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8 benefits of matcha tea

Brad Pitt drinks it instead of booze, Serena Williams uses it as part of her sports diet, and Miranda Kerr slathers it on her face. But are there really health benefits to matcha tea? We look at what matcha tea contains and the evidence for what this may do for your body and mind.

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What is matcha?

Matcha tea is a type of green tea, but it's grown in a precise way to give it a unique nutritional profile - and its vibrant green colour. While green tea leaves are loose, matcha tea leaves always come as a powder.

These days, matcha tea can be found in coffee shops, supermarkets, and health food stores. It's become a popular healthy alternative for coffee-loving caffeine fans, and its unique umami taste is used to flavour both savoury and sweet dishes.

Yet matcha tea is not a new invention and has a rich history in traditional Japanese and Chinese cuisine. The Western world is getting a taste for it - and becoming more aware of matcha tea health benefits.

How is matcha tea made?

Like green, black, and oolong teas, matcha tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. But the growing process is more labour intensive, and involves shading the plant, steaming the leaves, drying them in a specialist machine, and grinding them into a fine powder. Each of these steps allows the product to hold onto many of the plant's health-boosting nutrients and antioxidants.

What are the health benefits of matcha?

There's a large body of evidence for the upsides of green tea, but less studies specifically look at matcha tea benefits.

Does matcha have the same benefits as green tea?

Many of the nutrients found in high levels in matcha - such as amino acids, polyphenols, and antioxidants like vitamin C - can do a lot of good for your body.

But before you stock your cupboards with matcha powder, it's worth remembering that there's not enough evidence from experts to recommend how much you should take to reap these benefits.

The best way to look after yourself is to eat a varied, colourful diet and eat all foods in moderation. When preparing matcha tea, only use hot water - boiling water can destroy some of these all-important nutrients.

1. Matcha tea and antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that help your body fight off harmful free radicals - unstable atoms that damage cells, causing illnesses and accelerating ageing.

Green and matcha teas are rich in compounds that act like antioxidants. For example, tea flavonoids can reduce inflammation and ward off infections1.

2. Matcha tea and heart health

Natural compounds called polyphenols in green and matcha tea have been found to reduce your chances of heart disease, and associated conditions such as stroke and type 2 diabetes2.

This is because polyphenols can help keep your cardiovascular system working properly by preventing plaque build-up and helping to improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

3. Matcha tea and brain health

Matcha tea and other green teas contain several compounds that are known to support brain function. For example, caffeine can reduce inflammation and damaged caused by free radicals in the brain, which may slow down age-related decline and promote memory performance3.

Matcha also contains the compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which has been shown to enhance brain function as well as help in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease4.

4. Matcha tea and weight loss

There's growing evidence that matcha tea can also help people achieve healthy weight loss and protect them against metabolic disorders.

It's thought that compounds and antioxidants in matcha tea can promote fat oxidation during exercise - the process by which the body breaks down fat to use as energy5.

The antioxidants also affect the signals sent between the gut and liver, believed to be important in preventing obesity6.

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5. Matcha tea and cancer

Although evidence is limited, some studies show promising results for green tea and cancer prevention7.

Although little data exists on matcha tea benefits for cancer, scientists know that EGCG may play a part in the destruction of cancer cells, prevent cells from DNA damage, and inhibit tumor growth. We also know that EGCG is present in much higher quantities in matcha compared to green tea.

6. Matcha tea and stress

There may also be mental health benefits in drinking matcha tea - but current commercial products that are available to buy aren't likely to have much effect. An amino-acid called L-theanine - present in green tea and in higher concentrations in matcha - may help reduce stress and anxiety8.

However, there's a need for more human studies, and the amount of caffeine in matcha tends to counteract this effect. Most commercial matcha teas contain too much caffeine for you to benefit.

7. Matcha tea, skin, and hair

The polyphenols, caffeine, and EGCG in matcha may promote healthy skin and hair and protect against problems, such as psoriasis, rosacea, and hair loss, when applied to these areas in creams9,10,11.

They do this by preventing cell damage, protecting against UV light, and promoting hydration. However, before you invest in matcha cosmetic lotions, it's worth noting that not all extracted forms of these compounds absorb well into hair and skin9.

8. Matcha tea and bone health

As we age, we can lose bone mineral density (BMD) and this can affect our ability to move about freely and painlessly.

But the antioxidant activity in polyphenols in matcha tea may counteract this, and studies have shown that regularly drinking green teas can even prevent common bone conditions.

For example, a study of postmenopausal women found that those who drank 1-3 cups a day were less likely to develop back pain or osteoporosis12.

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Is matcha tea safe for everyone?

Matcha tea is generally considered safe to drink regularly. However, if you're sensitive to the effects of caffeine or are trying to cut down, you'll need to be careful of how much matcha you drink.

Although some of the matcha tea benefits are due to caffeine, too much caffeine can be bad for anyone. For healthy adults, up to 400mg of caffeine a day is safe, which equals around four cups of coffee at 80-100mg a cup.

In comparison:

  • Matcha tea contains between 76-178mg a cup, meaning the strongest brews should be limited to two cups a day.

  • Green tea contains between 30-40mg, the equivalent of 10 cups a day.

  • Black tea contains between 64-112mg, the equivalent of three cups a day.

If you have iron-deficiency anaemia, you should not drink matcha tea with a meal as it contains tannins - compounds that can make it harder for us to absorb iron.

Further reading

  1. Ginwala et al: Potential role of flavonoids in treating chronic inflammatory diseases with a special focus on the anti-inflammatory activity of apigenin.

  2. Lange: Tea in cardiovascular health and disease: a critical appraisal of the evidence.

  3. Kochman et al: Health benefits and chemical composition of matcha green tea: a review.

  4. Ettcheto et al: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) improves cognitive deficits aggravated by an obesogenic diet through modulation of unfolded protein response in APPswe/PS1dE9 mice.

  5. Willems et al: Matcha green tea drinks enhance fat oxidation during brisk walking in females.

  6. Wang et al: Matcha green tea targets the gut-liver axis to alleviate obesity and metabolic disorders induced by a high-fat diet.

  7. Filippini et al: Green tea (Camellia sinensis) for the prevention of cancer.

  8. Unno et al: Stress-reducing function of matcha green tea in animal experiments and clinical trials.

  9. Sun et al: Effects of natural polyphenols on skin and hair health: a review.

  10. Herman and Herman: Caffeine's mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use.

  11. Kim et al: Skin protective effect of epigallocatechin gallate.

  12. Lee et al: Relationship between regular green tea intake and osteoporosis in Korean postmenopausal women: a nationwide study.

  • Green tea contains between 30-40mg, the equivalent of 10 cups a day.

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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