In the US, May is Mental Health Awareness month. Since 1949, additional efforts have been put towards education and advocacy during the month of May, in hopes of reducing the stigma around mental illness and expanding care. While president, Barack Obama referenced the month’s significance in his 2013 Presidential Proclamation, emphasizing our personal responsibility to aid those who are struggling and reaffirming that “asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of strength.”
Matcha and Mental Health
Interest in the role of nutrition in Mental Health has been growing among medical professionals and the public alike. Research efforts into the effects of diet for preventative health, both physical and mental, continue to increase. At Matchaful, we believe wholeheartedly in this approach.
For centuries, tea drinkers have shared their anecdotal knowledge of the simultaneously relaxing and energizing aspects of the drink. Historically consumed to support meditative states and soothe nerves, scientists are catching on to this ancient wisdom fast. A roundup of recent studies finds that drinking tea reduces the stress hormone cortisol and might even be associated with lower risks of developing depression and dementia. Research also finds that matcha may reduce anxiety by activating dopamine and serotonin receptors.
It’s all Chemistry
Much of the focus in contemporary research centers on identifying the compounds in matcha that make it beneficial for our mental health. Nature Journal writes that the main interest is on the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and the amino acid L-theanine. “EGCG is thought to make people feel calmer and improve memory and attention.” Consumption of EGCG leads to an increase in full-spectrum brain activity, meaning it elevates alpha and theta brain waves, which are associated with relaxation, as well as beta waves, which are connected to focus and alertness.
L-theanine is thought to have a similar effect, especially when consumed with caffeine, which is naturally present in matcha. The effect is described as “reducing the noise,” meaning L-theanine selectively quiets and activates parts of the brain needed for specific tasks.
… or is it?
Another avenue of research is focused on the ritual of tea preparation and subsequent drinking as beneficial for mental health. Psychologists have been investigating biological effects versus social context in regard to tea consumption since at least 2007.
Matcha lovers have long sworn by the many perceived benefits of drinking the powdered green tea. With the growing interest in the connection between nutritional choices and mental health, matcha lovers are gaining scientific insight into the workings of their favorite drink. So while matcha is certainly not a cure for mental health issues and illnesses, with studies testifying to its benefits, it's on track to become an ever-more-popular method for helping to improve our overall health.