Green tea is touted as one of the most wholesome beverages in the world. Its consumption is acknowledged to have plenty of health benefits. Thanks largely to its high antioxidant content, regularly drinking green tea has been found to be helpful in the improvement of brain function, the loss of fat, protection against cancer, and heart disease risk reduction.
Green tea is also loaded with bioactive compounds called polyphenols that protect the body from autoimmune ailments. These health disorders have their onset when the body’s own immune system begins to attack its own tissues. As time progresses, more illnesses are revealed to be remedied by a green tea habit. In recent years, oral lichen planus has been added to the list.
How can green tea help those with oral lichen planus?
As mentioned, green tea has a multitude of health benefits. You can learn all about them in depth here. However, when dealing with oral lichen planus, green tea’s remedial effects can be put down to the following factors:
Green tea has epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive properties. It has the ability to inhibit T-cell activation, proliferation, and migration. These activities are important for immune function. T-cells are part of the body’s immune system, developing from bone marrow stem cells and helping protect from infection and fight cancer, but when dysregulation occurs, resulting in increased T-cell activity, autoimmunity, hypersensitivity, and the like ensue.
EGCG also deals with and regulates antigen presentation, keratinocyte apoptosis, nuclear factor-kappaB activation, and MMP-9 activity. It can also modulate the imbalance between interferon-y and TGF-β signaling, which are all involved in the pathogenesis of oral lichen planus.
Besides establishing the efficacy of green tea in treating oral lichen planus, studies are also being conducted on green tea as a possible preventative agent against malignancies in the condition.
Simply put, green tea has antioxidants and polyphenols, particularly EGCG, that reduce inflammation and boost immunity. It can influence the activity of certain proteins that can help block pathogens from replicating.
Green tea also has beneficial compounds (catechins) that have protective properties against illness. They have a powerful ability to raise the number of regulatory T cells that are important in maintaining immune function and suppressing the occurrence of autoimmune diseases such as oral lichen planus.
EGCG, with its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer characteristics, is pretty much the motherlode when it comes to the health benefits of green tea and is the main component responsible for its efficacy in treating oral lichen planus. Admittedly, it doesn't have the same potency as prescription drugs, but it doesn't pose the same concerns regarding long-term use and toxicity.
What is oral lichen planus?
It obviously needs treatment, and green tea is suggested as an effective but safer alternative remedy, but what exactly is oral lichen planus? If somebody has white, raised, lace-like patches of tissues on the gum or the inside of the cheeks, there should be some concern as they indicate a case of oral lichen planus. Lichen on trees may be harmless and could even add to the tree's beauty, but lichen on humans is a whole different story.
When it comes to oral lichen planus, it refers to a chronic inflammatory condition affecting mucous membranes inside the mouth. It presents as white, raised, lace-like patches; red, swollen tissues; or downright open sores. They usually appear on the inside of the cheeks, the gums, the tongue, the inner lip tissues, and the palate. They're not only unsightly but also uncomfortable or straight-up painful.
Fortunately, it's not contagious. It's autoimmune, occurring when the immune system, for some reason, attacks the cells of the oral mucous membranes. The actual cause is unknown, but it appears that certain white blood cells are activated in this condition. It can develop in anyone, but middle-aged women seem more prone to it. Genetics may also be at play here, but further research is still needed. It's also possible that the disorder is triggered by infection, allergens, mouth injury, medication, or even stress, but further studies need to confirm this.
While symptoms are manageable, those with oral lichen planus should be regularly monitored, as they're at higher risk of developing mouth cancer.
How does it feel to have oral lichen planus?
At the very least, it's uncomfortable. Sufferers may experience sensitivity to hot, spicy, and acidic foods. Besides this, they could have gingivitis (inflamed gums), as well as bleeding and irritation when brushing their teeth. Furthermore, they could have a hard time speaking and eating. Thickened patches on the tongue could be painful, and there could be general pain and a burning sensation.
All these could prove to be debilitating, especially in severe cases where significant pain is present. Possible complications include nutritional deficiency, weight loss, mental strife, scarring from lesions that erode, secondary infections, and oral cancer.
How is oral lichen planus treated?
There's no cure since it's a chronic condition, so treatment is basically about managing the symptoms, such as healing lesions and reducing pain and discomfort. The following are some of the most recommended remedies for addressing the symptoms:
- Topical: This is the preferred method and typically involves using a gel or ointment directly applied to the mucous membrane.
- Oral: This involves corticosteroids in the form of a pill and is prescribed for a limited period of time.
- Injection: This involves medication that is directly injected into the lesion.
Considering that oral lichen planus is an autoimmune condition, sufferers may also be prescribed medication that directly deals with the body's immune response. It generally comes in the form of topical calcineurin inhibitors, which are typically used to prevent the rejection of organ transplants. While these have been shown to be effective against oral lichen planus, they do have an FDA warning about their association with cancer.
Of course, when a trigger for oral lichen planus is pinpointed, it can be directly addressed, and the condition may be more efficiently treated. For instance, if an allergen is the trigger, exposure to it can be avoided. Or if stress is the culprit, stress management techniques can be applied.
Since there are people who prefer more natural remedies, some alternative treatments may also be used to battle oral lichen planus. Because of its successes in helping with autoimmune diseases, much hope has been placed on the potential of green tea in treating the condition.
Studies on the efficacy of green tea in oral lichen planus are still ongoing, especially with the use of green tea buccal tablets in managing the condition, but results thus far have been favorable and promising. This only fortifies the argument for regular consumption of green tea. In any case, sufferers of oral lichen planus may also reinforce a green tea habit with good oral hygiene, the proper diet, avoidance of irritants, stress management, and regular visits to the doctor for consistent monitoring of the condition.