Over 4000 years ago Sheng Nong discovered thattea has the power to both stimulate and detoxify, man had gradually lost interest in its medicinal properties. In those early days it was seen primarily as a medicine, these properties being the source of its popularity. It was believed that its bitter taste favored alertness, good general health and the acquisition of greater wisdom. In Chinase medicine, under the Tang and Song dynasties, the medicinal effects of tea were increasingly recognized; it was recommended for the prevention and cure of various ailments such as headaches, ‘dark thoughts’ and bad digestion and also to dissolve fat. Several centuries later, Li Shizhen (1518-1593), physician and author of a book entitled ‘Classification of medicinal plants’, said that tea could regulate the temperature inside the body, relieve anxiety, dissolve fat, promote concentration etc..
If the stimulant, diuretic and antibacterial properties of tea have long been recognized by Chinase medicine, it is only recently that its benefits have been confirmed by modern science. Due to its antioxidant powers, the beneficial effects of tea on health are of great interest in medical research, mainly in relation to cancer prevention and the treatment of cardiovascular or degenerative diseases. Today, unlike the Taoists of old, we do not consider tea as an elixir of immortality or as a drink with mystical powers. However, there is no longer any doubt that its virtues contribute to our longevity by stimulating the functions of the heart, strengthening the immune system and preventing cell mutations.
Of course, the processing of the leaf promotes the development of new chemical compounds which alter its taste as well as its properties. As the results of this latest study show it is now difficult to generalize by family of tea as there is such a large amount of overlap. But over the centuries each family of tea has developed a certain reputation over time.