[dsm_text_divider header=”#11 in Series of 20 Articles, %22What’s Healthy About Tea?%22″ _builder_version=”4.9.10″ _module_preset=”default” header_text_align=”center” header_text_color=”#386440″][/dsm_text_divider]

What kind of tea can prevent us from catching Covid 19?

There is no evidence that drinking any kind of tea – Camellia sinensis or herbal tisanes – will protect us from contracting Covid 19 or any of the variants. . .Period.

Many readers have written to ask about this, and I wish I could say that it was so. But that is a step too far from proven fact. While it may seem reasonable and logical, we in the tea industry should not risk adding to misinformation and confusion during this frightening time.

While there has been massive scientific research during the pandemic into treatments for the current strains of the Novel Coronavirus and its variants, there has been very little research using Camellia sinensis as a treatment or preventative.

One study in December of 2020 published the conclusion that,

“… that certain bioactive compounds found in green, black, and oolong tea possess remarkable antiviral activities against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative pathogen of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The study is currently available on the bioRxiv preprint server.”

Bioactive Tea Compounds show potential anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity 

by Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Hand resisting Covid 19 molecule

Research like this and others builds our hope that our daily tea practice is one of the healthy choices we’re making that will give us extra resistance to many different infections. Tea lovers tend to share personal experiences and beliefs and point to research into the proven antiviral properties of true tea and make assumptions that there might be comparable effectiveness. Some of us experience research bias, looking for articles that support our beliefs. We all have the desire to have made good choices and to be living a healthy lifestyle.

More Research Supporting the anti-viral properties of Camellia sinensis

What some tea educators point to are hundreds of articles about the anti-viral properties of the plant. One interesting example is a study published in Victor Preedy’s book, Tea in Health and Disease Prevention. It is a study published by South Korean scientists, Ming Song and Baik-Lin Seong entitled, Anti-Influenza Viral Activity of Catechins and Derivatives. They refer to 25 different research projects to evaluate various ways in which tea can be used to treat and avoid viral infections in general. This is in addition to research on the benefits of drinking tea.

“Beneficial effects of green tea components in reducing clinical symptoms of influenza infection as demonstrated by gargling, ingesting supplement tablets, or as a handwash disinfectant suggests it could be used in pandemics or the annual influenza season alongside pharmaceutical intervention by antivirals and vaccines.” 


Another 2018 study by Daisuke Furushima,1,* Kazuki Ide,1,2,3 and Hiroshi Yamada1,* was published in Molecules. 2018 Jul; 23(7): 179 came to much the same conclusion giving us reason to remain alert to the potential that some of these benefits will rise to scientific approval.

Effect of Tea Catechins on Influenza Infection and the Common Cold with a Focus on Epidemiological/Clinical Studies

In 2009, the world experienced a swine influenza virus pandemic. In addition, there are concerns about human infection with a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus that is prevalent locally. Furthermore, the prevalence of viruses that acquired resistance to existing NA inhibitors such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) has also been confirmed. Under such circumstances, the development of new drugs that inhibit virus infection with different mechanisms of action are urgently needed. We hope that future studies and additional information will clarify the potential for catechins to serve as an effective antiviral therapy with the currently approved prescription drugs.

Health benefits of the tea lifestyle during Covid

But the tea lifestyle does offer benefits with some of the health issues of this pandemic. Isolation and depression. Boredom. Many people looking for activities they could share with their in-person “pods” or virtually, found that tea provided many opportunities for healthy interactions and distractions. There was more to learn about the countries of origin and the way teas are produced. Teatime became a mindfulness meditation for some and a vast new area of study for others. 

Virtual Tea Experiences During Covid

Tea filled a need for many people during isolation by supplying a demand for products, virtual educational events and also offered suggestions for ways families could use virtual teatimes to be more than talking heads on Zoom calls. The needs were for comfort and ways to deal with stress. Let’s not minimize this as an overall health benefit of the tea lifestyle. 

Logo for the 2020 International Virtual Tea Festival

Tea businesses who were able to adapt their normal business to accommodate their customers often found that their relationships with customers deepened and sales were steady. They were able to retain most of their employees and keep their businesses steady during turbulent times. But in many cases, they were also able to create a sense of community between their customers who became regulars on virtual tea tastings. It will be interesting to see how many of the new tech tools and hybrid-enhanced relationships linger into the future. In the history of the world, tea has often had a role fascilitating the social fabric and comforting hearts and souls during difficult times.

My personal conclusion

As a student of tea, proponent for tea and an educator, I have come to my own conclusions about the health benefits. I’ve read many different studies on the antiviral benefits of tea. I find it easy to believe that holding warm tea in my mouth and swishing it around or gargling with it might actually reduce the amount of virus. (Results of study above.) And the same is likely to be true about washing my hands with tea. Some are robust and well grounded in science and I expect them to hold up to futher scrutiny. But don’t ask me to step out on a limb and even consider that it will replace vaccination, mask wearing, maintaining safe distances and reducing the time spent in crowded venues. What I peronally believe it that it’s a +1. Another tool in the belt. But it continues to be one of my favorites.

Does that inform some of my choices? Yes! I encourage everyone to do the same.