Health & Lifestyle

Scientists discover plant which is Caffeine-free

Tea is good for health as it contains compounds that helps in lowering the cholesterol levels and also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. But there is a disadvantage too. Tea contains caffeine, which can cause anxiety, insomnia and other problems.

Drinking decaffeinated tea can help, but there are downsides to this, too. Removing the caffeine from tea involves either dipping the leaves in carbon dioxide at very high pressure or by treating the leaves with scorching hot water. Though this will remove much of the caffeine but can cause collateral damage to some of the delicate compounds that give tea all the benefits.

What could be good is a tea plant that can give all the taste and goodness but with very less or no caffeine. Ji-Qiang Jin and Liang Chen from the Tea Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences believe to have found the magic plant that grows wild in a remote area in Fujian province, south China. They mentioned in the Agricultural and Food Chemistry Journal that the tea plant is not only caffeine-free but it also contains several unique medicinal compounds, good for health.

Earlier in 2011, a tea plant was discovered in the Guangdong province of China with little or no caffeine. The plant known as Camellia ptilophylla had compounds that seem promising for the treatment of obesity but research is still going on. And this spurred the Chinese botanists to look for more options and the latest find is one result.

Locally known as Hongyacha, the recently discovered plant grows between 700 and 1000 metres above the sea level, around the Chinese alpine villages. Though Hongyacha has never been officially studied in the laboratory, locals have been testing with its properties for generations. They claim it offers several medical benefits like curing cold, reducing fever and relieving from stomach pains.

Dr. Chen along with his colleagues has confirmed that the plant lack caffeine. After using a variety of methods, including mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography, they found it also contains an interesting array of other compounds in its buds and leaves. There is a compound in the leaves of the plant known to impede the growth of tumours, trying to improve their access to nutrients by growing new blood vessels.

When the genetics of Hongyacha was closely examined, researchers found that the lack of caffeine was the result of an alteration in the gene that codes for the production of an enzyme called caffeine synthase. And surprisingly, this mutation is different from the one found in C. ptilophylla.

Currently, researchers are exploring ways to protect this newly discovered plant in its natural habitat while continuing their studies.



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