Note: This is the first in a series of blogs on the science of tea. Learn why is it's good for you, and all about the myriad kinds of tea (we love tea!)

Over 158 million Americans will drink tea on any given day, and it’s obviously the go-to-beverage when plain water won't do. Among those 158 billion tea consumers are green tea aficionados. While only 15% are green tea drinkers, its growth is outpacing all other forms of tea, with a 60% increase in consumption since 2004. Why the crazy growth? Well, green tea has a lot to make you happy about.

A Diverse History

Green tea was discovered in its greenest form over five thousand years ago. While stories vary, some versions of leaf's history have a flower magically falling into a tea cup, while another has an Emperor chewing a leaf imaging how delicious it would be steeped in water. The most important book to set the record straight was Cha Jing, or Tea classic, written around 600 AD. The book detailed exactly how a cup of green tea should be made and how it should be served. Today, green tea is prepared in the exact same way (or should be), and drinking it has multiple health benefits. Green tea is the result of semi-oxidized leaves from camellia sinensis. Flavors and aromas vary greatly depending on the season of harvest, country of origin and method used to process. Flavored green teas are especially popular, according to the Local Tea Company, where the best sellers are Goji Green, Organic Strawberry Smile and Acerola Green Tea. They offer 13 other green teas.

Feel the Power

Green tea is more than just a hydrating beverage that tastes great. The green tea plant contains a bevy of powerful compounds that make it into every cup. Rich in polyphenols (compounds great at reducing inflammation in the body), green tea is a cancer fighting champion. Green tea also contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is one of the most powerful compounds in green tea. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other cellular protections. Together, these substances help reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals play a large role in aging and many types of diseases. The benefits of green tea are numerous, so it's worth adding to your diet.

Perhaps the best news (and one that may make you happiest), is that green tea accelerates fat burning and boosts metabolic rate. Look at any weight loss supplement, and you will see green tea on the label, that's because green tea is a dynamo for assisting weight loss programs.

Brain Protection

But let's not leave out our most important organ, the brain. With an increase in brain-related diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the brain needs protection, too. The bioactive compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on the brain. They may reduce the risk of dementia, a common neurodegenerative disorder in older adults. Multiple studies show that the catechin compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on neurons in animal studies, possibly lowering the risk of dementia and memory loss.

Green tea consumption around the world is growing, not only for its wonderful taste, but for its endless health benefits. And as science backs up these benefits, it will only grow in popularity. Try to choose a higher caliber brand of green tea, as some of the lower quality brands can contain excessive amounts of fluoride.

What's the best green tea? A great source is the Local Tea Company, featuring locally inspired loose leaf teas. Try their diverse blends of green tea and so many others.


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“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

― Honoré de Balzac

In the mid nineteen-sixties, Romanian ruler Nicolae Ceausescu enacted Decree 77, which banned abortions and restricted contraceptives. His skewed vision was to increase the population and improve industrial progress. The birth rate soared by thirteen percent in one year, and the infant population exploded. It left about 150,000 infants in state-run institutions that were unable to care for so many children. In one of the most heartbreaking stories in history, the babies were left crying in cribs, with only one nurse in charge of as many as twenty-five children. The infants often experienced severe sensory deprivation in what should have been their most important months.

Touch Starved

In early 2000, scientists from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland began a study of one-hundred and thirty-six Romanian children abandoned either in foster care or in government-run orphanages. Their goal was to investigate what kind of impact sensory deprivation—specifically of touch—had on children (and of course its effects on humans in general).

The results were horrific. Denied sensory stimulation, the children ceased producing growth hormone and had diminished IQ's. Most of the children were cross-eyed because they had nothing to observe and focus on, so the eye muscles did not develop. When the infants were moved and received proper sensory stimulation (for example, being held), most fully recovered.

Sensory (touch) deprivation is as real today as ever, and it includes adults as well as children. During our current crisis, people are more isolated than at any other time in human history. Humans are wired to be touched, especially when we are lonely and anxious. Without it, our health begins to suffer. Here are five science-based truths of how powerful human touch is.

1. The Midas Touch Study

An interesting study involving waitresses and tips demonstrated that customers gave larger tips when they are lightly touched by the waitress. The simple study examined the effects of two types of touch in a monitored setting of a restaurant. When the waitress returned the customer’s change, she lightly touched a hand or shoulder. The tips were larger in the customers that were touched. This exemplifies the power of non-sexual human touch, and why we need it, even in its most basic form. Like the infants who were touch deprived during the Decree 77, this can be traced back to mothers, who in early life nourish their infants by holding, hugging, and speaking to them. We crave and need touch as adults, too.

