The Health Benefits of White Tea

silver needle white tea
A cup of silver needle white tea. Margarita Komine/Moment/Getty Images

What Is White Tea?

Like green tea and black tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. In addition to boasting greater antioxidant activity than its green and black counterparts, white tea offers the least amount of caffeine. Since there's no heating or oxidizing involved in its preparation, white tea is also recognized as the least processed tea variety.

Health Benefits of White Tea

Although white tea isn't as well-studied as green and black teas, there's increasing evidence that the brew can enrich your health.

1) Obesity Control

For a 2009 study, researchers tested white tea's anti-obesity effects in a series of experiments on human fat cells. Results showed that white-tea extract prompted fat to break down in existing fat cells. What's more, white tea seemed to reduce the expression of genes crucial to the growth of new fat cells.

While the study's authors suggest that white tea may be "an ideal natural source of slimming substances," scientists have yet to explore whether the tea could fight obesity when sipped (rather than administered directly to cells in a lab).

2) Cancer Prevention

White tea may hinder DNA mutations (potentially cancer-causing changes in genetic material) even more efficiently than green tea, according to a 2000 study that tested four white tea varieties (Silver Needle, Flowery Pekoe, Mutan White, and Exotica China White).

In an animal-based study published the following year, researchers found that white tea may be a powerful inhibitor of aberrant crypts (a precursor to colon cancer).

3) Skin Treatment

Topically applied white tea may improve the immune function of skin cells and protect against harmful ultraviolet rays, a 2003 study suggests. It should be noted that the study was funded by a skin-care company that manufactures white-tea-based products.

Where to Buy It

Once quite expensive and hard to find in the U.S., white tea has become more affordable and commonly available in recent years.

(In fact, you should be able to pick up a tin of the tea at your local supermarket.) Given its remarkably delicate flavor, it's best to steep white tea in water with a temperature of 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (76 to 85 degrees Celsius).

Using White Tea for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend white tea as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources

Baron ED, Swain FR, Matsui M, Marenus K, Maes D, Cooper KD, Stevens SR. "Efficacy of topical white tea against UV-induced Langerhans cell depletion and DNA damage in human skin." University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and Estee Lauder Companies, Melville, New York, USA. 2003.

Gilberto Santana-Rios, Gayle A. Orner, Meirong Xu, Maria Izquierdo-Pulido, and Roderick H. Dashwood. "Inhibition by White Tea of 2-Amino-1-Methyl-6-Phenylimidazo[4,5-b]Pyridine-Induced Colonic Aberrant Crypts in the F344 Rat." Nutrition and Cancer 2001; 41(1-2): 98–103.

Santana-Rios G, Orner GA, Amantana A, Provost C, Wu SY, Dashwood RH. "Potent antimutagenic activity of white tea in comparison with green tea in the Salmonella assay." Mutation Research 2001 22;495(1-2):61-74.

Söhle J, Knott A, Holtzmann U, Siegner R, Grönniger E, Schepky A, Gallinat S, Wenck H, Stäb F, Winnefeld M. "White Tea extract induces lipolytic activity and inhibits adipogenesis in human subcutaneous (pre)-adipocytes." Nutrition & Metabolism 2009 1;6(1):20.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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