Green tea isn’t just an enjoyable beverage. In supplement form, it offers a variety of impressive health qualities your canine companion can benefit from.

What could be more comforting than a nice cup of tea? Both green tea and black tea (Camilla Sinensis) is enjoyed by people worldwide, with the largest quantities consumed in Asian nations. While long popular as a beverage, much has also been written about its potential health benefits. And even though our dogs don’t typically drink it, herbal remedies containing tea are often prescribed for both animals and people with a variety of health issues. This article will introduce you to the benefits of this wonderful plant.

Medicinal Properties

Tea, specifically the leaves, leaf buds, and tips of the plant, is commonly used for its antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Green tea is the form most commonly used and designated as herbal or medicinal. The difference between green and black tea is that green tea is dried immediately after harvesting, whereas black tea is dried later, allowing for the formation of theaflavins, thearubigins, and tannins.

Green tea contains many plant chemicals with important medicinal properties. For example, it offers various important flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It also contains four principal polyphenol compounds called catechins (epicatechin, EC; epigallocatechin, EGC; epicatechin gallate, ECG; and the principal compound epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG). These four compounds exhibit most of the medicinal effects that are seen clinically. Supplements may contain whole green tea or simply EGCG.

It’s been proposed that the lower incidence of certain chronic diseases in Asian countries might result from the large quantities they consume. While this may be somewhat accurate, as Asian societies drink substantially more than Western societies, extremely high doses of green tea would have to be consumed due to the poor oral bioavailability of the active polyphenols. Approximately ten cups of green tea per day would be necessary to even begin to approach the therapeutic dose. This is why a supplemental form of green tea is usually prescribed.

EGCG and Cancer

Tea supplements are often prescribed for animals needing additional antioxidants, and especially for those with various cancers. In fact, green tea has been demonstrated to work on various enzyme systems to help reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Specifically, EGCG promotes cancer cell death (a process called apoptosis) by interfering biochemically with VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) function. EGCG also inhibits angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth required for cancer cells to grow and spread throughout the body) by interfering biochemically with VEGF. Additionally, EGCG inhibits receptor tyrosine kinase activity, similar to the new chemotherapy drugs (such as Palladia) now being used in both people and animals.

People often ask if supplements can be given with chemotherapy as part of cancer treatment. In general, supplements usually reduce the side effects that may accompany chemotherapy and actually help it kill more cancer. EGCG exhibits synergistic effects with chemotherapy and modifies drug resistance (through inhibition of P-glycoprotein, a cell protein that is associated with chemotherapy resistance and failure of chemotherapy to kill cancer). As an example, EGCG may reduce doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy and increase cancer cell sensitivity (making chemotherapy with this drug more effective) by inhibiting p-glycoprotein.

EGCG may reduce secondary tumors caused by the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin, so supplementing dogs taking chemotherapy may reduce additional cancers that could arise as a result of the chemo (most people don’t realize that a side effect of chemotherapy is more cancer, and supplements such as EGCG may reduce this).

Green tea exhibits anti-inflammatory activity and may reduce cancer growth by reducing the inflammation that often proceeds and accompanies cancer.

The best news about green tea is that it is among the safest supplements. To date, there have been no reported side effects. Individual dogs may of course have reactions to any supplement, but these would be expected to be mild due to the safety profile of green tea (such as vomiting or diarrhea that may resolve with lowering the dosage). Additionally, green tea can be safely given with other supplements and medications, although treating dogs for specific diseases should be done under qualified veterinary supervision.

Green tea is certainly something to consider if your dog has cancer or an inflammatory condition, and it can also serve as an overall antioxidant.