Recently, Japanese Matcha tea has grown in popularity around the world.
In Japan, Matcha has historically been viewed as having medicinal properties, even though there was not much science to corroborate these claims.
However, a recent study by scientists at Japan's Kumamoto University found that consuming Matcha powder or extract reduces nervous behavior (anxiety) in mice.
The calming effects of Matcha seem to be related to how serotonin 5HT1A and dopamine D1 receptors - both connected to anxiety and anxious behaviors - function in the brain.
What is Matcha?
You may have heard matcha mentioned on reality shows, or even picked up a cup yourself at your local Starbucks, but what exactly IS Matcha?
It’s a powder made from grinding the leaves of a green tea bush called Camellia sinensis. The Japanese use matcha for weight management, healthy skin, and relaxation.
In the aforementioned study, researchers employed something called the “elevated plus maze”. This maze has an area that makes mice feel safe. Scientists use this test to determine how much anxiety mice are experiencing. The more time they spend in the safe area the more anxious they are.
After consuming Matcha extract, the mice were noticeably less anxious. They found this especially true when the mice were given an extract of Matcha versus a steeped tea version (hot water extraction).
As the study looked deeper, analyzing the behavioral pharmacology, they determined the anxiety-lessening effects of Matcha were further proven by the activation of the dopamine D1 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.
Of his study, Dr. Kurachi says, "Although further epidemiological research is necessary, the results of our study show that Matcha, which has been used as (a) medicinal agent for many years, may be quite beneficial to the human body… We hope that our research into Matcha can lead to health benefits worldwide."
Good news for tea drinkers! However, anyone avoiding or sensitive to caffeine should be aware that Matcha contains higher amounts of caffeine than regular green tea. As an extract, this would be even higher.
Considering this (as is the case with most health crazes) moderation may be a key ingredient when looking to harness the health benefit of Matcha.