• Pu-erh Tea. Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.
Do Herbal Teas Have Any Health Benefits?
Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.
Varieties include ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos (red tea), chamomile, and echinacea.
While specific research on the health benefits of herbal tea is limited, there have been many claims that they help to shed pounds, stave off colds, and bring on restful sleep.
• Chamomile. Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
• Echinacea. Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, the research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
• Hibiscus. A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
• Rooibos (red tea). A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Are Any Teas Actually Bad For You?
Most teas are benign, but the FDA has issued warnings about so-called dieter’s teas that contain senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives.
The agency also warns consumers to be wary of herb-containing supplements that claim to kill pain and fight cancer. None of the claims is backed by science and some of the herbs have led to bowel problems, liver and kidney damage, and even death.
The FDA cautions against taking supplements that include:
• Willow bark
In general, experts encourage people to go ahead and enjoy the health benefits of tea.
“You want to incorporate healthy beverages in your diet on a more regular basis to benefit from these health-promoting properties,” says Diane L. McKay, PhD, a Tufts University scientist who studies antioxidants. “It’s not just about the foods; it’s about what you drink, as well, that can contribute to your health.”