What are Natural Killer Cells?
Natural killer cells or NK cells are lymphocytes that bind to virus-infected cells as well as to unhealthy mutated cells to kill them. They kill these infected or unwanted cells without the stimulation of antigens. Instead, they are activated as a response to cytokines derived from macrophages or interferons.₄
Despite the name, NK cells are not adverse to the body. In fact, they are a component of the innate immune system, hence essential in protecting the body. They are vital in the host-rejection of cells infected by viruses as well as in tumors. They contain viral infections while the adaptive immune system is in the process of producing antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells to get rid of the infection.
It would be advantageous to have a healthy level of NK cell activity in the body. The good news is that the activity of NK cells can be enhanced with the help of a commonly consumed beverage: tea. Research conducted by Unilever Food and Health Research Institute in India found that the consumption of tea fortified with Ayurveda herbs significantly enhanced natural killer cell activity. The Ayurveda herbs added were Glycyrrhiza glabra, Ocimum sanctum, Zingiber officinale, Withania somnifera, and Elettaria cardamomum.
The test involved 32 volunteers who were selected for having low baseline natural killer cell activity and colds and cough that kept recurring. The findings of the study appear to have been validated by a separate independent crossover study involving more than 100 volunteers.₁
Catechin and it’s Effect on Natural Killer Cell Activity
Moreover, another research conducted by researchers from the Kyushu University Faculty of Agriculture, Daegu University Department of Food and Nutrition, and the Mitsui Norin Company Food Research Laboratories found comparable benefits for the activity of NK. This study learned that catechin metabolites in green tea bring about immunoregulatory effects on T cells, natural killer cells, and CD4(+). The immunoregulatory effects are mainly associated with the catechin epigallocatechin-3-0-gallate in green tea.₂
The Best Tea to Help Enhance Natural Killer Cell Activity
Those who are deficient in NK cells tend to be susceptible to viral infections and tumor formation. As such, it only makes sense strengthening the activity of natural killer cells. What’s great is that NK cell enhancement can be made possible without spending so much on it. Regularly consuming tea such as Matcha green tea would be a good start. Each serving of Superfood Science’s “Certified Organic Matcha Tea Powder in Stick-packs” (2g) provides 340,000 μ mol TE/100g, which can be a very convenient and tasty way for anyone to boost antioxidant activities. If you already love Matcha tea, you need to try ours.