As we globally experience a polarisation of society, where views and opinions become amalgamated at each end of a spectrum it is always refreshing that within the tea community we can have open discussions and value each other’s contributions.
One of the ongoing concerns, however, is the continued health benefits cited for Puerh tea. As this gets increasingly capitalised I fear that both the value of enjoying tea for its experience is lost and with such strong opinions from certain sections of global tea trade there is this creep into polarised opinion around health.
From my own perspective, as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine as well having one foot firmly planted in Western academic enquiry, I extol the medicinal value of Tea, however it comes from an Eastern tradition of medicine which is much more expansive and less reductionist.
What I am essentially stating is that whether we recognise the health benefits of Puerh or not the true value is in the experience.
A recent systematic review however has highlighted that studies on Puerh generally support that a number of ingredients extracted from Puerh have the health benefit of lowering blood sugar, with a few studies conducting experiments and validating the argument that drinking Puerh tea can help regulate and maintain adequate level of blood sugar. Unfortunately, none of those articles have identified specific ingredient(s) responsible for lowering hyperglycaemia and their actual mechanism(s) (Lin et al 2018).
The problem we see is that many studies demonstrate incongruity between extraction methods and dosage when performing experimentation and observation of effects of Puerh. Additionally, many studies use animal models and/or variable criteria for subject selection. Hence, comparing results and studies remain difficult.
What we have to consider is what drives these studies? As tea drinkers we may not be that interested in whether Puerh helps out blood sugar or protects us from disease, that is surely secondary to the experience. However we are all subject to disease and whilst we might not consider it in our love of tea, we all want to remain healthy. Hence the drive for global health continues to drive research on tea.
From a clinical perspective, I remain interested in the fact that it informs what I feel I already know, however if it was solely governing or determining my consumption habits, much like how green tea powder has become a trend in health “smoothie” recipes, I not only allow “expert opinion” become sovereign over my own decision making but I become subject to science led consumption habits. After all I have not the time or capacity to repeat these experiments myself to decide whether the results and opinions are true or not.
Upon reflection, we can remain balanced and have a healthy respect to research upon tea without polarisation or strong opinion. For example , as a tea drinker when I feel under the weather or accumulated with winter congestion, whilst my first line in treatment might not be reaching for the Puerh I will instinctively know that a hot bowl of ripe Puerh will make me feel better. Studies that show that bio-active chemicals such as strictnin, that is active against influenza is found in Puerh extracts only serve to reassure my own instincts and experience rather than govern it.
Lin HC, Lee CT, Yen YY, Chu CL, Hsieh YP, Yang CS, Lan SJ. Systematic review and meta‐analysis of anti‐hyperglycaemic effects of Pu‐erh tea. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. 2018 Oct 25.
Chen TY, Wang MM, Hsieh SK, Hsieh MH, Chen WY, Tzen JT. Pancreatic lipase inhibition of strictinin isolated from Pu’er tea (Cammelia sinensis) and its anti-obesity effects in C57BL6 mice. Journal of Functional Foods. 2018 Sep 30;48:1-8.