6 Promising Benefits Of Green Tea Catechins For Neuropathy

green tea catechins for neuropathy

Name: Green tea, Camellia sinesis
Active Compounds: Green tea catechins, Epigallocatechins, Caffeine
Goes well with: Turmeric (Curcumin), Fish oil, Quercetin
Number of scientific references: 44
Level of Evidence: Level I What is this?

Note: Green tea catechins aid in neuropathy by boosting antioxidant defences, protecting from neurotoxins and preserving nerve health. These evidences are limited to pre-clinical studies and need to be evaluated in humans. It is a promising natural therapy for nerve health that deserves more research.

I wonder whether there is any health condition that green tea can’t remedy. What started off as a weight loss remedy is now looked forward to as a chemopreventive agent, heart-protective agent, as an anxiolytic and even as an anti-microbial agent!

Green tea catechins or polyphenols present in it are responsible for its multi-targeted action. The major catechins in green tea are EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate, (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate, (-)-epigallocatechin, and (-)-epicatechin.

EGCG is the most abundant catechin and accounts 50-80% or 200-300mg in 1 cup of brewed green tea.

The benefits of green tea in neuropathy are primarily mediated by its antioxidant action and pain relieving effect.It protects from neurotoxins in alcohol induced neuropathy and helps normalize glucose levels to relieve diabetic neuropathy symptoms.

But let’s delve a bit deeper into it.

6 Promising Benefits Of Green Tea Catechins In Neuropathy

Green tea’s efficacy in neuropathy is limited to pre-clinical studies as far as research is concerned. Here is an insight into its working mechanism in neuropathy treatment.

1. EGCG reduces neuropathic pain

In 2006, Renno et al. proved via an animal study that green tea consumption can help reduce symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Treatment green tea was found to improve reflexes, the overall functioning of the foot that was affected and sensations. It reduced inappropriate response to pain such as increased pain sensitivity and allodynia (pain in response to a stimulus that does not cause pain in normal conditions).

Most of the literature points out that green tea catechins relieve neuropathic pain by reducing oxidative stress.

Reactive oxygen species are chemical species which are necessary for certain reactions in our body but when produced in excess can cause tissue damage.

Research suggests that green tea antioxidants inhibit such reactive oxygen species and boosts antioxidant defences to relieve neuropathic pain.

Apart from this, scientists have identified that EGCG can inhibit or regulate the activity of various proteins in the body to exert a pain relieving effect.

A study published in Plos One, 2015 identified two novel derivatives of EGCG that could help alleviate neuropathic pain.

These compounds were found to reduce pain and increased pain sensitivity by:
• Decreasing levels of fatty acid synthase enzyme which regulates the action of nerves linked with spinal cord and are also involved in the occurrence of neuropathic pain.
• Reducing levels of pro-inflammatory agents in the body
• Reducing NMDA activity- a receptor that interacts with neurotransmitters and when inhibited can lead to pain relief

This study highlights how EGCG helps relieve neuropathic pain by interacting with various molecular enzymes and proteins and it can prevent the condition from progressing if utilised at early stages.

Hyperalgesia is a state of increased pain sensation. ECGC is proven to have the anti-hyperalgesic effect that mediates by signalling glial cells to reduce the pain. Glial cells are cells that surround neurons and support their function.

Though scientists have identified various mechanisms by which green tea catechins relieve neuropathic pain, they still need to study its efficacy in humans.

Quick Gist: Epigallocatechin gallate and other green tea antioxidants help reduce neuropathic pain by reducing oxidative damage and inflammation and by regulating various molecular targets to provide pain relief.
These results need to be supported by further studies in humans.

2. It benefits in diabetic neuropathy

In 2002, researchers from the Himalaya Drug Company published findings of a clinical trial where they investigated the effect of green tea consumption on diabetic neuropathy.

Patients with a history of long-standing diabetes and identified with diabetic neuropathy were enrolled in the study. They continued conventional antidiabetic medications. Green tea was added to their diet as one tea bag twice a day for three months.

Various symptoms such as tingling, numbness, loss of sensation to body parts, constipation, diarrhoea, loss of bladder control, drooping eyelid etc. were assessed.

