A recent study published in the open access journal states that the tea extracts are beneficial to cancer patients and would aid the healing process of damaged skin following radiation treatment.
Tea extracts have long been acknowledged as beneficial for many health ailments including lower risk of certain cancers, weight loss, and protection against Alzheimer's. However, despite often being used in topical skin care treatments, it is the first time it has been acknowledged as an effective treatment for more severe skin complaints such as the destructive effects of radiation.
According to BMC researchers, tea extracts can help damaged skin that has been affected by radiation by working at the cellular level of the skin and reducing inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory pathways. It has also been said that it reduces the affect of radiation-induced skin damage by up to ten days.
Frank Pajonk from the University of California in Los Angeles studied the effects of green and black tea on cancer sufferer's skin and then repeated the same study on human and mouse white blood cells to clarify the effects.
The study found that green tea extracts were more beneficial to some sufferers than black tea, due to the high anti-inflammatory properties it holds.
The list of health benefits, mainly focused on green tea, have been linked to the polyphenol content of the tea. Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent. Oolong tea is semi-fermented tea and is somewhere between green and black tea.
The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tealeaves are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin.
Demand for tea extracts is currently surging, having reached 500 metric tonnes by 2003. This has seen companies such as DSM, with its Teavigo boasting 95 per cent purity of EGCG, and Taiyo International, with its Sunphenon claiming more than 90 per cent purity, position themselves firmly in specific catechin markets.
The global tea market is worth about €790 (£540, $941) million. Green tea accounts for about 20 per cent of total global production, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) accounts for about 78 per cent.