Like other teas, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the leaves are picked and harvested before they fully open, when the buds are still covered by silver fuzz, which turns white when the tea is steamed.

The lightest and rarest of teas, white tea has antioxidants that many believe fend off cancer, increase the chances of long life and improve dental health. Antioxidants help guard the body from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Tea leaves for white tea undergo even less processing than green tea leaves. Leaving them so close to their natural state means they contain more polyphenols, the antioxidant that fights and kills cancer-causing cells. A 2004 study at Pace University concluded that white tea can help your body’s immune system fight off viruses and dangerous infection-causing bacteria. The same study concluded that fluoride-rich white tea helps prevent the growth of dental plaque, the chief cause of tooth decay. In 2000, Oregon State University researchers found that white tea may prevent DNA mutations, the earliest steps leading to cancer. The researchers’ latest data indicates white tea may protect against colon cancer in particular.

White tea is scarcer than other teas and a lot more expensive. Research is still in preliminary stages, so there’s no proof that white tea can do for humans what it does in the lab.

Bottom line: If you’re drinking green tea for health reasons, it makes sense to switch to white tea – if you’re willing to pay the extra bucks.

(Contact Jodi Mailander Farrell: jmailander(AT)

(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): MEDWATCH

AP-NY-04-13-07 0658EDT

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