Photo of a cup of green tea and dried tea leaves
Green tea contains an abundance of antioxidant flavonoids that have a healing effect on the gut

Green tea antioxidant helps heal the gut

4 December, 2013

Natural Health News — An antioxidant flavonoid found in abundance in green tea could help improve symptoms of hard to treat ulcerative colitis, according to a new study.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease in which the lining of the colon (the large intestine) becomes inflamed and ulcerated, leading to bleeding and diarrhoea.

UC can be treated with a variety of methods including dietary changes, assessment for food allergies and in some cases steroids. People who do not respond, or respond incompletely, to conventional treatments are said to have refractory ulcerative colitis and it can be difficult to help them

However, this small pilot study published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a constituent of green tea, improved symptoms in individuals with this hard-to-treat form of UC.

The study involved 20 people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. They were given either 400 mg of total EGCG daily, 800 mg of total EGCG daily or a placebo for 56 days.

The investigators evaluated the subjects at the beginning of the study and again after the intervention period using the ulcerative colitis disease activity index and the inflammatory bowel disease questionnaire.

The researchers determined that 66.7% of those who received EGCG responded to treatment compared to none in the placebo group. Additionally, the investigators showed that 53.3% of the subjects achieved remission in the EGCG group compared to none in the placebo group.

Antioxidant action

EGCG is a plant flavonoid extracted from green tea. Previous research has shown it has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help benefit heart health and play a role in cancer prevention.

Animal studies have also shown benefit In 2005 an Italian study found that green tea extract significantly reduced diarrhoea and weight loss and improved colon health. In 2001 a US study scientists found that green tea polyphenols alleviate inflammation and increase body weight.

UC is a risk factor for colon cancer. Human studies have shown that regularly drinking green tea is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in women. 

The current study, according to the authors, is “This first ever study of EGCG in patients with ulcerative colitis provides convincing preliminary evidence for a demonstrable treatment effect in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.”

They add: “This agent [EGCG] holds promise as a novel option for the treatment of patients with ulcerative colitis with mild to moderately active disease.”