Oolong tea, like green and black tea, is made from Camellia sinensis leaves. But while green tea and black tea represent two extremes of the fermentation spectrum (green tea is not fermented and black tea is fermented until it turns, well, black), oolong is just chillin’ in the middle.
Depending on how long it’s aged, oolong tea can range from green to dark brown in color. And the flavor? Light and floral but way less perfumy than green tea.
Best of all? Like country rap, it’s a mash-up of all the best things about green tea and black tea. We can git up for that.
Here are 16 health benefits that will have you longing for oolong.
Oolong tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), according to a research review. EGCG is one of the superstar components of green tea that gives it many of its benefits — like helping to prevent memory loss and cognitive declines. So, sip early and sip often for brain health!
Don’t call me sweetheart! Oolong tea, like green tea, may help improve blood sugar control, according to a research review and meta-analysis. Some studies have found a link between oolong tea and lower fasting blood sugar levels.
Sipping on oolong tea can provide the same fat burning boost as caffeine — without interfering with your sleep. In fact, according to one small study, oolong may be a bit more powerful than caffeine in helping you feel the burn.
In addition, an animal study found that oolong tea could improve fatty liver, reduce the size of fat cells, and decrease body weight and fat accumulation in rats with obesity.
Oolong tea is full of compounds like catechins and antioxidants that might play a small role in cancer prevention, according to a 2009 research review. But it’s not as simple as “drink tea, don’t get cancer” and more research is definitely needed.
On that same note, one study found that oolong tea extracts can kill cancer cells. But it would help if you take study with a grain of salt. There’s no way to directly saturate a cancer cell inside a person who drinks tea.
One study in mice who were fed until they had excess weight found that oolong tea could improve these animals’ cholesterol and triglyceride levels, potentially decreasing their risk of heart disease. And while there’s no guarantee that we’d see the same effect in humans, there’s certainly no harm in enjoying some oolong.
Feeling frazzled? Add a cup of oolong to your nightly self-care routine. One small study found that sipping on oolong tea could decrease heart rate variability, a measure of short-term stress, in college students.
One in vitro study showed that oolong tea is nearly as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash at killing the cavity-causing bacteria Streptococcus mutans — leaving green and black tea in the dust.
According to one study, it may also help promote a healthy salivary microbiome (yup, it’s a thing) by beefing up populations of beneficial bacteria. So, if you’re concerned about cavities, try giving some oolong tea a little swish.
Although green tea is the darling of the surprisingly vast world of tea research, there’s also some promising evidence that oolong — like green tea — can promote a healthier balance of gut bacteria, which can affect everything from your digestion to your mental health.
Free radicals are unstable little baddies that can wreak cellular havoc when they build up in your body in high levels. (Side note: a bit of instability is OK, just check your favorite celeb’s Twitter account for proof.)
Luckily, oolong tea is rich in antioxidants, according to a research review — which have the unique ability to get free radicals to calm TF down.
It’s thought that the catechins in tea — like EGCG — are part of the tea plant’s defense mechanism against harmful bacteria. And in test tube studies, these various compounds do show some small bacteria-killing benefits — but that doesn’t mean you should use oolong tea instead of Neosporin.
Your liver’s got a big job, clearing toxins from medication, supplements, and food to keep you in tip-top shape. And one 1996 study with rats showed that drinking oolong tea might give the liver a little boost in this regard, helping it to more effectively take out the trash.
Oolong tea, like green and black teas, might be useful as an antifungal, according to one study — at least, it’s shown some benefit in test tube studies for killing the nasties. There’s promise there, but def don’t go rogue and try to use it as a home remedy for a fungal infection. Let’s leave that to the pros.
According to a 2007 research review, oolong tea may be useful for reducing sun spots and discoloration on your skin caused by ultraviolet exposure. And, at least according to an animal study, the benefits may come from drinking the tea or applying it directly to the skin. Just don’t skip the sunscreen in favor of tea, or you could end up with a major D-I-Why.
According to a small research review, green tea — and partially-fermented oolong tea — contain a combination of L-theanine and caffeine, a pair that goes together like Netflix and chill… if Netflix and chill were a brain-boosting combo that could help you stay focused, avoid distractions, and retain more information.