Pu-erh Tea: 8 Surprising Health Benefits!

Traditionally consumed in the Yunnan province of China, Pu-erh tea is a fermented and aged tea that is made from a native tree of the region. You can find it both in loose form sold by the gram or as compressed packages of tea leaves.

How is it made?

When tea leaves are dried and seeped, you get traditional herbal tea everyone is familiar with. Pu-erh tea is quite different. It requires tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis var. Assamica tea plant grown in the Yunnan province of China.

Pu-erh tea leaves

After harvesting the tea leaves, they are dried to get rid of the moisture in the tea leaves. Then they are rolled and fermented. It is also prepared by directly fermenting the tea leaves instead of drying them. While dried and fermented Pu-erh Tea creates a dark black brew, the same tea made after fermenting raw leaves gives a green brew.

You shouldn’t confuse it with kombucha. Kombucha is prepared by fermented brewed tea while Pu-erh tea is made from fermented tea leaves.

The caffeine content in Pu-erh tea

According to research, the caffeine content in Pu-erh tea is similar to black tea. You’ll get around 14 to 60 milligrams in every cup. However, the caffeine content can increase depending on the brew time and strength of the tea. A very strong cup of Pu-erh may contain as much as 100mg of caffeine. That’s why you need to have the tea in moderation.

The daily caffeine tolerance of regular people is around 400 mg. So, if you aren’t getting caffeine from any other source, you may have more than two cups of this tea. However, if you are on specific drugs, have ailments, or take certain medications, high caffeine in your system can have many adverse effects. More on that later.

How to brew?

picture of brewed Pu-erh Tea

For most people around 700ml or 3 cups of Pu-erh tea every day is the safe limit when they aren’t dosing themselves with caffeine from energy drinks, coffee, and other such beverages or food. Here’s how you can brew some for yourself:

If you buy loose Pu-erh tea leaves, around 4 grams of it should be enough for a brew. If you buy Pu-erh tea cakes, remove a teaspoon of it for the brew. Make sure that you buy ripe tea cakes. They give the tea its distinct sweet flavor and rich color.

  • Bring the water to a boil in a pan
  • Place the tea leaves in a teapot and add the boiling water till you completely submerge the leaves and then discard the water. With this method, you “rinse” the tea. Rinse the leaves a couple of times for a high-quality brew.
  • Add boiling water to the teapot and let the tea steep for a few minutes
  • If you want a light brew, you can strain out the tea early. For a strong brew let it sit for a few minutes before straining the tea leaves.
  • Now you can pour the tea into cups for a refreshing drink

Related: Matcha Milk Tea – What is it and how to prepare it?

If you buy Pu-erh tea cakes made from raw instead of dried Pu-erh leaves, you need to be more delicate. Don’t use boiling water to seep the tea. Instead, steep the tea into warm water at a lower temperature. 

Health Benefits Of Pu-erh Tea

health benefits of pu-erh tea

While Pu-erh tea has a rich and slightly sweet flavor, most people on this side of the globe brew it for its health benefits. Let’s check them out:

1. Promotes a healthy heart – Excessive cholesterol isn’t good for your body, especially harmful to your heart. Drinking Pu-erh tea may help you keep your cholesterol levels in check. In a study carried out by China’s Kunming Medical College, the effects of Pu-erh tea were studied with 86 patients. All the patients had high blood cholesterol. Among those patients, one group was given a cholesterol-lowering drug while the other was given Pu-erh tea three times a day. The results showed that Pu-erh tea was very effective in lowering bad cholesterol in your body.

Another study about the effects of Pu-erh tea on rats showed similar results. Hence, drinking two or three cups of Pu-erh tea every day can be very beneficial for your heart and overall cardiovascular health since it reduces LDL levels in your body.

2. May help in weight loss – While some research has been done on the topic, the effects of Pu-erh tea on weight loss still aren’t understood properly. However, the limited research available to us shows promising effects of Pu-erh tea in weight loss. In one study, scientists found out that the tea has a significant effect in changing the ratio of stearic acid to oleic acid that regulates your body’s ability to store fat. Another study found out that Pu-erh tea may also stimulate more fat burning in your body and aid you in losing weight.

However, both the studies mentioned above are test-tube and animal studies. We need more human studies. But the promising effects of Pu-erh tea shows that you may be able to get a boost in your weight loss journey.

3. Helps your gut – The above-mentioned research shows how Pu-erh tea may help in burning stored fat in your body and also discourages the storage of new fat in your body. Apart from that. Apart from aiding the digestion of fats, Pu-erh tea also helps you control the symptoms of Metabolic syndrome. However, the reason behind those effects isn’t clear. Apart from that, researchers conducting the study on mice also observed that the tea may be responsible for positively altering certain gut bacteria. It helps promote good gut bacteria that promote a healthy digestive system.

4. High levels of antioxidants – Like other teas, it is also rich in antioxidants. In a  study, the antioxidant capacity of Pu-erh tea, oolong tea, black tea, and green tea, were compared. Apart from Oolong, Pu-erh tea was discovered to have the highest antioxidant capacity at around 86 percent. The study also highlighted how Pu-erh tea can reduce the production of nitric oxide in your body.

It’s also great at eliminating free radicals in your body. Simple sugars in the tea help your spleen and stomach to flush out free radicals and detoxify your blood. That means you don’t have to worry about free radical damage if you have a healthy intake of Pu-erh tea every day.    

5. Gives you a kick of energy – As mentioned above, depending on the brew strength of Pu-erh tea, you can get as much as 100mg of caffeine in every cup. Coffee brews usually contain 70 to 140 mg of caffeine in every cup. That averages out at less than 10mg of caffeine. So, a cup of it can be as strong as coffee and give you the daily dose of caffeine you need to stay productive. Moreover, it’s a great replacement for those who want that caffeine kick without the taste of coffee.

6. Helps you to relax – It’s odd to think that Pu-erh tea may have a relaxing effect when it has so much caffeine. However, a cup of tea would help you relax and reduce stress due to the other compounds inside the tea – Theanine, and GABA. According to research, Theanine has anti-anxiety effects that help you relax while GABA acts as a neurotransmitter that activates the receptors of your brain that promote sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, have a cup of this tea before going to bed so that you can wake up fresh and relaxed.

7. Promotes bone health – Your bones weaken as you grow old. The condition where your bones become weak and brittle due to age is known as Osteoporosis and it’s a common problem among women. It’s usually a result of deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D or hormonal changes after menopause. Research conducted on rats by scientists in China showed that Pu-erh tea may be able to protect you against Osteoporosis. However, more research and human studies are necessary.

8. Prevents cancer growth – A research conducted by Yunnan University showed that the tea can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. Similar results were found by this study that researched the efficacy of this tea on controlling the growth of oral cancer. Another test-tube study found that it can also effectively kill colon cancer cells. This is a great starting point that may bring positive news after more research and human studies. You should also treat it like that instead of relying on it as a cancer treatment medicine.

Side effects

While it has numerous benefits, it also has side effects, mostly due to its high caffeine content. That’s why you shouldn’t drink more than two or three cups a day. Excessive caffeine can lead to numerous problems like insomnia, fluctuations in heart rhythm, dizziness, dehydration, shaking, or excessive urination. Moreover, you should take special precautions if you are pregnant or a lactating mother. A high dose of caffeine can cause many problems during pregnancy and has also been linked to miscarriage.

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