If you've dealt with chronic stress, you know how uncomfortable and even debilitating it can be. It's understandable to want to search out lifestyle changes, habits, and/or dietary adjustments that can help you relax and feel cool under pressure. As it turns out, adding matcha green tea powder to your daily routine may be able to provide some much-needed relief.
Matcha powder has been used and celebrated in Japanese culture for centuries and is renowned for its many health benefits, including its ability to help reduce stress and anxiety. Matcha contains high levels of L-theanine, antioxidants, and other natural compounds that may help you naturally feel calmer and more relaxed.
Beyond its numerous health benefits, delicious taste, and vibrant green color, matcha may also help boost immunity, manage stress, and even help you get a better night's sleep.
What is Matcha green tea powder?
Matcha is a type of green tea powder that originates from Japan. It has been used for centuries in tea ceremonies and for its potent health properties. It's the way that matcha powder is produced and processed that distinguishes it from traditional green tea.
While both green tea and matcha come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, the tea leaves are shaded in the last few weeks before harvest when growing matcha. Shading the leaves allows the plant to really concentrate its numerous nutrients in the leaf. This increases matcha's chlorophyll content and gives matcha powder its vibrant green color.
Young leaves are hand-picked, oxidized quickly, and stone-ground into a fine green tea powder. When making traditional green tea, you steep the leaves in hot water. Alternatively, when drinking matcha, you consume the entire tea leaf, which delivers a more potent nutrient dose.
So, grab a cup of matcha, take a deep breath, and keep reading to discover the eight surprising ways matcha green tea can help you combat stress and promote well-being.
8 Ways Matcha Tea Can Help You Manage Stress
Promoting better quality sleep
Studies show that one common side effect of being stressed out is insomnia and/or getting less restorative sleep. People who are stressed may find themselves ruminating and unable to fall asleep after a long day. Stress may also cause fragmented sleep, meaning you wake up throughout the night.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a downward spiral as not getting enough sleep can trigger the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feeling further stressed and more sleep disruptions.
While matcha does contain caffeine, and we're not recommending that you drink it right before bed, it does appear that drinking matcha regularly may help you get a better night's sleep. One relatively new, year-long study showed that participants who drank matcha had improved sleep quality and overall better social cognition.
Several components of matcha make it a great sleep aid. Matcha is a concentrated source of L-theanine, which has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. It is believed that cortisol and melatonin — the hormone that helps you fall asleep — have an inverse relationship. If cortisol is high, melatonin stays low… to fall asleep, and the opposite must occur.
Matcha also contains tryptophan, which helps the body produce melatonin and serotonin. Again, two hormones that are key for a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Supplying high amounts of l-theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid that greatly supports health, and matcha happens to be one of the best and most concentrated sources of L-theanine. High-quality matcha contains as much as five times more L-theanine than traditional green tea.
In addition to many things, L-theanine can also help combat stress. Multiple research studies show that L-theanine can reduce cortisol levels and physiological responses to stress.
L-theanine also helps to counteract caffeine, leaving you with an alert yet relaxed feeling. It may help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and prevent sleep disturbances due to caffeine.
In one review of five randomized controlled trials, four of the five trials linked L-theanine to reduced stress in participants. Another study found that L-theanine decreased stress and anxiety for people who were combatting schizophrenia and other schizoaffective disorders.
Fostering a sense of community
Feeling lonely can activate the fight-or-flight response and elevate stress levels, so it's important to also look at our relationships and community when thinking about stress.
One of the biggest benefits of enjoying tea with others is that it brings about a sense of community. Inviting someone in for tea is the universal sign of welcome. The ceremonial preparation of matcha invites people to slow down and share space and an experience.
In traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, the focus on mindfulness and being present in the moment promotes a sense of togetherness and a break from the chaotic world. Drinking tea together allows for meaningful conversations and shared experiences and creates a sense of belonging. In turn, this feeling can dial down the body's response to stress.
Bolstering the immune system
High stress elevates the hormone cortisol. Over time, the body may adapt to being flooded with cortisol, which can suppress the immune system and lead to systemic inflammation. This process can also work in reverse. There's nothing more stressful than being sick when your to-do list is a million miles long.
Matcha is loaded with immune-boosting properties, such as the antioxidant EGCG. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) has been well-studied for its ability to reduce inflammation and improve the immune system.
Matcha is also loaded with catechins known for their antiviral properties and, therefore, believed to help protect against illness and infection.
