What it is: Green tea (like regular black tea) comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant. While green tea leaves are steamed or baked shortly after plucking, black tea is “fermented” (or oxidized), after plucking. Because green tea is not fermented, the finished leaves contain natural antioxidants preserved in their original form.

Where it comes from: Almost all green tea is produced in either China or Japan. China alone produces almost 90% of the world’s green tea.

Properties: Since green tea is the least processed of the three tea varieties (green, oolong, and black tea), it contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols contained in teas are classified as catechins. A catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is believed to be responsible for most of the health benefits linked to green tea. (Fermentation, or oxidation, is what makes the tea leaves turn black in black teas. Oolong teas fall somewhere in between the green and black varieties with a half fermentation process.)

What it’s good for: Free radicals (highly reactive oxygen molecules) cause damage to the skin proteins that keep skin smooth and elastic. When these proteins are damaged, skin begins to wrinkle. Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce — or even help prevent — some of the damage they cause. They can, in effect, slow down some of the visible signs of aging. EGCG has been called a cell rejuvenator because of its skin cell-repairing qualities that help restore collagen (the “building block” of skin). Studies have even shown that EGCG is more powerful than vitamins C and E in protecting against free radical damage. EGCG also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory, helping to even out skin tone and reduce redness.

Where you’ll find it: Green tea extracts are often used in skin care products to restore, protect, and heal skin.

Other uses: Consuming green tea, as the Chinese have done for nearly 4,000 years, is considered to be beneficial to many aspects of your health — from staving off heart disease and cancer to preventing tooth decay and promoting weight loss.

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