Green tea consumption did not cause side effects. 70% of the patients with better blood sugar control experienced a reduction in tingling, numbness and pain in the feet. Consumption of the tea also brought about a feeling of freshness and improved overall well being.

High levels of blood sugar in diabetes can result in a state of oxidative stress- an imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant agents in the body. This oxidative stress may even lead to loss of neurons that can further contribute to pain.

Epigallocatechin gallate helps curb oxidative stress which in turn leads to pain relief in diabetic neuropathy.

Quick Gist: Green tea catechins exert an anti-diabetic and antioxidant effect which reduces pain and prevents nerve damage in diabetic neuropathy.

3.It benefits in neuropathy in cancer

Green tea catechins have anti-cancer property and can increase the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs. They can also mitigate the side effect associated with multidrug cancer treatment.

A study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 2012 demonstrated how green tea supplementation helped improve antioxidant defences in patients treated for liver cancer.

Oxaliplatin is a chemotherapeutic drug which commonly presents with peripheral neuropathy as a side effect. A study in an animal model showed that treatment with green tea helped reduce pain and other sensory symptoms caused by oxaliplatin-induced neuropathy.

However, green tea extracts were not effective in protecting the nerve cells from physiological changes such as changes in its ability to conduct impulses.

Quick Gist: Green tea extracts are powerful antioxidants that can help protect from neurotoxicity caused by chemotherapeutic agents. Pre-clinical studies show that green tea catechins protect from nerve damage in cancer-induced chemotherapy. Further research in humans is required.

4. Epigallocatechin gallate benefits in alcohol neuropathy

In my previous post, I have discussed the benefits of detoxing with green tea in alcoholism. Alcohol if taken in excess acts as a neurotoxic agent; it can cause DNA damage, affect cognition and can even lead to degeneration of the central nervous system.

Green tea catechin, epigallocatechin gallate benefits in alcoholic neuropathy. Pre-clinical studies show that EGCG helps reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and exerts neuroprotective action in alcoholism-induced neuropathy.

These properties of green tea antioxidants prevented functional and biochemical changes in the animal model of alcohol-induced neuropathy.

Quick Gist: Epigallocatechin gallate prevents alcohol-induced neuropathy by increasing antioxidants defences against the neurotoxicity caused by alcohol. These findings are limited to animal studies.

5. It is a neuroprotective agent

Polyphenols found in green tea protect brain health in ways other than improving antioxidant defences. They regulate the signalling and metabolism between neurons, aggregate and eliminate toxic metal ions, boost cellular respiration, reduce inflammation etc.

Green tea consumption protects cognition and reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

EGCG aids in the recovery of nerve cells in case of nerve injuries by preventing cell death and reducing inflammation.

Neurite is the term used to refer to the long projection of the nerve cell. Neuritogenesis is the process that supports the growth of the neurite. This is a key process when treating and recovering from neuronal injury or preventing neurodegenerative diseases.

Green tea extracts support this process by increasing the activity of proteins (such as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Nerve Growth Factor) that are vital for the growth of neurites.

These therapeutic actions of green tea antioxidants can aid in recovery and prevention of neuropathy.

Quick Gist: Since green tea antioxidants protect the brain and nervous system by displaying multiple medicinal properties they prove to be excellent therapeutic agents that can prevent and support recovery in neuropathy.

6. Green tea catechins can improve antioxidant defences and regulate immunity to protect from peripheral neuropathy

Most of the research focused on green tea extracts investigates their powerful antioxidant properties.

Epigallocatechin gallate, the major green tea catechin, protects neurons from oxidative stress by elevating levels of antioxidant enzymes. This action of EGCG also helps in reducing neuropathic pain.

The antioxidant action of green tea catechins also protects the nervous system from heavy metal-induced toxicity which also can cause painful neuropathy.

Inflammatory neuropathies may occur as a result of infections or autoimmune reactions in the body (where the body attacks itself). Green tea polyphenols possess anti-inflammatory and immunity regulating properties which may be of benefit in such conditions.

Quick Gist: Catechins have a multitargeted action that can aid in prevention and treatment of neuropathy. Their antioxidant action helps reduce nerve pain and damage.

Also, their anti-inflammatory property and ability to regulate immune responses can be beneficial in the treatment of autoimmune neuropathies.

