Tea has a reputation for calming us down, boosting our immunity, and helping us focus. Now there’s yet another reason to warm up to a cuppa—tea drinkers have better organized brains.
This is an exciting finding. Without turning to any drug, drinking more tea is a simple way to improve brain health.
Better organization means better function… improvements to your ability to concentrate, learn new information, and remember skills.
Our brains are highly plastic. Meaning they keep changing and making new connections between neurons. And because each of us lives a unique life, we all end up with a different organization.
How To Customize A Brain
If you have learned to groove a perfect tennis serve, for instance, that’s encoded in your brain in a way unique to you. Which neurons have stored the information, how different neurons connect… that’s yours alone. Your brother, sister, or best friend won’t have that exact same arrangement. Not even if they learn the same tennis rules from the same coach. Nor will another tennis player.
When you deliver that blast over the net, you feel like what you do is a muscle memory. It’s actually a brain pattern that you stored and through practice that tells your muscles to repeat the action.
We are constantly doing things that affect our brain’s structure as we navigate the world around us. But some of us handle the “housekeeping” in a more orderly manner than others. For instance, if two people experience the same event, one person may remember sounds, smells, and visual details the other did not. The person with more cues will probably remember the even better.
At the extreme end of organization gone haywire, you might find a person suffering schizophrenia whose brain can’t separate reality from hallucination.
There is some evidence that the reason someone with autism may have trouble relating to other people could also be linked to brain organization. In fact, that may also explain why many people with autism are also especially adept at other things, such as math skills.
Why It Matters
Brain organization controls how we keep millions of facts, skills, and sensations lodged where they belong—in the region of the brain where they are easily accessed. It also impacts retrieving this information and connecting the bits.
Good organization improves our memory also. That’s because we do not remember things for the long term in one step. First we have a sensory memory of the experience itself. That needs to be transformed into a short-term memory. Then if it’s important and repeated, we create a long-term memory from the same information.
For most of us, our brain organization ranges from normal-pretty good to normal-excellent. And it seems that drinking tea can nudge you toward excellent. Researchers in Singapore followed 36 older adults (age 60+) for three years.
The people in this study who drank tea at least four times a week, and had done so far many years, had more organized brains. This finding showed up in MRIs of their brains as well as neurological tests.
That study was actually done as follow-up study. The research team had already concluded that tea drinkers had better cognitive functions.
One reason why tea has this effect could be the caffeine, which makes us more alert and helps us pay attention.
Tea also contains an amino acid called L-Theanine. This compound works with caffeine to increase concentration and focus.
Will Any Tea Do?
Tea has become a confusing term. The tea in question here is “true tea”—from the Camellia sinensis bush. Which you may know as black tea, green tea, or white tea.
These benefits do not refer to “blackberry tea,” “chamomile tea” rose hips, or other herbal blends. They all have health benefits, too, but different ones.
If you are interested in getting more L-Theanine, green tea has more than black tea. Matcha has more than green.
But you should drink the variety you like best. In one study that tested 17 different samples, black tea averaged 1.40% theaninine content compared to 1.42% for green tea. Plus, different brands varied from one another. Lord Nelson Earl Grey tea, a black tea, had the highest content of all.
So choose your tea. As long as it’s really “tea,” it’s good for the brain.