Many of us find comfort in a nice cuppa when we’re feeling stressed. Now, researchers at Kumamoto University in Japan has found that matcha, the deep green tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies, can help to reduce anxiety in mice.
Matcha is the finely ground powder of new leaves from shade-grown Camellia sinensis green tea bushes. In its native Japan, matcha has long been thought to be of medicinal use to help people relax, prevent obesity, and improve the condition of the skin.
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The team placed mice in a raised, cross-shaped maze with two arms walled off and the others open with no barrier around the edge. This setup is commonly used as an anxiety test for rodents, the idea being that animals experiencing higher levels of anxiety will spend more time in the safer, walled-off areas. They found that animals that had been given matcha extract exhibited far less anxious behaviour.
The tea’s calming effect appears to be due to changes in the mice’s dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors found in the central nervous system, both of which are closely related to anxious behaviour.
“Although further research is necessary, the results of our study show that Matcha, which has been used as medicinal agent for many years, may be quite beneficial to the human body,” said Dr. Yuki Kurauchi. "We hope that our research into Matcha can lead to health benefits worldwide.”
Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.