HEALTH HAZARDS OF EXCESSIVE TEA
Tea is one of the most widely consumed drinks. It is taken mainly as a hot drink for its stimulating effect. It helps to get a tired feeling and one feels refreshed after drinking it. This reputation leads to tea drinking habit which in course of time becomes so deep-rooted that it is difficult to give it up after some time.
The most active alkaloid principal in tea is caffeine. This is an addictive drug similar to cocaine in as much as it stimulates the central nervous system. These effects are short- symptoms of irritability, lethargy, headaches, anxiety, and insomnia. This shows that it is quite a strong drug to constitute a potential health hazard.
The widespread consumption of tea is a striking example of the manner in which commercial forces cultivate poisonous habits in man for a profit. It is believed that almost a billion cups of tea per day are consumed all over the world. In India, even slogans like Roz chai Piyo, Bauhat Din Jiyo (drink tea daily and live longer) were invented by the vested interests to mislead common people to believe that tea gives strength and vitality.
Tea is prepared from the leaves of an evergreen shrub belonging to Camellia family. The plant is native to South East Asia. In ancient times, the leaves were probably eaten or boiled into a beverage. The earliest record of its cultivation comes from China in the fourth century A.D. by the eighth century, it was quite popular in China and established in Japan. Over the next 600 years or so, the method of infusing tea in water slowly evolved.
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COMPOSITION ( Harmful effects of Tea)
Tea was not a popular drink in India even as late as 1940. The Second World War brought about a sharp rise in the prices of commodities all over the world, including India, owing to the scarcity of food. As a result, the common man could not afford milk, due to six-fold increase in its price. Deprived of this nutritious food, they turned to tea as a substitute.
To ascertain the effect of tea on health, it is essential to know the chemical composition of tea leaves. On an average they contain moisture 5.0 to 8.0 percent, aromatic oils 0.5 percent, caffeine 2.5 to 5.0 percent, nitrogen 4.75 to 5.5 percent, soluble matter 38.0 to 45.0 percent, tannin 7.0 to 14.0 percent and minerals 5.0 to 5.75 percent.
Of these ingredients, the most important are the alkaloids caffeine tannin and a small proportion of aromatic oil. The chief effects of tea are due to these ingredients. It is well- known that Indian tea is richer in all these chief ingredients than the Chinese tea.
It is not the composition of leaves alone that affects the health, but also the composition of infusion which is prepared by boiling tea with water. Caffeine comes out more rapidly than tannin and hence greater the period of infusion, the more is the amount of tannin, while the amount of caffeine will remain almost the same.
The use of tea is detrimental to health. Dr. P.C. Roy, the father of modern chemistry in India, equated tea drinking with the drinking of poison. The stimulating and restorative effects of tea are due to the action of caffeine on the nervous system. It affects the higher cerebral or psychic centers more than centers located intellectual faculties, relieving a feeling of fatigue and increasing the capacity for physical and mental work.
The harmful effects of tea in case of certain specific diseases are discussed herein in brief.
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INDIGESTION ( Harmful effects of tea )
Tea is said to slow down digestion. Its daily intake causes indigestion as it impedes the action of ‘ptyalin’, a digestive ferment of saliva which acts on cooked starch. The inhibition of saliva seems to be due to tannin. This effect disappears if milk is added to it, as the protein of milk precipitates the tannin. Tea is also to delay stomach digestion. It can lead to the gas formation, diarrhea, and constipation.
KIDNEY DISORDERS ( Harmful effects of Tea )
A definite effect of caffeine in diuresis. Experiments show that caffeine in five cups of tea increases the urine by 400 to 500 percent. This continued stimulation of kidneys by caffeine may damage them. Tea may also promote kidney stones because of a high content of oxalate.
Drinking tea can aggravate the symptoms of PMS. This was discovered by Dr. Annette Rossignol, an associate professor of public health at Oregon State University. He noted the women in China who drank one-half to four cups of tea a day were twice as likely to have PMS as non-tea drinkers. Drinking eight cups a day increased their PMS incidence about tenfold.
Drinking excess tea leads to incontinence or frequent and urgent impulse to urinate. In a study conducted at St. George’s Hospital in London, it was discovered that caffeine can exert pressure on the bladder by causing the muscles surrounding it to contract, increasing the need to urinate in some incontinent individuals.
The respiratory and cardiac centers are also stimulated by caffeine as coronary arteries get dilated, resulting in an increase in the rate of blood flow.
It is also said to increase the blood sugar level. The quickening of respiration lowers the levels of carbon oxide and increase the heat production of the body by 10 to 20 percent.
It is thus clear that tea if taken in excess, causes indigestion, over-excitability of the nervous system, irritability, palpitation and sometimes prostration.
To minimize the harmful effects of tea, it should be infused by pouring boiling water over the leaves and the tea is allowed to draw for about four to five minutes, then the liquid should be poured into another pot. Mint and lemongrass should be added. This will help in relieving stomach disorders like flatulence and supply vitamins.