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Is Matcha an Adaptogen? 5 Reasons that might Surprise You

Nicholas Noble | May 17, 2020

If it’s true that consistency is the key to health, then it’s only fair to turn focus to the world of adaptogens.

An adaptogen is an herbal (plant or fungi based) supplement, food, or drink which confers balancing properties to energy, sense of well-being, and even potentially against disease.

Is Matcha Green Tea an Adaptogen? Key things to know

Adaptogens support consistency because they can ‘flex’ with the highs and lows behind a complete health approach. On the other hand, it’s known that prescription drugs (any isolated compound, most originating from plants) typically work through specific pathways.

Often that means risks of severe side effects, pushing too much in one direction while not considering the whole. This is one consequence of separating individual constituents from their natural complexes.

Adaptogens here relay the importance of ‘the whole’ rather than an extract, colloquially called an ‘entourage’ (see entourage effect), as each molecule performs in-tandem towards homeostasis: 

  • An example is the coca leaf, which when chewed may alleviate either constipation or diarrhea, a paradox according to conventional pharmacology because of the non-specific action [1].

Not to oversimplify things, but adaptogens work in accordance with what your body needs at a given moment. By one view, they either stimulate, or calm, while reaching for ‘middle ground.’

This definition underscores the resilience building of adaptogens. Other examples of herbal-allies include ashwagandha, turmeric, reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, as well as matcha green tea. 

Adaptogenic Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

From Camellia sinensis (tea-plant) comes the adaptogenic varieties of tea, including black, pu-erh, oolong, houjicha, and matcha green tea. These are true adaptogens, befitted by extensive research on their composition and regulatory actions in full body health.

  • Premium qualities of tea broadly support balanced inflammatory and endocrinologic factors, healthy weight, and the maintenance of cognitive, heart health to name a few [2-5].

Why Matcha Green Tea is an Adaptogen

As a prime example, the benefits of high quality tea (like matcha) are deeply interconnected, a common thread for true adaptogens.

One example is the anti-inflammatory action of green tea, which may rest both on the antioxidant effects as well as indirectly by balancing metabolism.

  • It’s documented that green tea may support a healthy glucose response, where an otherwise uncontrolled insulin spike may create a cascade of inflammation [5].
  • And more loosely, matcha is an adaptable daily energizer, unlike coffee or other energy drinks which may spike cortisol, inflammation [7].

NATURE'S FINEST ANTIOXIDANT ADAPTOGEN

As for matcha’s antioxidant benefits, it’s known that oxidative stress is associated with inflammation, where free radicals cause cellular damage.

Here matcha tea is a source of adaptogenic compounds, including exogenous (from outside the body) antioxidants.

  • Consuming premium green tea powder gives your body more antioxidants to protect cells and fight inflammation.
  • Matcha also meets the definition of an adaptogen by supplementing the body with the nutrients to create more of your own (endogenous) antioxidants [6]. 

Together, green tea may help fight free radicals and clear the body of toxins more effectively than without. Perhaps more impressive, those same potent antioxidants are associated with other health, cognitive adaptogenic benefits. 

DUAL ACTION COGNITIVE ENHANCER

Antioxidants found in matcha include polyphenols and special flavonoids, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The role of these compounds in the brain is under rigorous evaluation, where not only might they protect from inflammation leading to cognitive decline, they may also encourage production of brain boosting compounds.

The ‘how’ here is two-fold. First of all, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), reported to elevate in the presence of matcha’s antioxidants and neuroactive amino-acids (i.e. L-theanine) [2].

  • This brain factor is an important measure of cognitive health, associated with protective effects and neurogenesis, in which compounds in tea may positively influence.

And secondly, when those adaptogenic polyphenols are consumed, they enter the gut and begin to benefit the brain via the gut-brain axis. Tea reportedly protects healthy gut bacteria while discouraging the less friendly strains, a critical finding because of the microbiome’s role in brain health.

  • Green tea polyphenols may make for a healthier microbiome to encourage balanced levels of brain-active compounds (like lactate), in turn elevating cognitive factors like BDNF.
  • Those polyphenols are adaptogenic because they may work both directly on the brain, and indirectly through the gut to influence cognitive, emotional health.

