It’s not uncommon for patients with multiple sclerosis to seek out nontraditional treatment options to assist with controlling and managing symptoms of the disease. Most of the traditional therapy processes are helpful in reducing relapses and slowing the advancement of the disease, and things like physical therapy help patients live more comfortably with the symptoms. But there is little that these options do for pain and other symptoms of the disease.
What is green tea?
With oolong and black teas, there is a process the leaves undergo that causes them to ferment – withering and oxidizing – prior to being introduced for the production of tea. With green tea, there is no such process. Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub, is used for green tea. The production of green tea began in China and spread throughout Asia before being introduced into Western culture.
There are several claims of health benefits regarding drinking green tea (or taking green tea extract supplements), though not all of these claims have conclusive scientific studies proving effectiveness.
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Greater control of blood sugar, with typically lower fasting blood sugar levels
- Lower cholesterol levels (overall cholesterol and LDL levels)
- Overall lower risk of mortality from any ailment or disease
Aside from this, some purport that green tea consumption can assist in weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer or death from cancer, and reduce inflammation. But how does any of this help with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
How it works
Green tea is known for having large amounts of the antioxidant EGCG, which has been found to have almost limitless medical and health benefits. These antioxidants are important in preventing cell damage by controlling the production of and protecting the cells from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron, which means they violently seek out another molecule in the body with which to pair off, leading to damage to the cell structure in which they bond. Antioxidants also have antibacterial properties that can help kill bacteria in the body and reduce the likelihood of infection.
In addition, the caffeine levels in green tea are beneficial to brain function, improving mood, memory, reaction time, and focus. The L-theanine in green tea works to relieve anxiety by increasing the production of dopamine, which improves mood and overall satisfaction, leading to a more positive outlook. Both of these substances can also lead to better weight control, keeping a body more fit and able.
How does this relate to MS?
These properties can all help patients with multiple sclerosis by:
- Reducing fatigue
- Reducing the likelihood of infection, which can exacerbate symptoms
- Potentially increasing cognitive function
- Keeping metabolism and weight under control for better mobility
- Improving mood and outlook
- Reducing overall anxiety
And based on its effect on free radicals, there is promise for the future of these properties to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis. Recent studies show that there are several aspects of the production (and lack of production) of antioxidants and free radicals in the body that could potentially lead to the extensive damage caused by MS. Therefore, it’s believed that, with the right compounds, even when the immune system attacks the central nervous system, some of the properties of green tea may hold the answer to reducing the damage done and curing the disease.
How green tea could be the cure
Evidence shows that EGCG, which is plentiful in green tea, has both anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. What this means is that it can potentially reduce inflammation that causes damage to the nerves in the central nervous system, reducing potential for damage this causes to those nerves, as well as help protect the nerves from damage in the first place.
This could be crucial in curing multiple sclerosis, which stems from damage done to the protective coating of myelin on the nerves in the CNS by the immune system. And to top that, green tea has immune boosting properties, which could enhance the immune system, prompting better functionality and lower the risk of autoimmune disorders, such as whatever triggers the initial attack on the central nervous system.
Tests show that levels of free radicals are higher in MS patients, with antioxidants lower, and that means greater capacity for research regarding treatment with hefty amounts of antioxidants to perhaps slow and even stop the progression of multiple sclerosis entirely.
Potential side effects
One of the greatest things about green tea is that, in moderation, there are literally no side effects. While patients should be careful of added caffeine content, the regular amount is just enough to assist with functionality while the tea still has a soothing effect.
There is one warning to consider, which is why patients should always consult a physician before starting any regular alternative treatment method. Large amounts of polyphenon E, or green tea extract, can lead to some severe problems with the liver, so this should be taken into consideration, especially for patients who already have liver damage. However, a cup or two a day typically will not cause any harm to a patient with multiple sclerosis.