Oolong tea may not get as much attention as other types of tea when it comes to the health benefits, but that doesn’t mean this type of tea is lacking. In fact, oolong is just as beneficial as green tea.
Plus, oolong has a very pleasant taste, so many people may actually prefer it over green tea. This added benefit means it is well worth your time to learn a bit more about oolong and what health benefits it has to offer.
First, though, let’s take a look at where this tea comes from and get a little background on it so you know exactly what you are drinking.
Types of Tea
There are many types of tea made from the tea leaf plant, and each of them has various benefits to human health. If you thought these were all different teas made from different plant species, think again:
- Green Tea: This is kind of tea is made from the basic form of the plant, when its leaves are collected, carefully dried and saved, and then infused and brewed into the delicious drink.
- White Tea: This type of tea is made from the young leaves (more like buds) of the plant, before it has a chance to mature into the regular form we usually encounter it in (when it becomes green tea).
- Black Tea: This one is obtained from the slightly scorched matured leaves of the plant (it’s like green tea, but a little roasted and fermented, either in the sunlight or with the help of a special heating device).
- Pu Erh Tea: This is actually a sub-category of black tea, a special blend of aged and fermented black tea that comes from the Yunnan province in China. In spite of the added processing, this type of tea has impressive health benefits as well.
- Oolong Tea: Finally, the tea we’ll be discussing today comes from the same plant, but it’s only slightly fermented, making it be somewhere between green tea and black tea as its leaves are only partially oxidized.
Basically, all the tea colors you have ever known (including oolong tea) come from the same plant, except for red tea. Red tea is native to Africa and actually comes from the rooibos (red bush) plant, so that’s a different thing. But all the other ones come from the tea leaf native to Asia, also known scientifically as camelia sinensis.
This is how brewed cups of the various teas look like (notice the different and enticing colors):
Preparing and Drinking Oolong Tea
Now that we settled the issue of classification, let’s see how oolong tea can be made and what its main health benefits are. To brew it, you need to infuse a teaspoonful of tea leaves (per 200-250 ml water or one cup) for 3-4 minutes, and strain the leaves.
It’s a moderate-to-strong tea, since it’s somewhere between green tea and black tea on the intensity scale. Oolong tea lovers say this golden liquid tastes slightly milky even without adding anything to it, but for an even finer aroma, you can add just a splash of milk to your cup.
You can also sweeten it, of course, but in order to enjoy all the health benefits of oolong tea, you need to drink several cups a day (3 or 4), so it wouldn’t be wise to add all those extra calories. Try to have your tea plain, if you can.
And without further ado, let’s see in greater detail each of the oolong tea health benefits.
1. Oolong tea helps with weight loss and weight management (metabolism boost)
Because of its powerful anti-oxidants and metabolism boosting substances (similar to those present in green tea), oolong tea can be of real help with losing weight. Research shows that drinking at least one cup of oolong tea every day not only inhibits feeling of hunger, but can actually change the way your body metabolizes fat, helping you become –and stay – leaner. Oolong tea is therefore considered the best tea that fights obesity, followed immediately by Chinese jasmine green tea.
2. Oolong tea promotes healthy skin
You can have more beautiful skin if you consume oolong tea regularly. This is partly due to its properties of fighting eczema, and its anti-inflammatory properties. People who consume more than 2 cups of oolong tea a day reported more beautiful, even and luminous skin (aka a healthy glow).
3. Oolong tea reduces inflammation levels
Speaking of anti-inflammatory properties, oolong tea greatly reduces the overall inflammation levels in your body, just like green tea, only slightly more so. This anti-inflammatory effect promotes longevity and prevents cardio-vascular diseases, joint diseases like arthritis or degenerative diseases.
4. Oolong tea is full of anti-oxidants
Even richer in anti-oxidants than green tea, oolong tea is like having a little cup of prolonged youth day after day, so long as your oolong drinking habits remain stable enough to fully enjoy its effects. Anti-oxidants aren’t just great for staying younger for longer – both inside and out – but also for
5. Oolong tea helps prevent diabetes
Oolong tea helps your body process sugar more slowly, over a longer period of time, reducing sudden highs (and ensuing lows) in your blood sugar levels. Such highs and lows (like the ones you have after eating concentrated sweets) are the main cause of decreased insulin sensitivity, which can lead to diabetes. Oolong tea helps prevent the incidence of diabetes, again, on the condition of everyday use or at least almost everyday use.
6. Oolong tea helps build strong and healthy bones (and prevents osteoporosis)
In spite of the fact that it’s a caffeine drink, oolong tea doesn’t ‘eat up’ the calcium in your body, quite the contrary. This is perhaps one of the most surprising health benefits of oolong tea, but the drink helps fix the calcium you derive from food into your system (especially your bones), making them stronger and healthier. On the long term, oolong tea is also capable of preventing osteoporosis.
