Black tea contains theaflavins, a powerful antioxidant that has many uses – from treating headaches to protecting the heart, to reducing cancer risk. Learn more about its potent qualities below.

What are Theaflavins?

Theaflavins are a class of natural flavonoids derived from the dried leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis (tea) and related plants with potent antioxidant properties. Flavonoids such as theaflavins neutralize free-radical species and increase the activity of detoxifying enzymes in the liver. Black tea contains the highest concentrations of theaflavins [1].

Black tea is used for headaches, low blood pressure, preventing heart disease, including atherosclerosis and heart attack, preventing Parkinson’s disease, reducing the risk of stomach and colon cancer, lung, ovarian and breast cancers [2].

Theaflavins Snapshot

Pros

  • Good Antioxidant
  • Reduces insulin resistance
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Protects the brain
  • Anti-HIV effects
  • May protect against obesity

Cons

  • Not enough is known about the use of theaflavins during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Theaflavins Benefits

1) Anti-Oxidant

Polyphenols such as theaflavins and other major constituents of black tea are mainly responsible for antioxidant actions. Antioxidative properties of black tea are manifested by its ability to inhibit free radical generation, scavenge free radicals, and bind transition metals [3].

Theaflavins inhibit the activity of enzymes that cause oxidative stress. Black tea consumed throughout the world is believed to be not only a popular beverage but also an anti-oxidative agent available in everyday life [3].

2) Cancer

The exposure of human stomach cancer cells to black tea theaflavin extract led to both inhibition and the start of programmed cell death. Drinking black tea in large amounts is recommended to protect humans from stomach cancer [4].

Catechins and theaflavins both inhibit human prostate cancer cell proliferation in vitro. Catechins inhibit prostate cancer in a mouse animal model of the disease [5].

Tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in studies.

3) Weight

Theaflavins have been found to significantly reduce lipid accumulation, suppress fatty acid synthesis, and stimulate fatty acid oxidation. It may be active in the prevention of fatty liver and obesity [6].

4) Diabetes

Various dietary polyphenols may influence carbohydrate metabolism at many levels. In both animals and humans, polyphenols in tea improve acute insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity [7].

Four cups of black tea a day also had anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects on diabetes patients [8].

5) Anti-HIV Effects

Theaflavins have potent anti-HIV-1 activity by targeting the viral entry step. Researchers can develop it to be a safe and affordable topical microbe killer for preventing sexual transmission of HIV [9].

Several tea polyphenols can inhibit HIV-1 replication with multiple mechanisms of action. These tea polyphenols could inhibit HIV-1 entry into target cells by blocking HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein-mediated membrane fusion [10].

6) Cholesterol Levels

Drinking multiple cups of tea a day lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in adults with high cholesterol.

7) Parkinson’s

Tea contains specific polyphenols which can play an important role in delaying the onset or halting the progression of Parkinson’s [11].

Theaflavins may provide a precious therapeutic strategy for the treatment of progressive neurodegenerative diseases in the future [11].

8) Gingivitis 

Theaflavins can affect the virulent properties of P. gingivalis and lessen the inflammatory response induced by this gingivitis. Theaflavins may be a valuable supplementary therapeutic agent by preventing and treating P. gingivalis-associated dental diseases [12].

9) Anti-Allergic

The anti-allergic mechanisms of action of theaflavins involve inhibition of the fluctuations of cytokines and maintenance of antioxidant status in allergic mice. These results suggest that the theaflavins, as well as catechins, contribute to the anti-allergic effects of black tea [13].

Limitations

The above studies were not done in humans and we don’t know if the benefits would be experienced in humans.

Technical Section

  • Stimulates AMPK [6].
  • Inhibits α-amylase and α-glucosidase activities in vitro [7].

Dosage

There is not enough information available to determine what a safe dosage for everyone is.

Side Effects

There are currently no known side effects.

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