Going Green: Green Tea for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive autoimmune disease that causes severe inflammation. RA mainly affects the joints, but can also affect other organs, like the heart. Some people with RA experience periods of intense inflammation called flares, followed by remission. Currently, there is no cure for RA. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow progression.
About Green Tea
Green tea is made from unfermented leaves. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the average cup of green tea contains 50 to 150 milligrams of polyphenols. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants. They fight free radicals, compounds that can cause damage to cells. Some evidence suggests that free radicals may play a role in inflammatory joint disease.
Green tea has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries in many different cultures.
What Does the Research Say?
Green tea is the subject of intense interest among medical researchers. A study from the University of Michigan Health System indicates that the anti-inflammatory compounds found in green tea may be beneficial to people with RA. One of those compounds, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), interferes with certain molecules of the immune system that can cause inflammation in people with RA.
A study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) showed that ingredients in green tea might be useful for RA patients. Arthritis Today reports that tea may have anti-inflammatory properties that may help stop the progression of arthritis.
More Health Benefits of Green Tea
Harvard Medical School recognizes that green tea offers a variety of health benefits, namely its disease-fighting properties. Drinking tea a few times a day may help your body absorb healthy antioxidants. Green tea may reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer, including lung, breast, skin, colon, esophageal, and bladder cancer. Green tea may also play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.
How Do You Take Your Tea?
Freshly brewed green tea contains the highest amount of health-boosting properties. It’s best to let it steep in hot water for three to five minutes. There may be fewer healthy compounds in instant tea, bottled tea, and decaffeinated tea.
Tea can make it harder to absorb iron from fresh produce, but adding milk or lemon can offset that problem. Another alternative is to drink your tea between meals.
Green Tea Supplements
Green tea is also sold in the form of dietary supplements. These are available as a liquid extract or in capsules. If you have RA and are considering taking green tea supplements, consult your doctor. Too much green tea, especially if it contains caffeine, can be dangerous.
People with certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney or liver problems, stomach ulcers, and anxiety should avoid green tea.
If you take medications for RA or any other condition, talk to your doctor before adding green tea to your diet. Green tea may interfere with the effectiveness of medications, including blood thinners, certain antibiotics, and beta-blockers. Green tea may also cause a dramatic rise in blood pressure when taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
The Bottom Line
While studies involving green tea and RA are encouraging, more research is needed. However, it’s clear that green tea can provide a host of health benefits. It’s important that people with RA take steps to maintain their overall health. For most, green tea is a healthy beverage that can be part of a balanced diet. If you have RA, ask your doctor if green tea is a good choice for you.
- A cup of tea can be good for your health. (n.d.). Arthritis Today, The Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved February 1, 2014 from http://www.arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/eating-well/benefits-of-eating-well/tea-benefits.php
- Benefit of drinking green tea: The proof is in. (2004, September). Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved February 2, 2014 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/benefit_of_drinking_green_tea
- Green tea. (2013, July 31). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved January 31, 2014 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/green-tea
- Green tea compound may be a therapy for people with rheumatoid arthritis, University of Michigan study finds. (2007, April 30). University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved February 1, 2014 from http://www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2007/greentea.htm
- Hadjigogos K. (2003, March). The role of free radicals in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Panminerva Medica, 45 (1):7-13. Retrieved February 1, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12682616