Friday, May 27, 2005

Green tea and survivors of heart attacks and strokes

It's almost impossible to keep track of all the studies that are being done on the health benefits of green tea. And these studies, in many cases, are finding evidence that not only backs up traditional claims, but also expands the range of green tea's positive health impact beyond what was previously thought.

For instance, this article is about study findings that green tea "could help protect against the damage caused by heart attacks and strokes".

According to this study, conducted by the U.K.'s Institute of Child Health, the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) can "reduce cell death after a heart attack or stroke." (Incidentally, green tea contains more EGCG than any other type of tea.)

EGCG does this by suppressing the action of the protein Stat1, which induces cells death after a stressful even—such as a heart attack or stroke. Reduced cell death during and after a heart attack means a faster recovery and less-severe long-term damage.

Read the full account here.

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A saying about tea

"Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one."

Of course, it depends on the food—and the tea.

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

How green tea fights cancer

This article discusses how scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have identified one possible way that green tea prevents cancer.

The explanation is long and a little contorted, but it breaks down to this:

Green tea contains a flavonoid called epigallocatechingallate (EGCG). EGCG binds to HSP90, a "chaperone" protein that binds to many different cells and receptors in the body. HSP90 is found in elevated levels in many cancer cells. When bound to EGCG, HSP90 is no longer capable of activating the aryl hydrocarbon (AH) receptor. The AH receptor, in turn, has been shown to turn on often harmful genes in the human body when exposed to dioxin and chemicals found in cigarette smoke. These genes, when activated, are what can turn normal cells into cancer cells.

This concludes today's lecture on biochemistry. :) But seriously, folks, this is a good example of how complex the chemical reactions in the body are.

The article also comments that such results will someday allow the production of pharmaceuticals that contain these health-promoting compounds. Yes, but many folks believe that it's better to get health-promoting nutrients directly from their natural source!

For instance, taking a green tea pill or other extract also introduces the danger of "too much of a good thing." After all, aspirin was touted as a miraculous pain reliever, but taking too much of it can have life-threatening results.

Besides, science is far from knowing how the natural compounds in green tea act together to promote good health. Besides, you have to wonder what sort of chemicals are used in making today's green tea extracts. Finally, who knows what other disease-fighting compounds there are in green tea yet to be discovered? It's better to be safe and get them all by drinking real, honest-to-goodness green tea!

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Great tea tops list of "healing foods"

This online article discusses a "healing food pyramid" at which green tea appears at the topmost level.

In other words, green tea is both "passively" healthy (that is, it contains no harmful compounds) and "actively" healthy—its polyphenols and other compounds "help the body's immune system recognize cells that may be going astray. So they may be one of the first lines of defense for cancer protection."

This healing food pyramid was created by researchers at the University of Michigan Department of Integrative Medicine and is available here, at the university's website.

—Mellow Monk

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Community-supported farming (CSF)

Here's an article from USA Today about a "new way of farming . . . [whose] ultimate harvest may be the preservation of the family farm."

This new way of farming is called community-supported farming (CSF). The way CSF works is that consumers buy "shares" in a farmer's future harvest. They pay a certain fee, on a monthly or weekly basis, both before and during the growing season. (By getting the money up front, the farmer can reduce his or her reliance on interest-accruing bank financing.) When harvest time comes, the vegetables or other farm products are taken to a pickup point, where "shareholders" collect their food.

As you know, preserving family farming the world over is one of Mellow Monk's missions. I like to think that, by connecting you, the tea consumer, directly to the tea grower, we're also engaged in a form of community-supported agriculture.

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Birth control pills, plastics, and prostate cancer

A recent study on lab animals suggests that certain estrogen-like chemicals can lead to prostate cancer and other health problems in the unborn children of pregnant women who are exposed to those chemicals. One chemical is found in birth-control pills; the other, in polycarbonate, a hard plastic used in beverage containers, for instance. (You can read the full article here).

It's scary, isn't it. Who knows how many other chemicals out there are having long-term negative affects on our health or our children's health—chemicals that for decades have been considered safe?

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Family farms in danger in the U.K., too

One of Mellow Monk's guiding principles is to support family farming everywhere by buying our tea only from family-owned and -operated farms. This is to slow down and hopefully reverse the trends toward corporate agribusiness. Why? Because families who live on and work the land take better care of it than a board of directors whose main concern is maximizing profits. Corporate farms are responsible for the vast increase in the use in pesticides and other agrichemicals in the past few decades.

