While a section of the country’s tea manufacturers are running after the myth of green tea, following an aggressive Chinese campaign, virtually cold-shouldering the tradition of making black tea, the Tea Research Association (TRA), Tocklai, has come up with findings that sing paeans for the globally applauded black tea of the country. Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TRI) is the world’s oldest institute of its kind.
The recent research works of the TRI, findings of which are published in the leading peer reviewed scientific journals Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics and Frontiers in Immunology – reveal the inhibitory potential of tea bioactives against the SARS Cov-2 and the immune boosting benefits of drinking tea. TRA scientists are of the view that three to four cups of tea a day can boost one’s immunity in this period of Covid-19 pandemic. Sangita Borchetia led the TRA scientists in this research.
The TRA study has found, on virtual screening and molecular dynamics simulation, that tea bioactive compounds, Theaflavin-3, 3-digallate, Procyanidin B2 and Theaflavin-3-gallate found in black tea have the potential to act as inhibitors of multiple targets of SARS CoV-2 – RdRp, 3CLpro and PLpro proteins respectively, compared to known antiviral drugs.
Dr AK Barooah, Director, TRA, is of the opinion that tea can play a leading role in augmenting nutritional immunity with an added benefits of providing anti-viral properties. For instance, he said, inhibition of the Hepatitis C virus, inhibitory effects on influenza-A, influenza-B and respiratory syncytial virus can be mentioned. Tea infusion is rich in bioactive polyphenols such as green tea catechins and its oxidized form of black tea Theaflavins. Evidence based on clinical studies showed the ability of tea polyphenols in inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Epidemiological studies have shown polyphenols can play a pivotal role in augmenting protection against obstructive lung diseases. Viral infections, including Covid-19 drives cytokines storm in lungs, wherein interleukins increases, significantly resulting in alveolar lung cell injury. Tea polyphenols have been reported to inhibit inflammatory cytokines in many experimental and limited clinical studies, he said.
TRA has carried out a study to check the inhibitory potential of tea bioactives against SARS CoV-2 proteins. The study has led to the conclusion the bioactive compounds, Theaflavin-3,3’-digallate, Procyanidin B2 and Theaflavin-3-gallate found in black tea have the potential to act as inhibitors of several targets of SARS CoV-2.
Formation of specific bonds with these tea bioacitves were observed in the active sites of the viral receptor proteins, which would affect the functional stability or block the substrate binding sites of the viral proteins, and in turn, would inhibit replication of the virus.
Experimental approach of using human cell lines to understand the effect of tea bioactives on inflammatory markers has been initiated in TRA to explore the properties of tea that can provide nutritional immunity, said DR Barooah, expressing the hope that harnessing these health properties of tea will pave the way for diverse application of tea bioactives and will immensely help to popularize black tea in India.
India is the biggest producer of black tea and the tea plantation is a major source of livelihood for a significant population.
TRA secretary Joydeep Phukan said, “It’s a proud moment for us in India that we, from the TRA, have been able to decipher the virus-inhibiting benefits of black tea.”