2. Hugs Help Buffer Stress And Strengthen The Immune System

A study that was published in Psychological Science and led by Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen, examined if social support helped reduce stress in humans. While other sites offer much more definitive information on the nature of stress, the research showed that the more people experienced social conflict, the more at risk they were for illness. Social support helps to eliminate susceptibility to common diseases. Hugs that are at least twenty seconds long are a prime component of that support and even reduce symptoms in people already infected with a cold. Allowing someone to hug you conveys non-verbal support and increasing the frequency of hugs is an effective way for reducing the effects of stress. The protective effect of hugs, the research showed, comes from the physical contact itself. Those who receive more hugs are more protected from illness. At the University of Vienna, researchers found that oxytocin is released in the body during a hug. Known as the “love drug,” oxytocin is produced in mother’s milk to give babies comfort. It’s also a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of social connection, emotional bonding, and decreased anxiousness. It helps reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety, improve memory, and is a stress-reliever.

3. Touch Improves Human Relationships

Families use touch extensively, and it helps deepen relationships in a powerful way. In the 1950s, there was a belief system that you didn’t hug your kids because it was considered socially unacceptable. The mindset was that kids don’t need to be coddled. Even today, there are many fathers who are reluctant to hug their sons because of how they will be perceived. The truth is, males need hugs, too, but most are afraid to admit, or even afraid of receiving a hug by another male. A 2011 study by the Kinsey Institute surveyed one-thousand men and their female partners on hugs and found that men thought it is more important than sex. Touch increases bonding (through oxytocin) with those around us, and it deepens the emotional connection.

4. Pain Reduction

New research at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder explores the concept of touch as it relates to interpersonal synchronization in the context of pain. The study confirmed previous research that demonstrated that couples synchronize physiologically just by being present with each other. When the woman was subjected to pain and the partner did not touch her, that physiological connection was lost. When the male partner held her hand, heart rates and respiration soared. Also, empathy in the male partner spiked when holding hands. The study showed that the more physiologically synced we are, the more our pain diminishes. Touch is involved in interpersonal synchronization, and it increases physiological connections whether there is pain or not.

5. Touch Makes Us Healthier And Happier

Touch affects our overall health, and the health of our relationships. With the release of oxytocin and the stronger physiological connections, our immune systems are super charged, and we are better able to fight off disease. Our moods are altered, so we are happier humans. The evidence suggests that incorporating regular touch into relationships is linked to a stronger bond between couples. Touch facilitates relationships, even if it’s just a hug. As Patch Adams said, “The consequence of a hug could save a life. I’ve seen it happen.”

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“Minimalism is built around the idea that there’s nothing that you’re lacking.”

― Fumio Sasaki

I'm Not A Hoarder

In Los Angeles, California, just off Santa Monica Boulevard, I'm standing in front of Madeline Timbrook's 1947 bungalow. She is an attractive woman in her fifties, with bright red hair that seems to burst from her head. She has her hands on her hips and is swaying from foot to foot. "Rumor has it Jim Morrison used to crash here." She smiles. "Don't know if it's true."

We're standing in front of her closed two-car garage, but I'm not certain two cars would fit as the frames on each side are so narrow (it turns out it doesn't matter). She steps forward and reaches down to lift one side door up, then the other. The entire garage is full of boxes, furniture, books, freezers; in fact, it's so packed you can't walk through the garage. She brushes her hands off and sighs. "There it is. Crap. My boyfriend thinks I should be on that show about hoarders." She looks at me. "I'm not a hoarder. This is just decades of junk I never got rid of and never had room for." She turns and points to her car in the street. "That's where I park."

Swimming In Stuff

Madeline is not alone. The U.S. Department of Energy statistics shows that one-quarter of people with two-car garages have so much stuff they can’t park a car in them. When space runs out in the garage, one in eleven households rent a self-storage space and spends over $1000 a year in rent. And all the stuff they have in their homes? It costs an average of $10 a square foot to store items in your home, so the simple math? An average 2,000 square foot house would be $20,000 a year. The average American household has 300,000 items (Los Angeles Times), and we dispose of more than 68 pounds of clothing every year (US National Library of Medicine cites the EPA Office of Solid Waste). That's a lot of stuff.

As the nation swims in stuff, it's no surprise that the popularity of tidying shows like Maria Kondo are growing, and waves of people are adopting a minimal lifestyle. Yet I think there's much more to the motive, especially during a pandemic. For one thing, people have a desire to simplify and calm, and over the last seven months the nation has done some deep thinking on what's important for living. Minimal lifestyles are trending, and it's being led by millennials.

