Tea & TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
A “TCM” or a Traditional Chinese Medicine can be defined as a form of knowledge inherited by the ancient Chinese communities as common sense or as a form of medical practice.
This knowledge is hardly found as written evidence and in most cases passed from one generation to others as a way of informal knowledge. However today, even with this rapidly advancing medical technologies, the TCM has gained popularity among Chinese and non-Chinese communities as many people nowadays are looking for natural solutions for common illnesses. Academic evidence of the effectiveness of certain herbs used in TMC is also expanding.
One aspect of TCM is that focuses on the foods that we consume and thereby tries to achieve the correct balance in body health. In many instances, these medical practices involve herbs, fruits and other condiments as the ingredients. One of the core concepts in TCM usage is to prevent diseases before their appearance in the human body and these concepts are used even today in the form of preventive medicines.
Tea as a TCM
As we all know, tea drinking habit was initiated among ancient Chinese as a way of medicine rather than a beverage. With its ancient discovery in 2737BC, by the Chinese emperor “Shen Nong”, tea was recognized as medicine that has wonderful stimulant properties.
In the book “The Herbal Cannon of Sheng Nong” it has claimed that tea was able to detoxify 72 different kinds of poisons” (Modder & Amarakoon, 2002). From this era, until it spread to the world in 221 BC, tea was considered as a valuable commodity and a tribute payable to the emperor. Many Chinese used to have tea after their meals, as it was believed to be helpful in digesting foods.
In TCM teaching it is discussed about a theory called “Five element theory” which discuss the elements of the earth such as wood, fire, metal, etc. In this theory also we can find each tea have been categorized into different elements, depending on their properties.
So with these historical stories, it is evident that tea has been a part of the daily life of ancient Chinese communities as a means of a beverage as well as a medicine. Even the modern sciences have discovered or proved that tea has many medicinal properties apart from its refreshing qualities as a beverage. Apart from green tea, the “TCM” natures of the other tea types are rather unknown to general tea consumers. Hence we have briefed below the TCM nature or TCM properties of some of the commonly used tea types.
Green tea TCM
Normal green tea
Green tea is known to be the first and most popular tea kind in ancient China and as we said earlier, it was treated as a luxury and a tribute to the emperor. When looking into history green tea has been used as a remedy for many ailments such as kidney trouble, fever, chest infection and etc. Further, green tea has been identified as one of the “Eight Treasures Tea” (Ba Bao Cha), during Tang dynasty and these teas were the popular medicinal teas in this era.
With the time the tea drinking habit has expanded into the entire world and many scientific types of research have proved that ancient believes about tea as medicine is correct. When it comes to green tea, today it has been revealed that tea flavonoids are the secret behind its magical properties. In green tea, these flavonoids exist in un-oxidized form and could act as a protectant against several diseases due to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Jasmine tea TCM
Typically, the jasmine teas are made with green tea and this tea holds an important share in Chinese tea culture. Here the different grades of green teas are covered with Jasmine flowers during the production process in order to get extra floral and subtle flavor notes as well as a refreshing fragrance to the ordinary green teas.
When it comes to TCM perspective, Jasmine teas have been used as a powerful remedy to prevent inflammations, especially in kidneys and digestion track. In the modern perspective, this property can be justified as the collective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of both green tea and Jasmine flowers can have a better impact on curing these diseases.
Match is in fact also a green tea. The difference is that it’s presented in a powdered form. When consuming matcha tea, the powder is in fact dissolved in hot water. Matcha tea tend to be stronger, because you also consume the tea itself. The effect compared to conventional green tea is however similar.
Both Jasmine and green tea are ‘cooling’ teas (even when consumed hot), which makes them more suitable during the summers. For people who’re sensitive to ‘dampness’ and ‘cold hands’, it’s better to switch to warmer teas such as black tea and pu erh, which will be discussed below.
Black tea TCM
Black tea culture was highly popular in Western Europe rather than in China. However, the origin of black tea is also known to be from China in the mid-17th Century. First black tea kind created in China was “Lapsang Souchong” and this was accidentally invented by a tea farmer in Fujian province. In the Chinese culture, black tea was referred to as “Red Tea” due to its reddish-orange brew. Unlike green tea, the black tea flavonoids are fully oxidized and the, therefore, properties and flavor characters are slightly different.
In TCM perspective, Black tea has been identified as a “Warm natured” beverage or a beverage that comes under “Fire element” according to the fiveelement theory of TCM teaching. Thus it has been recommended to use as a winter drink, to warm the body and to heal the stomach. Today with the advanced biochemical knowledge it can be related to the properties of black tea caffeine.
Pu erh tea TCM
Pu erh tea sore throat
Pu erh tea is another popular kind of tea found in Chinese tea culture and these belong to “Aged” of “post-fermented” tea category. Like all the other teas that we discussed here, Pu erh tea also has great importance in TCM teaching. This is why pu erh is such a great tea against so sore throat
According to five element theory, this tea belongs to the “earth category”, which means the tea has a calming effect as well as the ability to keep the body energized throughout the year.
Further, it has been identified as a detoxifying agent to cleanse the body systems. These detoxifying properties can be related to the antioxidant activity of pu erh tea as we know in the modern findings.
Is pu erh tea yin or yang?
This is a frequently asked question. But this really depends on the age and the type. Younger ‘raw’ type pu erhs tend to be more cold ‘yin’ in nature, while older teas slowly ripen and turn into ‘yang’. Ripe pu erh, however, is always more ‘yang’.
In summary, all these information were brought together to prove one fact. Tea is not just another regular beverage that used to quench your thrust or to give a boost to your mind. It has a culture, a tradition dating back to ages and has proved for its medicinal properties since its inception. The concept of tea TCM is one such way to remind you of the amazing benefits this beverage has if you choose to use it in regular terms.