7. Oolong tea helps with mental acuity and focus
Oolong tea has been correlated to a good mental performance and focus, making it the ideal tea to be had during examinations and similarly demanding situations. If ginseng tea is usually advertised as good for learning, oolong tea is definitely the best choice for concentration and for helping you give your best (especially if its effects kick in as the result of everyday use).
8. Oolong tea helps with stress management
Speaking of the heightened mental focus, oolong tea consumption has also been linked to reduced stress and anxiety levels, a great help to active and busy people everywhere. Of course, this is only a slight help and if you’re truly struggling with anxiety, a cup of this golden tea can’t replace therapy, but it definitely helps to count better stress management among the health benefits of oolong tea.
9. Oolong tea can have anti-cancer properties
Claims to anti-cancer properties are popular among all sources praising one superfood or another, but they are rarely verified by scientific facts (as a quick Wikipedia search can attest). This doesn’t hold true for green tea and oolong tea, which have actually outstanding cancer prevention properties, scientifically backed and proven.
These anti-tumor properties are both because of the tea’s anti-oxidants, and because of the immune system boosting effects the everyday cup brings. In terms of green tea vs. oolong tea, oolong tea has been shown to be slightly more effective than its green counterpart, so while green tea is by no means a bad choice, it seems that oolong is best.
10. Oolong tea helps with digestion
As if all of the above weren’t enough, aiding digestion is also among the prized health benefits of oolong tea. If you tend to experience light digestion cramps, or other mild disturbances (like constipation, flatulence and so on), drinking at least one cup of oolong tea a day will alleviate them and make everything more regular and well-balanced.
11. Oolong tea lowers cholesterol and prevents cardiovascular disease
Among the most visible oolong tea health benefits is its remarkable cardio-vascular protection. This is even more valuable if we consider that this type of disease is among the most common afflictions after a certain age, and one of the chief causes of mortality.
12. Oolong tea helps with hair loss and makes your hair thicker and shinier
This one oolong health benefit on our list is actually derived from external use, and not from drinking it. If you use a cup of freshly brewed (but cooled) oolong tea to rise your hair after washing, it will not only prevent hair fall but also give your locks a shinier look and make them thicker over time.
Some similarly beneficial effects can be obtained on your skin as well, if you use oolong tea as a skin toner (after washing, and before using a moisturizing cream). So feel free to add oolong tea to your beauty routine anytime, your hair and skin will be grateful for it!
13. Oolong tea prevents tooth decay
Last, but not least, drinking oolong tea regularly helps maintain a balanced acidity level in your mouth, and its famed anti-inflammatory properties help prevent gum disease as well. Overall, being a regular oolong drinker (and not neglecting your oral hygiene either, of course) can mean fewer cavities and tooth problems on the long run.
Side Effects and Precautions
As much as oolong tea is an awesome and powerful elixir, there is too much of any good thing. You can obtain all of the above positive health effects if you drink several cups of oolong tea a day, but remember that oolong tea is rich in caffeine, so this should come with a few precautions.
Many of the conditions which are usually improved by oolong tea (like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, or high levels of stress and anxiety) can be made worse by the caffeine content in the extra cup of oolong tea you’re drinking.
So, as with any other food item in your diet, you should try to limit the quantities you ingest to reasonable limits (like 2-3 cups a day or maximum 4), and also monitor your body’s response to it. Some people might react better or worse to any substance, so it’s up to you to see how you react after you start drinking oolong tea on a regular basis.
If you notice any of the symptoms usually associated with having too much coffee, cut down on this brew for a while, but don’t give up on it completely. You will eventually find the ideal number of tea cups you should have daily for the best effects.
In order to reap every oolong tea health benefit on that list, make sure you have a good source for it (a brand you trust and one which isn’t suspiciously cheap). I personally like the Dr. Oz oolong tea, but there are several other brands which I’d trust as well.
A good tea should specify its source, and if it is cultivated on a high mountain, it’s supposedly better and purer (which is why Fujian oolong tea, or jade oolong tea, or Taiwan oolong tea, or Osmanthus oolong tea, and even monkey picked oolong tea are among the most popular choices for tea connoisseurs). Tea purists (or those who really want to reap the wonderful health benefits of oolong tea, since they’re taking the time to drink it daily) also opt for organic blends.
Dragon eye oolong, Formosa, Gaba and Wuyi oolong tea blends, or blends which also contain some pomegranate for extra flavor are among the most popular choices as well. All in all, what matters for enjoying the health benefits of oolong tea is that you drink a quality, non-counterfeit tea. Brand varieties are just details up to a point.