From creaky joints to gut problems and weight loss: Can herbal tea really ease your strains?
- A new generation of teas promise to bring extra health benefits to consumers
- They boost gut health, regulate blood sugar levels and even aid in weight loss
- ANGELA EPSTEIN asked leading experts to review a selection, which we rated
Did you know? Birch and nettle are claimed by alternative practitioners to help with painful inflammation
Ideal Health Joints-Tee, ten tea bags, £2.25, hollandandbarrett.com
CLAIM: These contain birch and nettle, which ‘contribute to the maintenance of healthy joints’. Drink two to three times a day.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Birch and nettle are claimed by alternative practitioners to help with inflammation,’ says Jon Dearing, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the BMI Carrick Glen Hospital in Scotland. ‘The suggestion is that they have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
‘This hasn’t been proven in studies, but there may be a placebo effect so there’s no harm in trying it. But if you take medication, such as the blood thinner warfarin, this could interact with the tea — so check with your doctor first.’
Top tip: Warm drinks increase blood flow to the throat and this may help heal soreness caused by a cold or infection
Yogi Tea Throat Comfort, 17 bags, £2.39, hollandandbarrett.com
CLAIM: A blend of liquorice, fennel, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger, thyme and turmeric root. The maker says this gentle, slightly fruity tea ‘warms the throat’.
As it contains liquorice, people with high blood pressure should avoid excessive consumption.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Warm drinks increase blood flow to the throat and this may help heal soreness caused by a cold or infection,’ says Jay Goswamy, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
‘Liquorice and ginger may be beneficial as they are anti-inflammatory, and in laboratory studies, liquorice and thyme have been shown to have an anti-bacterial effect. However, the amount of these ingredients needed to have an effect is likely to be greater than can be offered in a cup of tea.’
Worth your money? There is no proof any of the ingredients in this product are of any benefit to skin health
BeauTea, 100g, £45, drdavidjack.com
CLAIM: Made with milk thistle, yerba mate, fennel, dandelion root and cinnamon, this is said to ‘enhance the complexion from within’ and provide liver and gallbladder support. Drink in the evening; maximum two a day.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Drinking the tea may help keep the skin hydrated, but that is true of any fluid,’ says Dr Irshad Zaki, a consultant dermatologist at University Hospitals Birmingham.
‘There is no proof any of the ingredients are of any benefit to skin health.
‘The most tried and trusted way of keeping a good complexion is regular moisturising and wearing sun protection.’
Good: Ginger contains compounds that have soothing effects – and trials support this
The Digester, 15 tea bags, £6.30, birdandblendtea.com
CLAIM: Developed for people with irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, indigestion, food intolerances and sluggish metabolisms, this contains a blend of oolong, fennel, ginseng and ginger.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This tea may calm some gastric symptoms,’ says Steven Mann, a consultant gastroenterologist at Barnet Hospital.
‘Ginger contains compounds that have soothing effects, and trials support this, particularly in post-operative nausea and morning sickness. I am not aware of any research to support the other ingredients in soothing gut pain or boosting metabolism.
‘As with any herbal remedies, there is the potential for drug interactions — do not rely on it to relieve pain.’
Claim: This is green tea powder with Litramine, a fibre that the maker says is clinically proven to bind to dietary fats
XLS-Medical Tea with Matcha Green Tea, 30 sachets, £29.99, boots.com
CLAIM: This is green tea powder with Litramine, a fibre that the maker says is clinically proven to bind to dietary fats. It claims to help users lose up to three times more weight than dieting alone. Drink three times a day after food.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘There have been small trials into the effects of Litramine by the manufacturer,’ says Paul Super, a consultant bariatric surgeon at University Hospitals Birmingham.
‘One, in 2013, of 125 overweight people, showed a slight weight loss benefit of taking 3g of Litramine over placebo after three months — though how much you get in the tea is unclear.
‘All the studies have been small and short-term. Guidelines require a minimum of six months’ evidence and none of the studies go beyond 24 weeks. As it binds to fat, it may cause oily diarrhoea.’
Data: Recent studies have cast doubt on the claim that consumption of BCAAs can help build and strengthen muscles
Women’s Best BCAA Amino Ice Tea, 200g, £18, boots.com
CLAIM: Made with the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine which, the maker says, are absorbed by muscles and used for energy. Mix one scoop with water, once or twice a day.
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr Sarah Davies, a consultant in musculoskeletal, sport and exercise medicine at The London Clinic, says: ‘There may be performance benefits to using protein supplements, but recent studies have cast doubt on the claim that consumption of BCAAs can help build and strengthen muscles.
‘I don’t think the benefits of this tea are greater than a varied diet with as many raw foods as possible and high-quality protein.’
‘The idea of detoxing the body is a physiological nonsense — that’s the role of the liver,’ says surgeon David Lloyd
Dr Stuart’s Liver Detox, 15 bags, £2.35, hollandandbarrett.com
CLAIM: This herbal infusion includes dandelion root, centaury herb, milk thistle and peppermint to support liver function.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Milk thistle contains compounds which, in laboratory trials, reduced inflammation of the liver,’ says Professor David Lloyd, a consultant liver surgeon at Leicester General Hospital.
‘The idea of detoxing the body is a physiological nonsense — that’s the role of the liver.
‘Tea is 99 per cent water, so even if the ingredients don’t detoxify, the water content will help. It is unlikely to do any harm.’
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Does it work? This is said to regulate blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes
FitoBalt Diabetes Tea, 50g, £5.96, iibt.eu
CLAIM: This is said to regulate blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It is made with mint, blueberry leaves, blackcurrant leaves, nettle and cranberry. Drink half a cup twice a day before eating.
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr Hisham Maksoud, a consultant in diabetes at King’s Mill Hospital, Nottinghamshire, says: ‘Studies of blueberries and mint leaves — and one in type 2 diabetes patients who took nettle leaves — have suggested they lower blood sugar.
‘However, we don’t know how much is in a cup and there is a risk they may lower blood sugar too much — particularly if you are also taking metformin, gliclazide or insulin. Maybe worth a try, but consult your doctor first.’
Infused: Black tea with an added probiotic — a type of good bacteria — to boost gut health
Daily Cultures Breakfast Tea, 14 bags, £4.95, hollandand barrett.com
CLAIM: Black tea with an added probiotic — a type of good bacteria — called Bacillus coagulans, to boost gut health.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘In a 2014 study of 23 people, Bacillus coagulans was found to improve abdominal pain and diarrhoea in people with irritable bowel syndrome,’ says Tom MacDonald, a professor of immunology at Queen Mary, University of London.
‘The amount of bacteria you would get in a cup of tea would be extremely low, so is unlikely to have any significant effect.’
The blend of camomile, passion flowers and apple makes this tea ‘a perfect part of your bedtime routine’, apparently…
Twinings Superblends Sleep, 20 bags, £2, ocado.com
CLAIM: The blend of camomile, passion flowers and apple makes this tea ‘a perfect part of your bedtime routine’.
EXPERT VERDICT: Michael Oko, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at United Lincolnshire Hospitals, says: ‘Some of the ingredients, such as camomile, traditionally have been associated with having a soporific effect. But this is probably a placebo.
‘If that helps, then why not? It may wake you up to go to the loo.’
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