Can green tea boost your brainpower and treat disease?

Story highlights

  • Green extracts have shown to improve performance in certain brain regions relating to memory
  • A recent study also found green tea could treat certain symptoms of Down Syndrome

(CNN)The images that come to mind when thinking of green tea are likely associated with calmness, purity and relaxation.

The ancient beverage has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a means to relieve people from various ailments, but more recently the tea -- and its extracts -- have caught the attention of scientists. Teams across the world have been trialling green tea extracts and specific compounds within them for their potential to lower the risk of various conditions: cancer, blood pressure, cholesterol and even Alzheimer's disease.
Evidence for these benefits is limited, however, and often inconclusive, but recent studies have found that one particular compound inside green tea, known as EGCG, could improve the functioning of one particular part of the body: the brain.

    Boosting brain power

    "Many people consume green tea extracts in some form, so we were interested in the effects [on the brain]," said Stefan Borgwadt, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Basel.
    In 2014 study, Borgwadt's team gave green tea extracts to 12 healthy volunteers and imaged their brains to see changes in connectivity inside certain brain regions. The volunteers were given beverages containing extracts equivalent to one or two cups of green tea. They consumed them nasally to ensure their tongues couldn't taste whether the drink contained the extracts.
    After four weekly doses of the drink, the team saw increased connectivity in regions of the brain associated with working memory.
    "Drinking green tea improved memory in healthy people," said Borgwadt who stresses the small scale of the study and the associated limitations of their findings, but the team saw promise in the results.
    "As it is a more natural kind of medication, [people] are more likely to change it," he said. "It could be helpful for diseases."
    Since this research, interest in the cognitive benefits of green tea has grown and focused on the potential to improve symptoms of certain neurological, or psychiatric, disorders.
    "There can be