells work properly. This tea not reduces the obesity, and also helps individuals to lose as much weight as they want. The oolong tea blocks the fat absorption and, at the same time, burns the fat. Therefore, consuming oolong tea daily, maintaining a proper diet and doing exercises can help you lose weight.

Another health benefit of the oolong tea is removing the harmful free radicals, due to its antioxidants. The polyphenolic compound is also the main responsible for this fact. The free radicals can be obtained from the sunlight, the food and the air and could cause various conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, dark spots, wrinkles and aging of the skin. The antioxidants in the oolong tea can eliminate the harmful free radicals. Some studies showed that this tea has less antioxidants that the green tea, but more that the black tea.

As stated before, the oolong tea helps cure the skin disorders. The persons that have skin ailments like eczema and atopic dermatitis can be healed with 3 cups of tea that must be drank 3 times a day. In less than a week the patients can see the improvements on their skin.

Moreover, the oolong tea is very beneficial for the hearth health. One month of regular consumption of oolong tea can reduce the cholesterol levels and boost the levels of plasma adiponectin. It can also reduce with 80% the triglycerides in the blood. Additionally, the oolong tea can reduce the blood pressure. This can be seen after a year of oolong tea diet. Those who drink one cup of tea per day have more than 45% chances to reduce their high blood pressure. Those who have at least 2 cups per day increase their chances to 65%.

Another health benefit of the oolong tea is preventing the tooth decay. The tea inhibits the activity of the streptococci bacteria. This causes the dental plaque and the caries. The oolong tea can prevent these conditions and can also strengthen the tooth enamel.

The oolong tea is also said to protect against cancer. The individuals that drink this tea have fewer chances to acquire skin cancer. Also, the polyphenol compound diminishes the cancerous cells in the stomach because it encourages the apoptosis. This ingredient is also beneficial for other forms of cancer.

Last, but not least, the oolong tea is a real stress buster. The polyphenols found in the tea are also the main responsible for this. A study held on mice showed improvements of up to 18% in the stress levels. The tea relaxes you, relieving you from the stress and the tension.

  • Side effects

Although the oolong tea is extremely beneficial, it also has some side effects. These are mainly cause by the caffeine found in the tea. That’s why it’s not recommended to drink more than 5 cups daily. The side effects can include: confusion, convulsions, ringing in the ears, dizziness, heartburn, tremor, irregular heartbeat, irritability, diarrhea, vomiting, sleep problems, nervousness and headache.

Women who are breast feeding or pregnant should consume the oolong tea in small amounts and no more than 2 cups per day. Too much caffeine can be harmful for the baby and can cause low birth weight or premature delivery. During the breast feeding, too much caffeine can increase the bowel movements for the baby and may cause irritability. Children also have to drink the oolong tea in small amounts because of the caffeine.

Moreover, people with anxiety disorders shouldn’t consume oolong tea because it may worsen their anxiety.

The caffeine in the oolong tea can also slow the blood clotting. Therefore, those who have bleeding disorders shouldn’t drink oolong tea. Also, the caffeine increases the pressure in the eyes and can last for 90 minutes. Because of this, the tea is not recommended to people who have glaucoma.

The most important side effects may occur to the individuals that suffer from diabetes. The caffeine can worsen the control of the blood sugar and can be harmful for the way people process sugar. Furthermore, individuals with diabetes type 1 can have increasingly signs of low blood sugar because of the caffeine and may experience much more low sugar episodes.

People with high blood pressure and osteoporosis have to see a doctor before consuming the oolong tea.

© 2015 Andreea Mihalache

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