Pu-erh tea has been popular in China and has been consumed to achieve various health benefits. This tea may be effective for
- Improving mental alertness and sharp thinking: This tea contains caffeine that is known to prevent a decline in alertness and sharp thinking when consumed throughout the day.
- Promoting weight loss: Early research has shown that drinking pu-erh tea may reduce body weight and tummy fat by a small amount in adults who are overweight.
Other claimed benefits of pu-erh tea without enough scientific evidence are as follows:
- Improves heart health
- Reduces cholesterol levels
- Enhances eyesight
- Stimulates blood circulation in the body
- Soothes hangovers
- Controls blood sugar levels
- Improves certain liver conditions
What is pu-erh tea?
Pu-erh tea (or Pu'Er/Shou pu-erh/Té Pu-er/Thé Pu'Er/Thé Pu-Erh/Thé Puerh) is made from the leaves and stems of a plant known as Camellia sinensis or Camellia thea or Camellia theifera. The leaves are fermented before use, which makes pu-erh tea distinct from other types of tea.
This is the same plant that is used for preparing green, black, or oolong tea. Therefore, pu-erh tea is also called black Chinese tea. Different processes are performed to prepare it. After harvesting, this tea is processed in two stages as mentioned below:
- First stage: The preparation of tea leaves for making pu-erh tea is similar to that for green tea.
- Second stage: The tea leaves undergo a fermentation process and are stored for a prolonged time under high humidity, known as aging.
Pu-erh tea that is aged for a longer time is supposed to taste better. However, it can also smell musty or taste like mold, and sometimes, bacteria may attack the tea during this long aging process. This tea is typically produced in the Yunnan district in the southwestern part of China. However, it also gained popularity in Taiwan and is used as a medicine.
How does it work?
Pu-erh tea contains some caffeine, but its content is lower than that in other teas. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, heart, and muscles. The tea also contains antioxidants and other similar substances that might protect the heart and blood vessels.
It contains a small amount of a chemical called lovastatin that lowers high cholesterol levels in the blood. The bacteria that sometimes contaminate pu-erh tea may somehow secret the chemical lovastatin in the course of their life cycle.
Some animal research studies have suggested that pu-erh tea might lower certain blood fats called triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). It might also increase good cholesterol levels known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). However, there is not enough scientific evidence about its beneficial effect on the human body.
The fermentation procedure helps improve the gut bacteria and thus contribute to its effects.
Is it safe?
Pu-erh tea is possibly safe for most healthy adults when taken orally in moderate amounts, about 4 cups per day. It's even possibly safe for consumption by children.
It can be possibly unsafe to consume in high doses (>4 cups/day) or for a long time. It may show a dependency effect and may even develop withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly.
It is possibly safe for breastfeeding mothers if consumed ≤3 cups per day (contains 300 mg of caffeine). A high intake of caffeine by nursing mothers may lead to sleep disturbances, irritability, or increased bowel activity in their infants; therefore, nursing mothers should be careful when consuming this tea.
Consumption of this tea during pregnancy can be possibly unsafe because it may increase the risk of miscarriage or other problems.
Because of its caffeine content, there are some possible side effects of pu-erh tea such as:
- Sleep problems
- Ringing in the ears
- Anxiety disorders
- Bleeding disorders
- Irregular heartbeats
- Worsening diabetes
- Diarrhea (if taken in large amounts)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Glaucoma (an eye disorder)
- High blood pressure
- Osteoporosis (weak bones)
- Interaction with some medications such as:
- Tagamet (cimetidine)
- Adenocard (adenosine)
- Antibiotics include Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Penetrex (enoxacin), and norfloxacin
- Clozaril (clozapine)
- Persantine (dipyridamole)
- Antabuse (disulfiram)
- Luvox (fluvoxamine)
- Nembutal (pentobarbital)
- Rilutek (riluzole)
- Calan (verapamil)
- Diflucan (fluconazole)
- Mexitil (mexiletine)
- Lamisil (terbinafine)
- Medications for depression (monoamine oxidase inhibitors [MAOIs])
- Medications that slow blood clotting
- Medications for asthma
- Medications for diabetes
- Some estrogen pills
- Birth control pills
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