Power Plants: Camellia

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

CAMELLIA (Camellia sinensis)
Most people have never heard the scientific name Camellia sinensis, even if they encounter this plant every day. You know it by its more familiar name: tea. All non-herbal tea originates from the same plant! Whether you prefer black tea, white tea, green tea, oolong tea, or pu-erh tea, you’ve enjoyed C. sinensis, which is native to Asia but now grown around the world.
The various types of tea differ in the way the leaves and leaf buds are processed after harvesting. Black tea is made by cleaning, withering, cutting and then fermenting the leaves. To make white tea, the very young leaves and buds are harvested, cleaned and dried. Green tea is generally the least processed variety, and it’s the one most likely to be used for medicinal purposes.
The main types of tea have nearly equal health benefits, but green tea is by far the most researched, as well as the easiest to harvest and prepare.
The C. sinensis plant is a superhero with tremendous health benefits and a remarkable amount of research behind it. Studies have shown green tea it is heart-healthy because it contains catechins—a class of antioxidants—that help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Catechins are also believed to play a key role in reducing the risk of diseases like breast, colon, prostate and esophageal cancers.
The most powerful catechin in tea is called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Along with other antioxidants, ECGC is believed to help fight off the flu, improve symptoms of depression, and make skin look younger by reducing wrinkles by protecting against sun damage. EGCG has also been proven to aid in weight loss, possibly by blocking fat tissue expression: in other words, tea burns fat cells! It may also benefit diabetics because of its ability to regulate blood sugar levels after eating.
The antioxidant effects of green tea appear to be boosted when it’s taken with a twist of lemon. A recent study discovered citrus juices significantly increased catechin levels in lab tests, as did ascorbic acid, soy milk, rice milk, and cow’s milk. The researchers found that beverages prepared with ascorbic acid increased the available catechin levels from less than 20% to as much as 69%, and citrus juices had the strongest benefit.
Difficulty: Medium to hard
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 7 to 9 (grow indoors)
Time to Plant: Any time indoors: can be placed outdoors in pots after risk of frost
Time to Harvest: Mid-spring to summer (tender shoots)
Location: Indirect light
Soil Type: Acidic potting soil

  1. sinensis is an acid-loving broadleaf evergreen that has been grown and loved in Chinese gardens for some 3,000 years. It’s hardy to more southern climates (zone 7 to 9), but it still enjoys cooler temperatures, and when grown indoors it requires a period of dormancy. In nature, tea plants can grow over 4 m (15 feet), but in a pot they will grow no more than 1 to 2 m (4 to 6 feet). Enjoyed for its foliage as an indoor plant, C. sinensis will flower in late fall with white blooms and yellow stamen.

