Matcha tea: Nature’s antidepressant in a cup

It’s not uncommon to feel down on occasion. But persistent feelings of sadness, especially if it impacts daily life, could be an indication of depression.

In the U.S. depression affects one in 10 of us, and it often goes untreated.

One study found among those newly diagnosed with depression, only about a third get treatment. That number dips further among older people. In fact, patients over the age of 60 were half as likely to seek treatment for depression as those under age 44.

But, even with treatment, depression can be a tough nut to crack. Roughly 31 percent of people with depression have either no response or a poor response to medication.

With those odds, it’s helpful to know of complementary or alternative therapies that may help manage depression.

Take green tea, for instance.

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Previous research has found that people who drink four or more cups of green tea daily are 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who drink only one cup per day or less.

Another study showed an association between frequent consumption of green tea and a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in the community-dwelling elderly population.

But to understand how tea could truly affect the brain’s mood center, scientists turned to mice — and what they found is extremely encouraging…

The impact of matcha

Matcha is a powdered form of green tea that has over a thousand more antioxidant levels than its whole-leaf green tea counterparts. When you boil regular green tea, you throw away the leaves, which contain most of the antioxidants. Because matcha uses the entire leaf pulverized into a powder, it contains all of green tea’s antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

How could matcha possibly affect depression? It may come down to matcha’s effect on the brain’s happy chemicals: serotonin and dopamine. Both carry messages between nerve cells in the brain.

Serotonin influences learning, memory, and happiness and regulates body temperature, sleep, sexual behavior and hunger. Dopamine impacts mood and motivation, as well as learning, heart rate, sleep, attention, and pain processing, among other functions.

Experts believe a lack of one or both of these chemical messengers may contribute to depression. For instance, inadequate levels of dopamine can make a person feel less motivated and less interested in life.

In an animal study involving mice, when the researchers examined the mice’s brains, they found that matcha appeared to affect systems of dopamine in stress-sensitive mice. These results suggest that matcha causes an antidepressant-like effect by activating the dopaminergic system in the brain.

The study results also indicate that mental state is an important factor that affects the physiological benefits of matcha since only the mice under high mental stress were impacted, compared to another group of mice.

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Making matcha at home

Other studies on green tea and depression have identified two ingredients potentially responsible for its feel-good effects. One is L-theanine, a calming amino acid known to reduce mental and physical stress and enhance crucial neurotransmitter activity.

The other is a potent antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which contributes to an increase in brain alpha wave activity. When you’re in an alpha wave state, you’re awake and alert but relaxed.

You can now buy the tea at many grocery stores or online. Just make sure you get the actual powdered matcha, and that it’s 100 percent matcha with no fillers or sweeteners.

To make matcha, take roughly a quarter teaspoon and put it through a small sifter into your cup. Matcha clumps very easily, so you want to make sure your drink isn’t lumpy.

Next, pour in two ounces of hot (not boiling) water. You want the water to be just below the boiling point. Then you need a whisk to stir it — a fork or spoon won’t mix it enough.

Whisk the matcha vigorously in a zig-zag motion. Don’t do it in a circular motion or you won’t get that foamy top that’s characteristic of good matcha. A bamboo whisk known as a chasen, can make the whisking process easier and more complete.

After the tea has dissolved and a foamy top has appeared, pour in another six ounces of hot water, whisk again until foamy, and serve. Or, if you want to make your own matcha latte, add six ounces of heated milk instead of water.

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Could matcha tea have anti-depressant properties? — Medical News Today

Matcha Tea Powder’s Antidepressant-like Effect through the Activation of the Dopaminergic System in Mice Is Dependent on Social Isolation Stress — Nutrients

Vast Majority of People With Depression Aren’t Getting Treatment, Global Review Finds — Science Alert

Why Are So Many People With Depression Not Getting Treatment? — Forbes

Green tea and coffee consumption is inversely associated with depressive symptoms in a Japanese working population — Public Health Nutrition

Green tea consumption is associated with depressive symptoms in the elderly — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Matcha 101 – What It Is and How to Use It — Love & Lemons

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.