Teas Aren’t As Useful As You Might Think

The tea section of the grocery store sometimes feels more like a pharmacy. Boxes boast health claims, and even if you choose a plain old green tea, you know in the back of your mind that it’s supposed to be good for your health somehow...right? Then there are the teas being marketed on social media for slimming your belly or energizing your day. Can tea really do all of that? Like other home remedies, you probably can’t expect much of most teas, but some have known or potential benefits — and potential downsides.
Herbal Tea: An herbal tea can refer to pretty much any plant that's steeped in hot water to make a beverage. All herbal medicine has an issue with imprecise dosing, tea included: The active ingredient in a plant may be more concentrated in some plant parts than others (the flower versus the leaf, for example) and it may vary based on where the plant was grown and when in the season it was harvested. Teas add another layer of unpredictability: How much of the active ingredients actually make it into the tea you drink? There’s no way to know.

Trendy Tea Beverages: Tea-like beverages are aggressively marketed online by influencers and multi-level marketing distributors, primarily to lose weight. Often, these teas are made with laxatives and/or diuretics. They can cause you to lose water weight, but they don’t cause fat loss. On the downside, laxatives for weight loss can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and occasionally more serious side effects. Some teas have herbal stimulants or vitamins like niacin, which can give a skin-tingling sensation in high doses. Pharmacists warn that the caffeine content in these herbal teas is high enough to be potentially dangerous.

Green Tea and Other “True” Teas: Tea made from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) includes green tea, black tea, white tea, and oolong. These teas have a long history, are consumed all over the world, and are the subject of far more research than herbal teas. While the antioxidants in them may help stave off various diseases, they also contain high amounts of caffeine that can interfere with sleep. Additionally, NIH studies have not been able substantiate sustained weight loss.