Since the weather has been in the low-80s today, which feels cool for South Texas, I figured a cup of herbal tea (or tisane) was in order. I’ve always been interested in tea as a health supplement and even spent a bit of time learning about the best way to brew tea for optimal taste and health benefits. Open my pantry, and you will see an array of caffeine-free detox tea blends, each with their own vaguely earthy aroma.
Today’s brew is Dr. Stuart’s Liver Detox: Get It Out of Your System. (Not sure what “it” is, but I certainly don’t want it in my system!) With it’s combination of peppermint, dandelion root, licorice root, chamomile, centaury herb, bolda leaves, couchgrass root, restharrow root, and milk thistle, this tisane certainly sounds like a potent infusion.
Given my taste for beauty and health elixirs (from green juice to actual elixirs), it doesn’t surprise me that I’m a hound for the pretty boxes of detox teas that occupy sacred grocery store territory. I try to be rational about my obsessions, though, so I wanted to investigate: Are detox teas merely good branding, or do they actually offer health benefits?
Unfortunately, there’s not very much research done on detox teas yet—unless you count the Instagrams of bikini-clad girls showing off their post-“teatox” bods—which leads me to my next observation: It seems that there are at least two conceptions of what “detox tea” is. The first is the one that I’m more familiar with—naturally caffeine-free herbal blends that support the liver and the body’s natural detoxification processes. The second concerns tea that may get a bit more hype —tea that promises quick weight loss and may contain caffeine and/or herbal laxatives. This post will touch on both.
The first category of detox tea, to which Dr. Stuart’s Liver Detox belongs, relies on herbs like lemongrass, ginger, dandelion, and milk thistle to support a healthy liver. Rich in antioxidants, they reduce free radicals and oxidative stress on the body. When combined with an already healthy diet and exercise routine, they can offer some good, according to Laura Lagano, R.D. As Lagano explains, they can support the body’s natural detoxification processes as much as any other food or drink can hinder it (i.e. they support the organs that detoxify the body—the teas do not do the detoxing themselves). This is not to say that these detox teas are miracle products, of course. Manuel Villacorta, R.D. reminds us that “no one food, herb, or remedy has the ability to cure ailments or disease.” Rather, herbal detox blends can be used to supplement a diet rich in whole foods.
It’s important to watch out for certain ingredients may not be so nice on the body—and there’s a good chance that teas in the second category of detox teas (i.e. skinny teas) rely on a combination of these. Senna, an herbal laxative, is one of the most prevalent ingredients in weight-loss and anti-constipation teas. Although senna is mostly safe when used occasionally, when used regularly, it can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and electrolyte loss. Although senna teas may allow their drinker to feel a bit lighter, it’s mostly for reasons of water-weight loss rather than a reduction in body fat.
Likewise, guarana is a detox tea ingredient to be consumed with caution. This herbal ingredient may also be found in energy drinks and is notable for its caffeine content. Like other drinks containing caffeine, teas with guarana will have a diuretic effect (read: water-weight loss) and may temporarily suppress appetite. Likewise, results from skinny-fast teas may be just as temporary if “teatox” plans aren’t followed proper eating.
Bottom line: When combined with an already healthy lifestyle, detox teas may do your body some good. Think of them as a supplement—not a cure all. Do a bit of research on the ingredients in your detox tea, use laxatives and caffeine in moderation (if at all), and remember—no tea should be the only thing you consume for days on end. Enjoy your tea between healthy meals.
Have you tried any detox teas? What did you think?
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Photo: Linh Nguyen via Flickr