Pu-Erh Tea

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What other names is Pu-erh Tea known by?

Arbre à Thé, Camellia sinensis, Camellia thea, Camellia theifera, Sheng pu-erh, Shou pu-erh, Té Pu-erh, Tea, Thé Pu'Er, Thé Pu-Erh, Thé Puerh, Thea bohea, Thea sinensis, Thea viridis, Théier.

What is Pu-erh Tea?

Pu-erh tea is made from the leaves and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant that is used for making green, oolong, and black teas. Though the same source plant is used, the different teas are made by using different processes. Green tea is not fermented, oolong tea is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented, and Pu-erh tea is post-fermented. This means Pu-erh tea's processing includes both fermentation and then prolonged storage, or "aging," under high humidity. Pu-erh tea that is aged for a longer period of time is supposed to taste better. However, it can also smell musty or taste stale because mold and bacteria will sometimes attack the tea during the long aging process. Pu-erh tea is produced mainly in the Yunnan district in the southwestern part of China. It has also gained popularity in Taiwan. Pu-erh tea is used as medicine.

Pu-erh tea is used for improving mental alertness and sharp thinking. It is also used for reducing high cholesterol.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Mental alertness. Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The caffeine seems to prevent a decline in alertness and sharp thinking when consumed throughout the day.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of pu-erh tea for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Pu-erh Tea work?

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine, although not as much caffeine as other teas. Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), heart, and muscles. Pu-erh tea also contains antioxidants and other substances that might help protect the heart and blood vessels.

There is interest in using pu-erh tea for lowering cholesterol because, unlike other teas, it contains small amounts of a chemical called lovastatin. Lovastatin is a prescription medicine used for lowering cholesterol. Investigators think that bacteria that sometimes contaminate pu-erh tea may somehow make the lovastatin in the course of their normal life cycle. Animal research suggests that pu-erh tea might lower certain blood fats called triglycerides as well as total and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It might also raise "good" high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Are there safety concerns?

Taking pu-erh tea in moderate amounts might be safe. However, too much pu-erh tea, more than five cups per day, can cause side effects because of the caffeine. These side effects can range from mild to serious and include headache, nervousness, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, tremor, heartburn, dizziness, ringing in the ears, convulsions, and confusion.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, pu-erh tea in small amounts is probably not harmful. However, do not drink more than two cups of pu-erh tea in a day. Too much caffeine might cause miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, and harm to the baby.

If you are breast-feeding, moderation in drinking pu-erh tea is also important. Caffeine passes into breast milk, so nursing mothers should closely monitor caffeine intake to make sure it is on the low side. Caffeine in large amounts might be UNSAFE during breast-feeding. Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances, irritability, and increased bowel activity in breast-fed infants.

Children: Pu-erh tea seems to be safe in children in amounts commonly found in foods and beverages.

Anxiety disorders: The caffeine in pu-erh tea might make these conditions worse.

Bleeding disorders: There is concern that pu-erh tea might make bleeding disorders worse because of its caffeine content. Use pu-erh tea with care if you have a bleeding disorder.

Heart conditions: The caffeine in pu-erh tea can cause irregular heartbeat in some people. Use pu-erh tea with caution if you have a heart condition.

Diabetes: Some research suggests that caffeine may affect the way the body uses sugar and might make diabetes worse. But the effect of caffeine-containing herbs and beverages such as pu-erh tea has not been studied. If you have diabetes, use pu-erh tea with caution.

Diarrhea: Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The caffeine in pu-erh tea, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The caffeine in pu-erh tea, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea and might worsen symptoms of IBS.

An eye disorder called glaucoma: The caffeine in pu-erh tea increases the pressure inside the eye. The increase occurs within 30 minutes and lasts for at least 90 minutes after drinking pu-erh tea.

High blood pressure: The caffeine in pu-erh tea might increase blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. However, this effect might be less in people who use caffeine regularly.

Weak bones (osteoporosis): The caffeine in pu-erh tea can increase the amount of calcium that is flushed out in the urine. If you have osteoporosis or low bone density, caffeine should be limited to less than 300 mg per day (approximately 2-3 cups of coffee). It's also a good idea to get extra calcium to make up for the amount that may be lost in the urine. Older women with an inherited disorder that affects the way vitamin D is used should use caffeine with caution. Vitamin D works with calcium to build bones.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Amphetamines
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in pu-erh tea might also speed up the nervous system. Taking pu-erh tea along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with pu-erh tea.



Cimetidine (Tagamet)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Cimetidine (Tagamet) can decrease how quickly your body breaks down caffeine. Taking cimetidine (Tagamet) along with pu-erh tea might increase the chance of caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and others.



