Can you really lose weight with tea? I get asked this question all the time. For the entire month of January, with our San Diego Tea Meetup group, I have featured a weekly series on tea and health at the newly opened EnlighTea Cafe. Since a new year is often a time for people to re-evaluate their health and decide to lose weight or improve their health, it seemed like a good time to address this question and others and introduce people to tea at the same time.

measureIf you do an Internet search on “tea and weight loss,” you’ll find more stuff out there than you can probably handle and everyone seems to have something to sell you. But I’ll just break it down for you with the “magic” answer: eat less junk and more “real” food, move your body more, and yes, drink tea.

As part of this discussion, it is important to address the “slimming teas” and “diet teas” that are out there on the market – some of which should actually come with warning labels. Over the years, I have done at least 15 presentations at a local hospital in San Diego that had a series of programs addressing women’s health. The director who invited me to speak also asked that I speak about “diet teas.” It seems over the years the hospital had been seeing an increase in people being brought in with heart palpitations and severe dehydration due to an over-consumption of “diet tea.” Although some of the teas do say not to exceed two cups a day, here in America we seem to automatically think that if two cups are all you need to lose weight, then four cups must be even better, and gee, six cups should really do the trick! These are the people who end up in the hospital.

I’ve looked at many of these products over the years and on a visit to China with the Tea Association in 2007, I asked many of the tea companies about their “diet” and “slimming” teas. I was given many samples to take home and I tried them all – responsibly – and certainly did see results.

Many of these so-called teas do not contain any real tea at all and are a mixture of herbs. Some are tea-based with many of the same or similar herbs added to them and some also contain decaffeinated teas as well. The bottom line is that the herbs they contain are meant to flush out your system – and that they do! So it is best to stay home on the days you are drinking “diet teas.” It is the senna leaf that acts as a laxative, often combined with licorice root, which has a similar effect. Granted, most of us do need to flush out our systems – this is how we can detoxify and release things that have been “sticking” around for too long. We also need to exercise caution while doing so – mostly by keeping the body hydrated with plenty of fluids (plain water is best) because a lot of water is needed to flush and then to replenish the body.

You can get on the scale after drinking these teas for just a few days and see results and think you are happy and have done something good for your body, but if every cell is now depleted, you haven’t really benefited much from these teas. I happen to live close to a Middle Eastern market in my neighborhood and the tea selection there is vast. I see things on their shelves that I have never seen before – some that are fascinating and some that I am rather leery of. They happen to carry many different selections of “diet” or “slimming” teas that come from all over the Middle East, Egypt, China, and beyond.

The “slimming” and “diet” teas are out there – plenty of them. They vary in price from $5 to $45 a box. Most that are priced over $10 a box are a complete ripoff. Flushing out our systems is good; depleting your body and your wallet – not so good. Use these teas with caution and sell them with caution. There is indeed a market out there asking for them, but just as with “ordinary” tea, it is our job to educate our customers.