Health Benefits of Green Tea

Sure, it tastes and smells delicious but could it be an unhealthy concoction? Maybe. Touted as health food, many herbs in teas are actually drugs affecting body and mind. Some popular herb teas can kick up blood pressure and heart rate, bring on dizziness, cramps, and diarrhea, cause hallucinations and other mental or emotional effects.

Such effect should not be surprising, considering that the very first medicines were all herbs and other plants. Quinine, used to combat malaria, comes from the bark of cinchona shrub; digitalis, the heart stimulant, is a derivative of foxglove; colchicine, to combat gout, comes from meadow saffron. In fact, today, nearly half of all prescription drugs contain active ingredients extracted from or first detected in plants.

In essence, herbal teas are often crude complexes containing many impurities and active components with a variety of possible undesirable effects. Some are actually too dangerous to be used at all. And some herbal teas are harmless until theyre used in excess. Even ginseng tea may stimulate the adrenal glands and thyroid gland, making your heart race. Some ingredients in herbal teas may conflict with or counteract the activity of prescription drugs.

Herbal teas may contain just one active ingredient or be a blend of as many as twenty different chemical agents from leaves, weeds, or flowers. Devotees sometimes urge friends to switch to herbs to avoid the caffeine in coffee or regular tea, or claim extraordinary health benefits from herbal teas. But drink with caution. The safest are red zinger, lemon balm, and anise, rose hip, raspberry and lemon grass. If in doubt pass up that cup of tea -- until you check with our doctor.

Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.

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