Cocaine
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Stimulant drugs such as cocaine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in pu-erh tea might also speed up the nervous system. Taking pu-erh tea along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with pu-erh tea.



Ephedrine
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. Caffeine (contained in pu-erh tea) and ephedrine are both stimulant drugs. Taking caffeine along with ephedrine might cause too much stimulation and sometimes serious side effects and heart problems. Do not take caffeine-containing products and ephedrine at the same time.



Adenosine (Adenocard)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The caffeine in pu-erh tea might block the effects of adenosine (Adenocard). Adenosine (Adenocard) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming pu-erh tea or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.



Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Some antibiotics might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking these antibiotics along with pu-erh tea can increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heart rate, and other side effects.

Some antibiotics that decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar).



Clozapine (Clozaril)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril) to get rid of it. The caffeine in pu-erh tea seems to decrease how quickly the body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril). Taking pu-erh tea along with clozapine (Clozaril) can increase the effects and side effects of clozapine (Clozaril).



Dipyridamole (Persantine)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The caffeine in pu-erh tea might block the effects of dipyridamole (Persantine). Dipyridamole (Persantine) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming pu-erh tea or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.



Disulfiram (Antabuse)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Disulfiram (Antabuse) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea (which contains caffeine) along with disulfiram (Antabuse) might increase the effects and side effects of caffeine including jitteriness, hyperactivity, irritability, and others.



Estrogens
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down the caffeine in pu-erh tea to get rid of it. Estrogens can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with estrogens can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects. If you take estrogens limit your caffeine intake.

Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.



Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down the caffeine in pu-erh tea to get rid of it. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with fluvoxamine (Luvox) might cause too much caffeine in the body, and increase the effects and side effects of caffeine.



Lithium
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Your body naturally gets rid of lithium. The caffeine in pu-erh tea can increase how quickly your body gets rid of lithium. If you take products that contain caffeine and you take lithium, stop taking caffeine products slowly. Stopping pu-erh tea too quickly can increase the side effects of lithium.



Medications for asthma (Beta-adrenergic agonists)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the heart. Some medications for asthma can also stimulate the heart. Taking caffeine with some medications for asthma might cause too much stimulation and cause heart problems.

Some medications for asthma include albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin, Volmax), metaproterenol (Alupent), terbutaline (Bricanyl, Brethine), and isoproterenol (Isuprel).



Medications for depression (MAOIs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Taking pu-erh tea with these medications used for depression might cause serious side effects including fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness, and others.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.



Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. Caffeine might slow blood clotting. Taking pu-erh tea along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.



Nicotine
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Stimulant drugs such as nicotine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in pu-erh tea might also speed up the nervous system. Taking pu-erh tea along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with caffeine.



Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The stimulant effects of the caffeine in pu-erh tea can block the sleep-producing effects of pentobarbital (Nembutal).



Phenylpropanolamine
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The caffeine in pu-erh tea can stimulate the body. Phenylpropanolamine can also stimulate the body. Taking pu-erh tea along with phenylpropanolamine might cause too much stimulation and increase heartbeat, blood pressure, and cause nervousness.



Riluzole (Rilutek)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) to get rid of it. Taking pu-erh tea can decrease how fast the body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) and increase the effects and side effects of riluzole.



Theophylline
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. Caffeine works similarly to theophylline. Caffeine can also decrease how quickly the body gets rid of theophylline. Taking pu-erh tea along with theophylline might increase the effects and side effects of theophylline.



Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down the caffeine in pu-erh tea to get rid of it. Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can increase the risk of caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, and an increased heartbeat.



Alcohol
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down the caffeine in pu-erh tea to get rid of it. Alcohol can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with alcohol might cause too much caffeine in the bloodstream and caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, and fast heartbeat.



Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs)
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down the caffeine in pu-erh tea to get rid of it. Birth control pills can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with birth control pills can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects.

Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.



Fluconazole (Diflucan)
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Fluconazole (Diflucan) might decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Taking pu-erh tea along with fluconazole (Diflucan) might increase the risk of caffeine side effects such as nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia.



Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea might increase blood sugar. Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. By increasing blood sugar, pu-erh tea might decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.



Mexiletine (Mexitil)
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Pu-erh tea contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Mexiletine (Mexitil) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking mexiletine (Mexitil) along with pu-erh tea might increase the caffeine effects and side effects of pu-erh tea.



Terbinafine (Lamisil)
Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down caffeine (contained in pu-erh tea) to get rid of it. Terbinafine (Lamisil) can decrease how fast the body gets rid of caffeine and increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heartbeat, and other effects.

Dosing considerations for Pu-erh Tea.

The appropriate dose of pu-erh tea depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for pu-erh tea. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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