There are several proven benefits of matcha tea. Its unique nutrient profile and antioxidants can promote good cardiovascular and liver health on regular consumption. Additionally, nutritionists also highlight the effectiveness of matcha over green tea, when it comes to weight loss.

Now, researchers from Japan are looking at the possibility of whether it has equal promise in fighting depression. According to a recent study published in the journal Nutrients, the traditional Japanese tea awakened dopaminergic neural networks in the brain of mice that were otherwise depressed from social isolation.

The study was conducted at Japan’s Kumamoto University, where scientists say more mechanistic research is required to reach the final consensus.

How depression is caused and why antidepressants aren’t recommended for long-term use

A person suffers from depression chiefly due to the low dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, and also the hormone that plays an important role in mood upliftment. Doctors say antidepressants can counter dopamine, but their effect isn’t long standing as the body can build its natural resistance to opioids.

What led doctors to believe matcha tea benefits mental health

Matcha is derived from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, which has great mind-boosting properties. In previous studies, it was found that matcha reversed brain anxiety by accelerating dopamine activity through dopamine receptor signaling. As part of the latest research, Dr. Yuki Kurauchi of Kumamoto University administered matcha powder into a stress-tolerant BALB/c and stress-susceptible C57BL/6J mice. They concluded, following a tail suspension test, that oral administration of matcha tea powder in the stress-susceptible mice effectively reduced depression levels.

“Matcha tea reduced the immobility time only in stress-susceptible mice that experienced greater stress from social isolation and exhibited higher depression-like behavior, in comparison to the stress-tolerant mice,” Kurauchi said in a statement, according to Healthline.

In a subsequent analysis of the mice brain, doctors found that consumption of matcha resulted in activation of the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens, the regions that form a crucial part of the dopaminergic circuit and are crucial for controlling dopamine levels in the brain, in the stress-susceptible mice.

The key marker of a boost in dopamine activity was an increase in the number of cells expressing c-Fos.

However, researchers are yet to comprehend whether the findings are equally effective on humans.

“There is limited information about whether matcha can affect depression in humans and the optimal dose and duration of use of matcha to prevent or treat depression has not been established,” Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicology physician and medical director at National Capital Poison Center, told Healthline. “For now, it’s unclear whether matcha is effective in altering moods in humans.”

“While most healthy individuals may be able to incorporate matcha tea into their daily routine as part of a healthy, balanced diet, it’s important to remember that matcha has not been conclusively proven as effective in affecting the development of depression in humans,” she added.