A cup of tea anyone?

It could do wonders for your health.

Research has shown that the ancient elixir -- first drank thousands of years ago -- could do more than warm our bodies. The antioxidant polyphenols in tea, called catechins, have been linked with anti-cancer activity, and certain teas -- like green tea -- are also known to have heart benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A lot of research has focused on green tea in particular, Health.com reported, because it contains an exceptionally high number of catechins.

However, it's important to note that much more research is needed before it can be said that drinking tea can cure you of any disease. "There are pearls of real promise here, but they have yet to be strung," Dr. David Katz, a HuffPost blogger and director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, told Health.com. "We don't have clinical trials in human patients showing that adding tea to one's routine changes health outcomes for the better."

But there is some evidence of the potential ways tea can improve health. And not only have scientists been honing in on how it affects our bodies when we drink it, they have also been finding it may have uses in medicines to fight certain diseases, like cancer. Click through the slideshow for some ways the tea-health link is being studied:

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  • Boosts The Immune System

    Green tea boosts the <a href="http://health.oregonstate.edu/synergies/2011/mechanism-discovered-for-health-benefit-of-green-tea/" target="_hplink">number of "regulatory T cells" </a>in the body, which are important for the immune system, according to research from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. "When fully understood, this could provide an easy and safe way to help control autoimmune problems and address various diseases," study researcher Emily Ho, an associate professor at the university, said in a statement. The research was published in the <a href="http://health.oregonstate.edu/synergies/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/EmilyHoPDF.pdf" target="_hplink">journal <em>Immunology Letters</em></a>. The researchers specifically focused on the green tea compound EGCG, which is a kind of polyphenol. They said that the compound may <a href="http://health.oregonstate.edu/synergies/2011/mechanism-discovered-for-health-benefit-of-green-tea/" target="_hplink">work via epigenetics</a> -- influencing expression of genes -- rather than "changing the underlying DNA codes," Ho said in the statement.

  • Rehydrates

    If you're thirsty, tea can do the trick for hydration -- even though it contains caffeine, according to a 2006 review in <a href="http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n1/full/1602489a.html" target="_hplink">the <em>European Journal of Clinical Nutrition</em></a>. "Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5281046.stm" target="_hplink">net gain of fluid</a>," study researcher Carrie Ruxton, of Kings College London, told BBC News. The researchers <a href="http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n1/full/1602489a.html" target="_hplink">wrote in the review</a>: <blockquote>It is a common perception is that caffeine-containing drinks cause a net loss in fluid and may lead to dehydration. Again, many of the studies investigating this have used high doses of caffeine, often as a bolus. When caffeine is given in this way, there is indeed evidence of a diuretic effect but this is not relevant to normal use of caffeine-containing beverages where the caffeine would be consumed with 200-250 ml of fluid.</blockquote>

  • May Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

    The same <em>European Journal of Clinical Nutrition</em> review showed that drinking three or more cups of tea per day is linked with a <a href="http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n1/full/1602489a.html" target="_hplink">lower risk of coronary heart disease</a>, potentially because of the amount of antioxidants found in tea. The University of Maryland Medical Center also reported that research has shown that green tea and black tea have <a href="http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/green-tea-000255.htm" target="_hplink">atherosclerosis-preventing effects</a>, although the FDA has yet to allow teamakers to claim that green tea can affect heart disease risk.

  • Could Shrink Tumors

    Scottish researchers found that applying a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/22/green-tea-benefits_n_1821929.html" target="_hplink">compound in green tea</a> shrinks tumors in lab tests. The compound is a flavanoid, called epigallocatechin gallate. "When we used our method, the <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-08/uos-gtc082212.php" target="_hplink">green tea extract</a> reduced the size of many of the tumors every day, in some cases removing them altogether," study researcher Dr. Christine Dufes, senior lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, said in a statement. "By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumours continued to grow."

  • Potential Prostate Cancer Treatment

    Who knew that green tea and gold could be so powerful against cancer? University of Missouri researchers found that the two worked in tandem to <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/07/16/green-tea-and-gold-to-treat-prostate-cancer/" target="_hplink">fight prostate cancer tumor cells</a>. Green tea compounds were the delivery mechanism, bringing the radioactive gold nanoparticles to the tumors. The gold was then able to kill the cancer cells, ABC News reported. The research, published in the journal <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em>, showed that this method was able to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/07/16/mens-health-green-tea-prostate-cancer-treatment_n_1678141.html?just_reloaded=1" target="_hplink">reduce tumor size</a> by 80 percent in mice, HuffPost UK reported.

  • Boost Functioning In Old Age

    Drinking green tea could help you <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/08/green-tea-functioning-old-age_n_1258028.html" target="_hplink">function better</a> -- meaning you don't need help doing basic activities like bathing or dressing -- as you get older, according to a study in the <em>American Journal of Clinical Nutrition</em>. The research, which included 14,000 adults ages 65 and older over a three-year period, showed that the ones who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/08/green-tea-functioning-old-age_n_1258028.html" target="_hplink">drank the most green tea </a>had the best functioning in old age compared with those who drank the least. "Green tea consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of incident functional disability, even after adjustment for possible confounding factors," researchers concluded in the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

  • Lowers Blood Pressure

    Drinking black tea could slightly <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/01/26/drinking-black-tea-may-cut-blood-pressure/" target="_hplink">decrease blood pressure</a>, according to a study in the <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em>. Reuters reported that participants drank either black tea, or a non-tea beverage that had similar caffeine levels and taste, for six months, thrice daily. The researchers found that those assigned to drink the black tea had a <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/01/26/drinking-black-tea-may-cut-blood-pressure/" target="_hplink">slight decrease in blood pressure</a>, though not enough to bring someone with hypertension back into a safe zone, Reuters reported. "Those are small changes and are nothing like what you would see if you took a blood pressure lowering medication," Dr. Joseph Vita, of the Boston University School of Medicine (who was not involved in the study), told Reuters.

  • Aids Weight Loss

    Drinking green tea could help you reach your weight loss goals, according to a study in the <em>Journal of Nutrition</em>. Researchers found that <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20409937,00.html" target="_hplink">drinking five cups a day</a> is linked with weight loss, particularly in decreasing belly fat, Health.com reported.

  • The Health Benefits of Tea

    Learn how tea can help you lose weight, fight disease and beautify your feet!