Common Varieties: C. sinensis isn’t readily available: you will likely have to request it from your garden centre or source it online. There are many cultivars, and whatever is available locally should be suitable. Just be sure not to confuse this plant with its more popular cousins, C. japonica and C. sasanqua, which have no medicinal value.
Transplant your tea plant into a container at least twice as large as its root ball. Ensure the container has adequate drainage holes, or improve drainage by drilling additional holes or adding a coarse material like broken clay pots to the bottom. Use potting soil only and improve acidity by amending with garden sulphur or increasing the percentage of peat moss.
When repotting, score the roots and firmly pack soil around the side, making sure you don’t plant the root ball deeper than the previous soil line. C. sinensis will require repotting every 2 to 4 years.
Even indoor plants may require a period of dormancy. This is a period of rest, where plants are exposed to reduced light levels and temperature, as they are in winter. Allow your tea plant to rest from late fall into late winter by reducing watering, eliminating fertilizer and placing it in a cooler room with reduced temperatures (about 10°C to 15°C) for 1 to 3 months. This dormancy period will help aid flower production.
Place the plant in a room with bright indirect light. West- or south-facing rooms are best: don’t place the plant directly in front of the window. Ideal room temperature is 20°C, with cooler evening temperatures desired.
Keep the soil evenly moist but allow the top 5 cm (2 inches) to dry between waterings. Watering frequency depends on the light and humidity in your home. Use the finger-touch method to monitor soil moisture. Use a slightly acidic fertilizer once a month while the plant is actively growing, from spring to fall. Prune after the plant blooms, removing spent flowers and dead and or diseased wood.
In late spring, once risk of frost has passed, you can move C. sinensis to a shady spot outdoors: bring it indoors again in late summer, before risk of frost. Spray with insecticidal soap before returning indoors. Let the plant go dormant in winter (see above).
It’s very important to harvest the tea leaves only while the tea plant is actively growing. Pluck only the 2 or 3 tender new leaves on the end of each stem, not the old growth. If the plant is outdoors, the leaves should be harvested mid-morning after the morning dew has evaporated.
Allow the leaves to dry for 2 hours out of direct sunlight. Steam the leaves (like you would steam spinach) on your stove for about a minute. Then spread them on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven at 250°F for 25 minutes. The dried leaves can then be stored in a sealable container in a cool, dark place.
Weight gain? Cravings? Three cheers for tea!
You don’t need to get rid your favourite chocolate bar altogether if you’re trying to lose weight. Whenever you crave your favourite treat, make a cup of tea and stir in ¼ tsp of the chocolate. This will sweeten the tea, but more importantly, the flavour of the chocolate will tell your brain via your taste buds that you are satisfying that craving.
To effectively cut down your cravings and boost metabolism, have hot or cold tea in your house, work, and car. Carry a Thermos of hot tea with you, or added cold tea to your water bottle. Keep your homemade loose-leaf green tea in zip-top bags or small tins and pack a strainer in your briefcase or purse, or leave one in your desk drawer at work. When you’re at a restaurant, order hot water and add your tea to it (don’t forget to ask for a slice of lemon!). Drinking tea during and between meals can reduce the amount of food you eat.
Blackheads? Green solution!
Most blackheads are caused by skin debris and oil that block the pore. Don’t pick them! A green tea poultice, which contains tannins and antioxidants, can help flush out the pore, reduce inflammation, and tighten the skin to prevent reoccurrence. Green tea leaves and very warm water pressed to the skin in a cloth opens up and detoxifies the pores. This treatment is especially useful for blackheads and non-serious infections in the hair follicles.
Place about 4 tbsp of dried green tea in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the tea until it just covers the leaves. Let the tea leaves absorb the water and steep for 10 minutes. Wet a dark wash cloth (or face towel you don’t mind staining!) with hot water. Open it onto a countertop or plate and evenly spread the mixture onto half of the cloth. Fold over quickly so as not to lose too much heat. Lie down on your back and place the poultice over your face, being careful not to burn yourself. Leave the cloth in place for 10 minutes. Repeat this every night before bed for 1 to 2 weeks and enjoy the difference!
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase the AOR Active Green Tea capsules or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Green tea is generally free of side effects, although people who consume several cups of per day have reported insomnia, anxiety, and other symptoms from the caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, one cup should be your limit.
Green tea also contains tannins, which can decrease the absorption of iron and folic acid, so if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, then green tea may not be for you.
Rodney J Green et al. Common tea formulations modulate in vitro digestive recovery of green tea catechins. Department of Food Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. Molecular Nutrition & Food 2007; 51(9):1152-62.
Chantre P, Lairon D. Recent findings of green tea extract AR25 (Exolise) and its activity for the treatment of obesity. Phytomedicine 2002;9(1):3-8.
Stensvold I, Tverdal A, Solvoll K, et al. Tea consumption. Relationship to cholesterol, blood pressure, and coronary and total mortality. Prev Med 1992;21:546–53
Coimbra S, Castro E, Rocha-Pereira P, Rebelo I, Rocha S, Santos-Silva A. The effect of green tea in oxidative stress. Clinical Nutrition 2006;25(5):790-796.
Cooper MJ, Cockell KA, L’Abbe MR. The iron status of Canadian adolescents and adults: current knowledge and practical implications. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2006;67(3):130-138.

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