For thousands of years, tea has been considered a healthy, even medicinal drink in China. And why not? China has a long history of herbal medicines. There is a widely-used herbal medicine called kugan that cures the common cold. The treatment for cancer is an herbal remedy which the patient must drink five times a day for a few years, a much more comfortable process than that used in the west. But, it was only recently that western methods have been used to study the science of Chinese medicine.

Since then, we've seen that Chinese medicines not only work, but work without the unpleasant side effects of manufactured medicines. But, until funding for such research increases, we'll have to continue using those manufactured medicines as prescribed by our doctors. FDA approval costs are high, and the drug industry, which does much of that funding, makes it's money from the manufacture of patented drugs, not from growing widely available herbs.

We have been blessed though, mostly by the British Medical Association, with research on that most common Chinese medicine - tea.

Not distinguishing here between different types of tea leaves, which all come from the same plant but are processed differently, we can explore the many health benefits of tea, most of which are closely related to its antioxidant content, and include benefits to metabolism, strong bones and teeth, hydration and prevention of aging diseases.

One not so well known fact about tea is its flouride content. One cup of tea will provide you with 70% of your minimum recommended daily flouride intake. Fluoride is, of course, needed to support bone mineralization and protect against tooth decay. Drinking two cups of tea a day will therefore have preventative effects against osteoporosis and cavities. It is a much better source of caffeine than coffee, therefore, since coffee has the opposite effect on bones.

Tea also has less caffeine than coffee, less than half of fresh-brewed coffee. It's not safe to consume more than 300mg of caffeine in a day. Your average cup of fresh-brewed coffee has 115mg of caffeine, while tea has a mere 50mg. Because of its caffeine content, tea is a central nervous system stimulant, aiding in your focus and attention; a bronchodialator, helping you to breath more easily; and a diuretic, helping you to clean your system out.

In the past, the diuretic affects of the caffeine in tea were considered a health risk, as it was generally accepted that caffeine causes dehydration. However, because tea only has 50mg of caffeine per serving, its holistic effect is that of a hydrator. Staying properly hydrated will reduce both mental and physical fatigue.

The caffeine in tea also plays a part in tea's effect on metabolism. Tea increases metabolism by about 10%. Though it's not exactly clear and proven why, it is theorized that this is due to the synergistic affects of caffeine and adrenal gland stimulation.

Much of tea's greatest health-enhancing characteristics are the result of its antioxidant content, which rids the body of free radicals.

Free radicals find their way into your body through normal metabolic processes, but, can also be formed in response to pollution, UV sunlight, and cigarette smoke. Free radicals are molecules that attack other molecules in the body. Free radicals are thought to be the cause of some chronic and aging diseases such as cancer, stroke, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and Alzheimer's.

Antioxidants rid the body of free radicals by giving them something to attack, thus reducing the risk of all those diseases. Vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, should for the same reason be eaten everyday. Of the Chinese teas, green teas have the most antioxidant content (one cup of green tea is equivalent to eating six apples), while black teas have the least.

So, you can see, for those concerned about their body and looking for a safe alternative to their everyday high-calorie caffeinated drinks, tea is a drink of choice. However, for our doctors to prescribe us the whole range of world medicines, we will have to restructure our system to funnel more money to research methods that don't necessarily reap a handsome profit for the drug industry. Until then, you can view the tip of the iceberg by drinking daily tea.