Green Tea Supplements VS. Drinking Green Tea

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 1/20/2016, 2:41 p.m.
Green tea is one of those rare herbal products growing in consumer popularity mainly because scientific research has validated its ...
Green Tea

By Benita Lee of

Green tea is one of those rare herbal products growing in consumer popularity mainly because scientific research has validated its health benefits. Indeed, a macrotrend in today’s dietary supplement market is veering towards prevention, self-care, and holistic approaches to wellness backed by credible claims. And with green tea linked in research to benefits like preventing diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, and other chronic diseases, along with no notable evidence of severe adverse risks even at fairly high dosages (1600 mg of green tea catechins or about 6 - 7 cups of tea per day), the impetus for consuming green tea and its healthful components is strong.

So, in the spirit of harnessing and maximizing green tea’s benefits, consumers are asking on internet forum after forum: Which is better - green tea in supplement/capsule form or drinking brewed green tea? This article is an attempt to clarify this debate, drawing from sources of scientific objectivity whenever available.

Green Tea Popularity

As far as industry trends go, green tea supplements are gaining traction more quickly than traditional tealeaves, but the tea leaf industry still dominates in terms of market value. According to market analysis reports, the global market value for extracts of tea polyphenols, the active components of green tea concentrated in supplement capsules, was about $209.3 million in 2012 with a growth rate of 7.4%. North America accounted for 27% of this total market volume. In contrast, retail sales of bagged and loose teas of all types, with the exception of ready-to-drink teas, reached billions in 2013. In 2013’s US market alone, sales increased 5.9% to $1.75 billion. Green tea sales comprise about 20% of this estimate.

Green Tea Components

Popularity aside, the real answer to our question about which form of green tea is better lies in how each differs in its process of extracting green tea’s beneficial components. Green tea extract can contain the following compounds:

• Polyphenols: catechins, phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonols (kaempferol, quercetin, myricitin, and rutin)

• Xanthines: caffeine and caffeine-related stimulants (theobromine and theophylline)

• Vitamins: vitamin C and B vitamins

• Amino acids: L-theanine

• Microelements: aluminum, fluorides, manganese

• Essential oils

The main active ingredients in green tea include caffeine and caffeine-related stimulants, specific flavonols (which act as antioxidants), and the highly researched class of green tea catechins. Primary green tea catechins consist of epicatechin (EC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG, the most potent in this group, is responsible for most of green tea’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties, and is often extracted and then concentrated in supplement capsules for this reason.

Note that some of green tea’s elements also come with risks. For example, the FDA cites 400 mg as the safe threshold for daily caffeine consumption. Above 400 mg, health risks include gastrointestinal upset, muscle tremors, and palpitations. Tea leaves also tend to accumulate aluminum from soil, and chronic high aluminum exposure (more than 20 mg per day for a 150 lb. person) has been found to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Though that’s a fair warning, research suggests that one cup of brewed black tea has a little less than 1 mg of aluminum and most of it is not absorbed by our bodies because it remains bound to L-theanine, another component found in tea.