Providing potent antioxidants
Matcha is well known for having a high amount of antioxidants, particularly catechins, such as EGCG. One of the primary roles of antioxidants in the body is to fight off unwanted oxidative stress. Antioxidants are often called scavengers as they donate an electron to unstable free radicals, thereby neutralizing and ridding the body of them.
Free radicals cause oxidative stress in the body, which is linked to multiple chronic diseases and aging. EGCG, which is particularly abundant in matcha, appears to protect cells from oxidative damage, supporting overall health by maintaining a balance between free radicals and antioxidants, which is vital for cellular function and mitigating the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
While oxidative stress is happening on a cellular level, stress does appear to impact furthering this cellular damage. One study suggested that stress can induce oxidative stress. As we've discussed, stress releases cortisol and adrenaline, which may contribute to the generation of free radicals and might potentially impact overall health and increase the risk for various diseases.
Enhancing concentration and focus
Numerous scientific studies have shown that matcha can profoundly affect the brain, improving memory focus and concentration.
Matcha contains some caffeine, which boasts some well-known health benefits. Caffeine often stimulates the nervous system, reducing fatigue and increasing concentration. The only problem with caffeine is that while it improves concentration and energy, it can also cause anxiety and restlessness. One of the best parts about matcha caffeine is that it contains L-theanine, which works to counteract that jittery, over-caffeinated feeling- giving you a smooth, anxiety-free focus.
EGCG is also linked to better mood, memory, and other improved cognitive functions. And as we know, matcha is very rich in EGCG!
While having a healthy brain (as well as being able to focus and concentrate) is important for life, how exactly does this relate to stress levels? Being able to recall important information might alleviate stressful situations. For example, if you can remember effective coping strategies or past successes, it may empower you to continue tackling challenges with confidence. In addition, having an enhanced ability to focus and concentrate can enable you to manage tasks better, reducing common stress triggers.
Stress often arises from feeling out of control or being unable to handle your current situation. With better focus and memory, you may be better equipped to organize thoughts, prioritize tasks, and maintain a sense of control.
Sparking daily rituals and mindfulness practices
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but how we deal with stress and how stress can, in turn, show up in our bodies can be changed and modified. Mindfulness practices can have real physiological benefits for the brain and body. Taking a few minutes to be truly mindful can calm down the amygdala, the part of the brain that switches on the stress response.
Mindful practices and meditation seem to be able to change our brain chemistry and biology in positive ways. One review showed this by looking at over 200 studies that found mindfulness was an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety in otherwise healthy people.
In addition to its impressive nutritional benefits, the preparation of matcha itself can improve health and reduce stress. Making a cup of matcha requires attention and presence. It becomes almost a meditation practice in and of itself, prompting a calm mental state. By committing to a matcha practice, you may cultivate a space of mindfulness, tranquility, and awareness.
Improving mood and balancing emotions
Feeling stressed can bring down your mood. It's clear that stress can affect all parts of life, including emotions and mood. This might show up as being easily agitated or quick to anger, feeling overwhelmed or constantly out of control, having low self-esteem, feeling lonely or depressed, or having a hard time relaxing and quieting the mind.
Recent studies suggest that matcha's long list of health benefits also includes boosting mood and lessening symptoms of depression. Matcha may also elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that help lift mood and reduce stress.
The L-theanine in matcha also promotes feeling relaxed and tranquil, which may significantly improve mood, especially for people who struggle with anxiety or high levels of stress.
The bottom line: Try regularly drinking matcha green tea powder for more stress-free living
Incorporating matcha into your daily life is easy, delicious, and full of benefits. Maybe you start by swapping out your morning cup of coffee for a matcha latte or by having a cup of matcha for a midday for a pick-me-up. You can also add matcha to your baking or cooking for a flavorful antioxidant boost — or blend matcha green tea powder into your smoothies, pancakes, or desserts.
If you feel intimidated by making matcha, we've got you covered!
Make a traditional cup of matcha by sifting 1-2 teaspoons of powdered matcha green tea (2-4 grams) into a cup. Add 2 ounces of hot water (heated up to about 170-180° F). Mix with a bamboo whisk or electric frother until foam appears. Feel free to adjust the water/matcha ratio based on your taste preferences. You can always add a touch of sweetener or milk of choice.
You may also like the following:
- What is matcha?
- 33 health benefits of matcha
- How to make a matcha latte
- 5 natural caffeine sources ranked high to low
- Learn about matcha vs. other types of green tea powders
- The 6 best matcha starter kits and sets
- Japanese vs. Chinese matcha green tea powder
Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
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