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Tea & Acne

By Brigid Rauch

Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, according to "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia,"-- second only to water. Tea is high in antioxidants, special compounds that may have important health benefits, including fighting cancer and heart disease and strengthening immune function which may support treatment of acne. However, there is not enough clinical evidence to support using tea to treat acne or other conditions. Do not replace conventional treatments with tea.

Black and Green Tea

All tea is made from the dried leaves of the camillia sinesis plant. However, black tea undergoes a fermenting process, while green tea is merely steam-treated and then dried. Black tea has a fuller, less bitter flavor while green tea is milder in taste and higher in antioxidants.


The purported benefits of tea center around its antioxidant content, notes "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies." Tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which may stimulate circulation as well as another type of antioxidants, flavonoids, which may help strengthen the immune system. Both of these actions could potentially support treatment for acne since increased circulation and a stronger immune system could help skin infections heal faster. However, there is no clinical evidence to support the use of tea to fight acne. Additionally, there are several drawbacks to overconsumption of tea.


Despite its popularity and purported health benefits, over consumption of tea could be harmful. Drinking excessive quantities of tea may contribute to constipation, indigestion, dizziness, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Additionally, consumption of tea may inhibit growth in children and decrease iron absorption rates. So avoid drinking tea if you are pregnant. Tea may also interfere with certain sedative drugs.

External Use

Despite the potential drawbacks for internal use of tea, it may be beneficial externally. According to "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies," tea's astringency and flavonoids may help fight the microrganisms that cause acne and other skin infections. To apply tea externally, put cold used tea bags on the affected skin and leave them there for up to 20 minutes. This application of tea does not have the same risks as internal use.


Although tea may have some properties that could potentially support treatment of acne, other herbs would probably be more effective. "The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants" recommends increasing vitamin C intake, eating garlic and applying calendula ointment, comfrey ointment, lemon juice or tea tree oil--a different species altogether from the plant that produces tea -- directly on the affected area. There is not conclusive clinical evidence to support the use of these treatments for acne. Comfrey may have toxic elements that could cause liver damage with prolonged use. Do not use calendula while pregnant, and consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements.

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