Bioavailability of Green tea: Can it affect neuropathy treatment?

Since the therapeutic effects of green tea catechins in neuropathy are limited to preclinical studies, no specific dose has been prescribed for the same.

Consuming green tea daily can help boost antioxidant power and protect nerve health

Regular green tea consumption has been associated with reduced risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s etc. Authority resources recommend pairing green tea supplements with liquid green tea.

1-2 cups of green tea are safe for daily consumption.

Combining green tea with juices containing vitamin C (juices of citrus fruits like orange juice, lemon juice) may aid in improving absorption of green tea antioxidants.

Green tea catechins supplements may benefit in protecting and repairing nerve health

Although green tea catechins show amazing beneficial activity in test tubes and animal models, their use as a therapeutic agent in real life is somewhat limited. This is due to its poor availability, solubility and stability.

The absorption of green tea flavonols is found to better with green tea supplements than with tea consumption.

Green tea supplements are available as pure EGCG extracts or in combination with other green tea catechins. Both are found to be equally effective in raising the levels of green tea antioxidants after consumption.

800mg of EGCG extract with other catechins (the combination is known as Polyphenon E, a patented formulation) taken once daily was found to have good bioavailability. But high dose green tea catechins extracts cause gastric side effects.

Another option to increase the bioavailability of green tea extracts is to take it with piperine, the active component of black pepper. Quercetin is beneficial in neuropathy and also improves the absorption of green tea catechins.

Taking green tea catechins on an empty stomach improves their bioavailability.

Dosage of Green Tea Catechins For Neuropathy

There have been no studies in humans regarding the efficacy and dose of green tea extract for neuropathy. Please consult a health practitioner for the appropriate dosage.

Green tea products are available as tea bags, powder, capsules and extracts. 1-2 cups of green tea are safe and may benefit in improving antioxidant power. The effects of regular consumption of green tea in neuropathy may be evident by the end of 2-3 months.

The dose of green tea catechins used in clinical studies ranges from 300-1000mg. Some studies use doses as high 800mg of EGCG alone.

A clinical trial has reported that a dose of 500mg green tea catechins thrice a day is effective in normalising metabolic changes in type 2 diabetes. This may be of relevance to chronic diabetic neuropathy.

Decaffeinated green tea supplements are available in case you are sensitive to caffeine.

Start with small doses and preferably consume them on an empty stomach. This can help improve the absorption. Doses higher than 1000mg may cause gastric side effects.

You can consider pairing it with quercetin which improves its bioavailability and benefits in neuropathy. Else, you can consider taking 10 mg piperine (Bioperine) to aid in the absorption of the extracts.

Precautions with Green Tea Catechins Use

Dietary consumption of green tea does not cause side effects.

High levels of green tea extract are reported to cause toxicity in the liver, pancreas and thyroid. But these are high amounts of the extract, and you are not likely to get such enormous amounts by consuming green tea.

High doses of green tea extract (more than 500mg) may cause gastric side effects such as nausea, abdominal discomfort etc. Avoid doses higher than 1000mg, and please consider splitting high doses.

Side effects due to green tea consumption may be due to its caffeine content, the presence of aluminium and the effects of green tea catechins on nutrient absorption.

Caffeine in green tea, if taken in excess, may not be safe for individuals with heart diseases, in case of anxiety and pregnancy and lactation.

Avoid consuming green tea or the supplements at the same time as that of taking medications. They may alter the absorption of the drug and lead to drug interactions. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap.

Ensure you get good quality green tea free from heavy metal contamination. In case of supplements opt for standardised extracts.

Consult a health practitioner before taking green tea supplements.

Conclusion

Green tea catechins, especially EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate, show therapeutic potential in treatment of peripheral neuropathy. But this potential has been proven only in pre-clinical studies.

They are potent antioxidants and work primarily by reducing oxidative damage to nerves.

Additionally their neuroprotective action guard nerve cells from potential toxins. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory are proven to alleviate neuropathic pain. But these findings are limited to pre-clinical studies.

Let’s hope that scientists would soon take up this topic and help in identifying dose as well as confirm the effectiveness of EGCG and catechins in neuropathy. Till then you can safely include green tea in your diet on a regular basis.

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Know the proven potential benefits of green tea catechins for neuropathy.

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