This article at the BBC News website talks about the danger to independent farmer in Britain posed by society's current emphasis on inexpensive food:

[Many] in farming are warning that only big farms can make a profit in an economy based around cheap food. . . . Organic and selling direct to the consumer through farmers' markets may offer possibilities for some farmers to make money, but there is only a limited amount of room . . . .

Now, the Internet provides a way for small farms to sell directly to consumers all over the world. That is precisely the sort of movement that we at Mellow Monk hope to accelerate.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Decline of family tea farms

I found an article in China Daily about the falling number of independent tea farmers in China.

The article focuses on how the prices of the most expensive teas are rising as more and more family-run tea farms are getting out of the business. The cause, says the article, is that young people are leaving the farm and heading toward the big city.

But what the article doesn't say is why growers are having trouble getting their children to take over their tea farms—farms that, in many cases, have been in the family for generations. It's not just because young people are draw by the Siren's call of big-city neon. A big part of the exodus from tea farms the world over is money: Traditional, family-owned and -operated tea farms can't compete against the agribusiness corporations that are getting into the tea business. Corporate farms drive down prices to the point where independent farmers can no longer support themselves on their farm income. This is exactly what has happened in the U.S. (And look at the mess that has created.)

The growers of ultra-premium tea mentioned the article are probably the last to feel the squeeze. Producers of middle-of-the-road (read "affordable") teas started getting out of the business long ago, but prices didn't rise because the corporate farms that drove them out of business made up for the fall in supply. Most consumers don't complain because the price of tea goes down in some cases? What's so bad about that?

Well, what's bad is that agribusiness corporations focus on the bottom line—profit—not quality. And they certainly aren't bothered by the damage they do to the environment by using barrels of pesticides, fungicides, and other agrichemicals to squeeze every ounce of profit out of the land.

This is exactly why Mellow Monk is supporting small-scale agriculture by buying our green tea from only family-owned and -operated tea farms.

As an aside, the article also mentions that in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, a popular greening is "Having you had your tea today?" Interesting. Wouldn't it be great if the expression caught on here. It would be much better than "Have you had your burger and fries today?"

—Mellow Monk

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Blood-type "myths" in Japan

Here is a New York Times article on widely held beliefs in Japan about the link between blood type and personality.

(The article, from the Associated Press, is also available at

The idea is that a person's blood type tells a lot about his or her personality. But not only do these seemingly innocent beliefs have a very sinister history, but they also result in considerable grief when a person is denied a job, turned down for marriage, or slotted into a certain career path at school on the basis of his or her blood type.

At long last, scientists and other prominent figures are beginning to publicly attack this "blood-type discrimination" because of all the sorrow it has caused.

(By the way, registration at the New York Times website is required but free. That's a mellowness-enhancer!)

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

A brief history of tea

A blog reader sent in a link to a very brief but good overview of the history of tea—not just green tea, but all teas. (You can find a longer history of green tea in Japan here on the Mellow Monk website.)

Incidentally, the monk Saicho mentioned in the overview is the one-and-the-same Saicho after whom Mellow Monk is named—his name, literally translated, means "supreme tranquility." That sounds like somewhere I'd like to be.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Happy Boys' Day!

In Japan, May 5th marks a holiday called Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day). Referred to as "Boys' Day" in English, this holiday originally began as a celebration for families in which a boy had been born since the previous year's Boys' Day. Nowadays, the holiday is celebrated by all families with male children at home, no matter how old.

Boys' Day is also the male counterpart to Girls' Day, which is celebrated on April 3rd.

In big-city nuclear families, Boys' Day may be a simple affair, but in traditional extended families, the holiday is usually an occasion for an all-out feast where not only the family but also nearby aunts, uncles, and cousins get together.

Other than the food and good times, one of the best parts about Boys' Day is the koi-nobori, which are giant carp-shaped windsocks. Traditionally made of silk but today made usually of heartier nylon, these colorful streamers can be as long as 25 feet. They're usually hung from the top of a long piece of bamboo, or on a long rope strung horizontally. Some pictures of koi-nobori follow.

—Mellow Monk

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