Green Tea: Lesson 12 Green Tea Vs. Viruses

Research published recently examined the effects of EGCG from green tea on the ebola virus (Reid, 2014). EGCG inhibited one critical step in the life cycle of the ebola virus. In order for the ebola virus to live and thrive, it requires successful recruitment of host factors. The main transporter that gives the ebola virus access inside cells and starts the viral cycle is a protein known as HSPA5. There’s a binding site on this protein that EGCG binds to and occupies. As EGCG binds with HSPA5 protein the ebola virus infection is inhibited. This new development in antiviral research provides great excitement for potential health benefits of EGCG.

Antioxidants from green tea can help protect living cells from viruses such as influenza, hepatitis C, rotavirus and enterovirus. Green tea contains specific chemical compounds that have been shown to inhibit viruses (Ciesek, 2011; Song 2005). To evaluate the effects of EGCG (from green tea) researchers infected healthy cells with hepatitis C virus. After four hours the infected cells were treated with EGCG which began to slow the virus’s ability to replicate. EGCG also inhibited the virus from completing virion attachment inside the cell and prevented the hepatitis C virus from using the cell as its host. These results are an initial glimpse into the health promoting and virus fighting power of EGCG.

Traditional treatments for viruses are used after symptoms appear and the proper diagnosis is complete. Viruses need a host in order to survive. They have to penetrate or attach themselves to a living cell and latch onto the inner workings of that cell. Viruses can reprogram cells once they’ve attached themselves to the cell and turn normal cells into a virus. The human papillomavirus is an example of how a virus can turn normal cells into malignant or cancerous cells that begin attacking our bodies.

Viruses can spread quickly from an infected person to another healthy individual. As people come into closer contact with each other (ie. children going back to school) there is a greater risk of viruses spreading.

Can green tea help prevent and protect our cells from viruses?

Green tea consumption has been shown to decrease the incidence of influenza (flu) among those in densely populated areas. Nearly 3,000 children were observationally studied to understand just how effective green tea was at preventing and minimizing the flu. Students who consumed green tea each day had nearly half the incidence of the flu during their school year compared to those who consumed green tea only once or twice per week (Park, 2011). During the course of this particular study there was an outbreak of type A influenza which allowed for greater insight into how green tea works to protect against viruses.

How much green tea were these people drinking to have this virus protection? There’s a pattern in what science is telling us. You have to drink a certain amount of green tea in order for it to wield it’s virus fighting power. If you’re thinking one cup of green tea would suffice, think again. The necessary dose to fight these different viruses was 400 milligrams of EGCG. In order to obtain 400 milligrams of EGCG here in the United States, you’d have to drink over 20 cups of traditionally brewed green tea.

One of the best aspects of using EGCG from green tea is the virus protecting power and every ounce of prevention helps. Current research indicates drinking 200 milligrams of EGCG from green tea several times throughout the day increases our prevention power from this natural elixir.

1. Reid SP, Shurtleff A et al. HSPA5 is an essential host factor for Ebola virus infection. Antiviral Research. 2014; 109:171-174

2. Ciesek S, Thomas H, et al. The green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, inhibits hepatitis C virus entry. Hepatology. 2011; 54:1947-1955

3. Song J, Lee K, Seong B. Antiviral effect of catechins in green on influenza virus. Antiviral research. 2005; 68:66-74.

4. Park M, Yamada H, Matsushita K. Green tea consumption is inversely associated with the incidence of influenza infection among schoolchildren in a tea plantation area of Japan. 2011; 141:1862-1870.