The conversation around herbal teas and weight loss has been getting louder in recent years, particularly among influencers and on social media. Specifically, so-called ‘detox teas’ have been attracting attention amid claims they can reduce bloating and water retention, enhance your metabolism, increase energy levels, boost your immune system and even cleanse your digestive system. At JING, we believe there can be some health benefits to drinking herbal teas, but perhaps not for the reasons outlined above. These benefits are also likely to vary from person to person, so it is worth exploring your options in order to find your favourite herbal teas.
Herbal tea and weight loss
You might have noticed a lot of new tea brands appearing on the market with the word ‘skinny’ somewhere in their name. The branding creates a connection between tea and the idea of weight loss, but to this point science has not been able to confirm that the two are linked.
Many of the teas that promise to help you lose weight contain natural diuretics which are supposed to encourage the body to expel water, meaning any loss of weight could simply reflect the extra loss of water from your body. Such weight loss does not tend to be sustainable and could lead to a risk of dehydration, which can be dangerous. You might also find that, because you are dehydrated, your kidneys start to retain fluid, which can lead back to bloating.
The only way in which simply drinking herbal tea is likely to deliver real weight loss is if it replaces something more highly calorific in your diet, like a soft drink or energy drink. You might prefer to try a herbal tea instead of a soft drink because it is hydrating (it’s mostly water, after all) and sugar free. However, if you are looking to trying something instead of an energy drink (or coffee) you might want to consider drinking a tea, rather than a herbal tea.
To explain, despite the name, herbal teas do not come from the Camellia sinensis tea plant – that’s why we think it’s better to call them ‘herbal infusions’. It’s also why they are caffeine free. If you are looking for a coffee or energy drink alternative, a genuine tea could be the answer. Not only do Camellia sinensis teas contain caffeine, they also contain a caffeine inhibitor called L-theanine. In combination with the caffeine, this amino acid is believed to be what gives tea its unique ability to both stimulate and relax at the same time. If you are planning to try tea, it is worth getting to know the different types of tea and what they can really do.
What teas are good for you?
We would suggest ignoring the unsubstantiated health-related marketing claims of detox teas. As we have seen, these drinks are unlikely to be good for you in the long term. Your gut, liver and kidneys are designed to detox your body naturally. If they are working properly, you don’t need anything else. In fact, detox teas that include ingredients like cassia, senna, and chamaecrista could have a laxative effect that ultimately does more harm than good for you.
If you are going to consider trying one of these products, speak to your doctor first. Bear in mind too that there are safer, more traditional herbal teas than detox teas. Popular examples of traditional herbal infusions include peppermint, chamomile, rooibos and lemon verbena. High quality herbal infusions tend to be completely natural and they will contain only whole leaves and whole flowers that have been carefully processed to retain their essential oils, flavours and aromas.
Different herbal infusions tend to be good for drinkers in different ways and it is worth noting here that more scientific research needs to be done to confirm any specific health benefits of drinking them. Nevertheless, to take chamomile as an example, it has long been renowned as a relaxant that can help people enjoy a good night’s sleep. That relaxing quality perhaps come from apigenin, a phytonutrient compound that is believed to have sedative effects. Studies have also shown chamomile easing mild anxiety, helping adults with type 2 diabetes and helping new mothers to sleep better and ease depression . Like lots of traditional herbal infusions, chamomile also happens to taste great.
Which teas are good for weight loss?
If you are specifically interested in weight loss, there has been some promising but as yet unconfirmed research into the efficacy of green tea, which is not a herbal infusion because – like black tea, white tea, puerh tea and other tea varieties – it does come from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Tea leaves can be a rich source of plant-based polyphenols called catechins. In green tea, the catechin is EGCG, which has been called the “most powerful super nutrient in the tea plant”. EGCG is an antioxidant, just like vitamin C, vitamin E or beta-carotene. This means it prevents oxidisation and, in doing this, it stabilises potentially damaging free radical cells and could therefore play a role in combating heart disease and cancer. Research suggests it is also anti-inflammatory and fights inflammation too.
Green tea is the only one of the six main types of tea to contain EGCG because it is the only one of the six that remains unoxidised throughout processing. New studies into the antioxidant benefits of green tea are taking place all the time. As yet, it is worth noting that there is little evidence to suggest that including green tea extracts in so-called health products is as effective as those products might imply. If it is the antioxidant benefits of green tea you are interested in, bear in mind that matcha – a traditional Japanese green tea powder – can contain up to 10 times as many antioxidants as other teas, but also more caffeine as, with matcha powder, the whole leaf is ingested. So always consult your GP if you are planning to use green tea for medicinal purposes.
What are teas other health benefits?
In the meantime, we suggest green tea is best enjoyed in a traditional manner. This is not least because preparing loose tea leaves creates a moment of ceremony that, today, is an increasingly rare opportunity to pause. Around the world, ancient cultures have recognised the mental health benefits of drinking tea for millennia. Tea has been a part of meditation and ceremonial rituals around the world and our own experience at JING tells us that setting aside some time each day to drink a range of teas should have a positive effect. But, of course, we are not doctors or scientists. You can find out a bit more about the latest authoritative thinking on the mental health benefits of green tea here.