Both White tea popularity and research are still in its early stages although it's been produced for over one thousand years (first in China). Early research shows promising effects on its anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties, its protection against skin cell damage, and colon cancer.
Futhermore, it's widely assumed that all health benefits of green tea apply to white tea as well (and according to recent studies probably even more so).
Antiviral & Anti-bacterial Effects:
New studies conducted at Pace University have indicated that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries.
The effect of WTE was determined by observing zones of inhibition of bacteria grown on Mueller Hinton II Agar (Kirby-Bauer technique).
White tea was more effective than green tea at inactivating bacterial viruses. Results obtained with the bacterial virus, a model system; suggest that WTE may have an anti-viral effect on human pathogenic viruses.
The addition of White Tea Extract to various toothpastes enhanced the anti-microbial effect of these oral agents.
Studies have also indicated that WTE has an anti-fungal effect on Penicillium chrysogenum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In the presence of WTE, Penicillium spores and Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells were totally inactivated. It is suggested that WTE may have an anti-fungal effect on pathogenic fungi.
In the immune system, the Langerhans cells in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) are the outermost reach of the immune system, and are the first to recognize foreign agents. They are the sentinel cells or watchdog cells, essential in detecting germs and mutated proteins produced by cancerous cells; but, because of their location, the Langerhans cells are very sensitive to damage by sunlight.
Skin Cancer & Cell Damage Protection:
Scientists have found that white tea extract protected against the Langerhans cell obliteration that was observed in the sun-exposed skin not treated with the extract.
The investigators then tested whether the preserved immune system cells in the white tea extract-protected skin would still function properly after exposure to sunlight; they discovered the immune function was indeed restored by the extract. They also found that the DNA damage that can occur in cells after exposure to sunlight was limited in the skin cells protected by the white tea extract.
Researchers believe that white tea extract's anti-oxidant properties are the reason the extract was effective; if so, it also suggests that the agent may provide anti-aging benefits. The same process of oxidative stress in skin cells that leads to immune system damage can also promote skin cancer and photo damage, such as wrinkling or mottled pigmentation.
The results offer promise in the battle against skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than one million new cases diagnosed every year, according to the researchers. This study was funded by Origins Natural Resources, a division of The Estee Lauder Companies (ELC). The Skin Study Center at UHC and CWRU has studied the benefits of another form of tea that has protective effects.
Researchers found that ingredients in green tea decreased the direct effects of sunburn. This newest study is the first of its kind involving white tea. White and green teas contain the highest amounts of antioxidants of all tea varieties, but white tea is actually the least processed form of tea and is rarely used in consumer products.
A new study has found that consumption of moderate amounts of green or white tea might provide a protection against colon tumors about as well as a prescription drug, sulindac, that has been shown to be effective for that purpose.
The research was just published in the journal Carcinogenesis by scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, in studies funded by the National Cancer Institute.
A new study from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggests that consumption of green and white tea can be just about as effective as use of the prescription drug sulindac in preventing colon tumors in a certain type of laboratory mouse that is genetically predisposed to cancer.
The control group of mice received no treatments, and developed an average of about 30 tumors each. The most effective results were obtained with a combination of tea and sulindac. It may suggest some optional approaches to cancer prevention or therapy, especially for people who have trouble with the side effects that can be associated with regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as sulindac or aspirin.
The study also indicated that routine consumption of green or white teas could be especially effective in combination with NSAIDs, and provide more cancer protection than either of the products separately.
In a June 2005, review of claims made about the health benefits of green tea, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that there was "no credible evidence" green tea fights cancers of the stomach, lung, colon, esophagus, pancreas or ovary.
The agency acknowledged that the evidence for tea fighting breast or prostate cancer was somewhat better, although it also said the link was "highly unlikely" because the evidence on humans wasn't conclusive enough. The FDA's message was not that green tea did not assist in fighting these diseases but that it didn't feel enough evidence existed.
Scientists say that despite the unanswered questions, green tea still shows promise, not only as a potential cancer protector but also against other health threats, such as cardiovascular disease and possibly Alzheimer's. But they also are mindful that many a cell in a dish has been vanquished, and many a mouse cured of cancer, from therapies that don't ultimately pan out in humans.