By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Pu-erh tea is said to boast a wide range of health benefits. Like green tea, black tea, and white tea, Pu-erh tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. However, Pu-erh tea is created according to a specialized process that involves a longer fermentation period.
In China, Pu-erh tea has long been sipped to achieve a variety of health benefits, such as improvements in heart health and reductions in cholesterol levels. It’s also said that Pu-erh tea can help promote weight loss, enhance eyesight, stimulate circulation, and soothe hangovers.
Since it plays a role in getting rid of excess fat and fighting off inflammation, Pu-erh tea could help to reduce the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
A study had found that Pu-erh tea may help prevent or reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a disease in which excess fat accumulates in your liver. However, this has only been noted in animal research so far (1). Another animal study also found that Pu-erh tea extract may protect the liver from damage caused by the chemotherapy drug cisplatin (2).
Pu-erh tea extracts to kill off several types of cancer cells, including breast and colon cancer.
In test-tube studies, Pu-erh tea extracts have killed breast cancer, oral cancer, and colon cancer cells (3, 4, 5). These studies involve applying highly concentrated extracts directly to cancer cells, which is how drinking Pu-erh tea would interact with cancer cells in your body.
Pu-erh seems to help your body excrete more dietary fat as well as keep excess fat from building up in the body. And both of those things could potentially play a role in keeping cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Pu-erh tea extracts may help reduce cholesterol levels in two ways. First, Pu-erh tea increases how much dietary-fat-bound bile acid is excreted in the faeces, thus keeping the fat from being absorbed into your bloodstream (6). Second, in animal studies, Pu-erh tea also decreases fat accumulation. Together, these effects can decrease heart disease risk (7).
A few small studies show that taking high doses of pu-erh tea extract — which is much more concentrated than drinking pu-erh tea — is tied to weight loss, reduced body mass index, and less abdominal fat (8).
A single study in 36 people with overweight found that consuming 333 mg of pu-erh tea extract 3 times daily for 12 weeks resulted in significantly improved body weight, body mass index (BMI), and abdominal fat measurements, compared with a control group (9).
Side effects and Precautions
Most of the side effects of Pu-erh tea come from its caffeine content. Depending on the strength of the brew, Pu-erh tea can contain 30–100 mg of caffeine per cup (10). Most people can tolerate up to 400 mg of caffeine daily, but some of the side effects of excessive caffeine can include (11):
- Changes in heart’s rhythm
- Diarrhoea or Excessive Urination
Because fermented foods may affect your gut bacteria concentrations, Pu-erh tea may also affect your digestion and potentially cause some digestive upset.
Dosage And How To Brew It
Most people can safely drink up to 3 cups (710 mL) of Pu-erh tea per day, unless they’re also consuming large quantities of other caffeinated beverages.
To Brew Pu-erh Tea
What you need
- Pu-erh tea — a single cake or 3–4 grams of loose leaf tea per cup you plan to make
- Boiling water
- A teapot with a strainer
- Teacups or mugs
- Optional extras like cream, milk, or sweetener
- Place the Pu-erh tea cake or loose leaves in the teapot and add just enough boiling water to cover the leaves, then discard the water. Repeat this step once more, being sure to discard the water. This “rinse” helps ensure a high quality tea.
- Fill the teapot with boiling water and allow the tea to steep for 2 minutes. Based on your taste preferences, you can steep for a longer or shorter period.
- Pour the tea into teacups and add extras as desired (12).