Less Is More

Minimalism is a lifestyle that embraces owning less stuff and buying less stuff. The latter, of course, completely eliminates keeping up with the Joneses, because minimalists condemn crazy consumerism. The minimal lifestyle is a stark contrast to anything that advocates that buying and spending more will lead to a more joyful existence. There is even minimal running, with shoes that fit like a glove and offer no cushion or support. Wearing them, you feel the ground with every foot strike (as a minimal runner, I've run barefoot for more than 10 years now).

Millennials Aren’t Lazy

The millennial's, ironically, are a driving force in the minimal movement. And the notion that millennials are lazy and privileged is a misnomer, because the minimalist lifestyle requires a lot of self-restraint and discipline. After all, they grew up watching an older generation buy things. With millennials, much of the discipline of owning less came from watching their parents spend. Observing that generation seek to acquire more in reckless and excessive lifestyles eventually created enormous economic downfalls for mom and dad. And they did not unsee that.

Millennials learned that spending money on things they don’t really need is fruitless. When they do buy things, they do a lot of research and make careful decisions on price, quality, and even brand. They don’t want to make the same financial blunders their parents did, so they’re shopping carefully, if at all, and they are avoiding an accumulation of stuff. Since most millennials are paying off college debt, the need to conserve and save is important. Yet millennials are also environmentally conscious, and a minimal lifestyle offer them support for both.

Hoarding As A Drug

Why is it so difficult to de-clutter, or "space clear," one of the first steps in becoming a minimalist? It turns out much of it is in the brain. This study at the Yale School of Medicine took two groups, non-hoarders and hoarders, and then instructed them to look through pictures of items such as old newspapers and junk mail as they lay in an MRI machine. Some of the items belonged to others, and some to the participants. They were asked to decide what items to throw out and what to keep. Researchers monitored their brain activity using MRI scans as they made their decisions.

The hoarder group showed increased activity in two regions of the brain when scanning their own items. The anterior cingulate cortex and the insula parts of the brain lit up like fireworks, as though they were viewing pictures of their own children or loved ones (both are these regions of the brain are also connected with conflict and pain, and the same pattern of brain flux in other substrates of psychological pain). When the hoarder acknowledged perplexing feelings concerning tossing his stuff out, the pattern of activation was even stronger.

In simple terms, the changes in the cingulate and insula cortex creates the message in the brain that something's not right. This creates an internal alarm that forces the participant to find a solution to relieve the anxiety of seeing his stuff. The researchers found it's the same dynamic as any addiction to drugs or alcohol. Holding on to your stuff feeds the reward center of the brain when you are a hoarder.

And hoarding, like drugs, is self-sustaining. Every time a hoarder holds on to something, she feels more calm and nurtured. That relief can become addictive. Research shows that hoarders have greater activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) when debating whether to throw something out. The vmPFC is associated with a myriad of neurological experiences, but the two regions are relevant to hoarding.

For the non hoarders, there is the sentimentality conflict. We often hold on to stuff and refuse to organize it due to memories that evoke powerful feelings. While we could sort and throw some things away, instead we stall and decide to do it another day. Yet that day never arrives.

How To Space Clear

Even if you're not a hoarder, space clearing in minimalism can be a daunting task. For most Americans, time is the most difficult thing to manage, and allowing a day or two to organize and throw away is simply not in cards for most (perhaps the more perplexing is sorting through collected junk). Converting to a minimal lifestyle takes prudence, discipline, and hard work. Yet living it has tons of benefits. Because you spend less and cease wanting more, minimalist save money and build money-saving habits. With the minimal lifestyle you really begin to understand what's important and what you really value in life. And minimalists learn to organize time because they prioritize and place value in daily work and activities. They assign value to what's worth keeping, and what's worth doing. Ridding yourself of the unnecessary helps define who you really are. And that's pretty cool. Minimalism could be the new love of your life.

That's A Lot Of Stuff

Madeline Timbrook invited me around the back of her house to her courtyard. The small square of cement pavers is surrounded by an even smaller speckling of grass and dirt. I smelled the ocean and fragrant Yerba Santa shrubs. There are three bird baths scattered across the yard, some in pieces, and I count six bird feeders. As we sit, I count eight pieces of patio furniture, scarred by the salt air. There are also three hammocks, a lawn mower, and a pile of lawn tools next to the brick wall that borders the yard.

Madeline stares into the yard. "I just ordered one of those solar LED glow-in-the-dark yard lights. It'll brighten this place up."


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