ADAPTOGENS FOR EXERCISE

Adaptogenic compounds in tea may allow your muscles to burn energy more efficiently during exercise, helping the body adapt to available energy sources, whether glucose or fat (ketogenic).

In fact, those same polyphenols with probiotic and antioxidant properties encourage activation of AMPK, a cellular pathway which contributes flexibility to metabolism [5].

  • Basically this means matcha and other types of tea may bring balance to how your body metabolizes and uses energy, a key indicator in metabolic health, and at least one predictor in diabetes and obesity [5].
  • This adaptogenic functionality suggests tea to be synergetic with various diet types (e.g. Keto), and is one explanation thought to mediate regular insulin sensitivity [5]. 

As an added bonus, the damage from acute free radicals, released during exercise in healthy individuals, may be decreased by drinking green tea. It’s thought this could allow reduced recovery times, greater net benefit from exercising [8].  

The Bottom Line: Yes! Matcha is an Adaptogen

Although conventional medicine has reservations, there’s plenty of medically-supported mechanisms how certain adaptogens may impart overall balance in health, in some cases (arguably) with greater safety than common prescriptions.

That said, the science behind each purported ‘adaptogen’ varies, and investigation should be carried out by the individual (and their physician) in the case of each curiosity.

At least in the case of matcha as well as other tea products, there is a long history of time-vetted possibilities for health, and now research is starting to support many long-held claims for wellness through tea.

Certainly, not every so-called ‘adaptogen’ walks the talk, but matcha is definitely one of the few standout examples with both the history, and the growing research.

  • As a daily choice, it’s dynamic for its wide array of essential nutrients, optimizing antioxidants, and brain-boosting amino-acids. 

You might let your experience speak for itself, but if Zen monks have referred to it as a “calming energizer” for nearly a millennium, perhaps really after all, matcha might be the OG adaptogen your wellness seeks.

 

-Team Matcha Kari

 

SHOP MATCHA

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References
[1] Biondich, A. S., & Joslin, J. D. (2016). Coca: the history and medical significance of an ancient Andean tradition. Emergency medicine international, 2016.
[2] Camfield, D. A., Stough, C., Farrimond, J., & Scholey, A. B. (2014). Acute effects of tea constituents L-theanine, caffeine, and epigallocatechin gallate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews, 72(8), 507-522.
[3] Gianfredi, V., Nucci, D., Abalsamo, A., Acito, M., Villarini, M., Moretti, M., & Realdon, S. (2018). Green tea consumption and risk of breast cancer and recurrence—A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutrients, 10(12), 1886.
[4] Khalesi, S., Sun, J., Buys, N., Jamshidi, A., Nikbakht-Nasrabadi, E., & Khosravi-Boroujeni, H. (2014). Green tea catechins and blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. European journal of nutrition, 53(6), 1299-1311.
[5] Lin, Y., Shi, D., Su, B., Wei, J., Găman, M. A., Sedanur Macit, M., ... & Guimaraes, N. S. (2020). The effect of green tea supplementation on obesity: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy Research
[6] Basu, A., Betts, N. M., Mulugeta, A., Tong, C., Newman, E., & Lyons, T. J. (2013). Green tea supplementation increases glutathione and plasma antioxidant capacity in adults with the metabolic syndrome. Nutrition Research, 33(3), 180-187.
[7] Gavrieli, A., Yannakoulia, M., Fragopoulou, E., Margaritopoulos, D., Chamberland, J. P., Kaisari, P., ... & Mantzoros, C. S. (2011). Caffeinated coffee does not acutely affect energy intake, appetite, or inflammation but prevents serum cortisol concentrations from falling in healthy men. The Journal of nutrition, 141(4), 703-707.
[8] Sugita, M., Kapoor, M. P., Nishimura, A., & Okubo, T. (2016). Influence of green tea catechins on oxidative stress metabolites at rest and during exercise in healthy humans. Nutrition, 32(3), 321-331.

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