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Health & Relaxation | Chinese Tea

Shennong and the Chinese Heritage of Tea

By Henrik Barth
November 30, 2008
Shennong knew what scientists have now confirmed, that tea is a rich source of naturally occurring phenolic compounds that control oxidation of fat and reduce cholesterol. 
Zisha Hu, Purple Sand Tea Pot
Zisha Hu, Purple Sand Tea Pot, Song Dynasty, c. 190

The Chinese heritage of tea begins in 2737 BC, when Shen-Nung, or Shennong, a natural healer and herbalist who devised the Chinese irrigation system and taught sustainable agriculture, discovered it by chance when some leaves from a fluffy tree fell into a pot of hot water.

Shennong had sampled thousands of herbs to test their healing properties and was aware of their possible benefit, but there was nothing obviously beneficial about these ordinary leaves or the resulting blend.

When Shennong tasted the ancient tea he noted its aroma, color, and sweet aftertaste. In The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic he writes “It quenches thirst. It lessens the desire for sleep. It gladdens and cheers the heart”.

Almost 5,000 years ago, Shennong recognized the stimulating and healing properties of tea, and found that tea was a remedy against the toxic effects of seventy poisonous herbs.

These scientific herbal studies of Shennong were a prototype of the Chinese Materia Medica, the classic pharmacological compendium of traditional Chinese herbs that was published in 221 BC.

Shennong knew what scientists have now confirmed, which is that tea is a rich source of naturally occurring phenolic compounds that control oxidation of fat, reduce cholesterol and blood clotting, and improve the functioning of arteries.

In addition, the traditional methods of preparing tea with whole leaves, boiling water, and a teapot, is a simple delight, that sharpens the senses, and makes for remarkable conversations.

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