APR 2016

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YOURWELLNESSSPA 60 DAYSPA | APRIL 2016 This "lifted" feeling comes thanks to theanine, an amino acid found within the green tea leaf. Teas are one of the few natural sources that carry this rare com- pound, which passes through the brain's barriers and bestows a sense of well-being. "When you feel bet- ter after you drink tea, it's due to the theanine, which works in partnership with the caffeine," explains Don- aldson. "It functions the same way as serotonin— it makes you feel great, and increases focus in a controlled way, rather than creating a jittery effect." In ancient Ja- pan, samurai warriors frequently drank matcha before battle, because the drink would prepare their bodies for vigorous activity and sustain their energy. Matcha is also extremely effective in curbing appetite: Although the powder contains fewer than 10 calories per serving, its amino acids help consum- ers feel satiated. "It's great to drink before a meal, because you won't eat as much," says Gower. The more obvious health benefi t of matcha is the powder's unparalleled antioxidant content. Various scales rank the levels of antioxidants in natural foods, and the most commonly used is the oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC. In nearly every case study, using ORAC or any other scale, matcha has been deemed one of the highest sources of antioxidants by close to 1,000 units per gram. The packaged, stable state in which matcha is sold helps solidify its antioxidant value. "In general, fresh fruits and vegetables such as goji, spinach and blueber- ries still carry high antioxidant levels, but the amounts tend to fl uctuate based on freshness and preparation," clarifi es Donaldson. Matcha's properties are also benefi cial for the skin. "Green tea's natural antioxidants protect the body from environmental factors and free radicals that can lead to accelerated aging," explains M'lisa Jackson, president of M'lis. Green tea extract can be used around the eye area, because the caffeine and fl avonoids are ideal for alleviating dark circles, or as an astringent ingredient in a facial. "Tea is also effective in the prevention and treatment of abnormal skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema," Jackson adds. HEALTHY HARVESTING The quality of the green tea leaf is what truly differ- entiates the highest quality matcha. Ryokucha plants are grown under intense supervision, and for the last two to four weeks before harvesting, they are shaded so the chlorophyll level in the leaves increases signifi - cantly. When the ryokucha is shaded, its leaves fall out to the sides and fl atten as the plant works to seek as much sunshine as possible. These fl at leaves are then plucked, the stems are peeled and the leaves steamed. "This stops the bright green leaves from losing their PHOTOS COURTESY MATCHASOL.COM (BOTTOM); © GETTY IMAGES (TOP) Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry , "Lipophilic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States" HERBAL HEALTH

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