What is pu-erh?

Pu-erh is an aged, fermented tea that comes from the Yunnan province in China. Pu-erh tea is unique because it’s made from a natural fermentation process. This process oxidizes the plant’s leaves, amplifying its antioxidant benefits.

It also contributes to the tea’s distinct flavor and aroma. Although pu-erh has a robust, earthy base, its profile will develop over time. That means the longer it’s stored, the more flavorful it will taste.

Read on to learn more about its potential health benefits, how to prepare it, and more.

1. It’s antioxidant

Pu-erh tea contains antioxidants, which can help prevent damage caused by free radicals. If left unchecked, free radicals can lead to disease and illness. Drink a cup of pu-erh any time you need a little boost.

2. It’s antibacterial

Its antibacterial properties can help protect your body from harmful bacteria, such as E. coli. You can also use it topically to help treat mild bacteria-driven conditions like acne.

3. It’s anti-inflammatory

The tea’s anti-inflammatory properties may help ease redness, swelling, and other irritation. They may also soothe pain caused by inflammatory conditions, like arthritis.

You can apply the tea topically to treat inflamed skin, or drink a cup or two to help heal your body from the inside out.

4. It may help prevent photoaging

Pu-erh may even help protect the skin from photoaging, or signs of aging caused by sun damage. For many, drinking a few cups of pu-erh tea has become part of a skin care routine that already includes exfoliants, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

You can also use pu-erh tea to make a facial toner or spray. Be sure to store it in your refrigerator, and spritz it on as desired.

5. It may help reduce bodily toxins

Pu-erh tea can help break down and eliminate bodily toxins. This includes toxins known to contribute to weight gain. You can drink pu-erh whenever you want to have a cleansing effect on your body.

6. It may aid in digestion

A cup of pu-erh tea may be exactly what you need to enhance digestion and soothe stomach ailments. It’s been shown to help balance the bacteria in your stomach and intestines and help the body digest heavy meals.

7. It may help reduce stress

Pu-erh tea can help reduce stress by regulating and protecting the nervous system. The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in pu-erh has also been shown to reduce anxiety levels, so sit back, relax, and sip away your stress.

8. It may help improve sleep quality

Although the tea contains caffeine, it may actually help improve your sleep quality. Given its effects on anxiety, it’s thought that pu-erh can help quiet the mind so that you can drift away peacefully.

Pu-erh is also said to promote melatonin production, which can help regulate your sleep.

9. It may help lower cholesterol

Not only can pu-erh help lower your cholesterol levels, its protective benefits may also help improve your overall cardiovascular health.

10. It may help ease symptoms of metabolic syndrome

Having pu-erh tea on a regular basis may help relieve symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

It’s been shown to lower blood sugar, reduce obesity, and boost immunity. Plus, it lowers cholesterol and prevents free radical damage. In other words, it helps tackle all five of the syndrome’s factors.

And if metabolic syndrome runs in your family, drinking pu-erh may help you reduce your risk.

11. It may help manage blood sugar

Managing your blood sugar is especially important if you already have or want to prevent diabetes. Drinking pu-erh can help to lower blood sugar levels after meals, which is when your glucose levels are likely to rise.

12. It may help with weight loss

Pu-erh tea helps promote weight loss — and it can be a great substitute for sugary drinks.

13. It may help promote bone health

Pu-erh’s positive effect on oxidative stress and inflammation may also benefit your overall bone health. This could help lower your risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

14. It may help prevent heart disease

Its antioxidant and cholesterol-lowering effects may also have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. This could help reduce your risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders.

15. It may be anti-cancerous

Some research suggests that the health benefits of pu-erh tea extend to preventing cancer. Pu-erh tea has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells, but more research is needed before your doctor starts recommended tea as a first-line treatment.

For now, talk with your doctor about whether this is something you can add to your treatment or prevention plan.

How to prepare pu-erh tea

If you’re on the go, you can find bottled pu-erh tea in the refrigerated section of your grocery or natural food store.

If you want to make it at home, it’s also available as a cake of compressed tea leaves or in easy-to-use tea bags. You can even take pu-erh tea in capsule form or as tablets that dissolve under the tongue.

Recipes for fresh pu-erh tea typically call for 3 to 4 grams of tea leaves per cup of water. You can adjust this amount depending on how strong you’d like your tea.

Once you’ve measured out the leaves, follow these steps:

  1. Place the tea leaves into the strainer of a teapot.
  2. Pour freshly boiled water into the pot and swirl it around a bit.
  3. Discard this water to remove any impurities from the tea.
  4. Fill the teapot with more boiled water and allow the tea to steep for three to four minutes.
  5. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.

You can reuse the tea leaves a few times.

Pu-erh tea usually contains 60 to 70 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Keep in mind that most of the caffeine will come out in the first pot of tea. If you choose to make a second or third pot with the same leaves, the tea will contain less caffeine.

Possible side effects and risks

Pu-erh tea is generally considered safe to consume. Most people can safely drink up to 5 cups per day without experiencing any side effects.

Most of the tea’s potential side effects and interactions are due to its caffeine content.

With this in mind, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be able to safely drink up to 2 cups per day. Children may also consume pu-erh tea in small amounts.

You should talk to your doctor about your recommended caffeine consumption if you have:

You should also check with your doctor before drinking pu-erh tea if you’re taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Some of the more common medications that may cause interactions include:

  • anticoagulants
  • antidepressants
  • antibiotics
  • antifungals
  • hormones
  • psychotic drugs
  • medications for cardiovascular conditions
  • medications for COPD
  • medications for diabetes
  • medications for high blood pressure

It’s also worth noting that pu-erh tea contains fluorine. However, as long as you drink it in moderation, it isn’t likely to induce fluorosis. If you’re concerned about your risk for fluorosis, see your doctor.

The bottom line

Pu-erh tea may be a great way to boost your overall health and add more variety to your tea cabinet.

Although it’s safe to drink in moderation, you should check with your doctor if you have an underlying condition or are taking any medications. Your doctor can confirm whether pu-erh is likely to cause an unsafe interaction.

You should also talk to your doctor if you want to use pu-erh to help manage or prevent a specific condition. They can assess your overall care plan and may be able to recommend more targeted methods.

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