A general rule of the universe is "all things in moderation," however many people find this rule hard to follow. Many believe that if there are two things you cannot overindulge on, it is tea and water. It is simply not true, drinking too much water results in getting kidney damage and essentially becoming drink on water. So there much be some negative aspects of drinking too much tea as well.
Tea—whether it be black, green, or oolong—is commonly thought to be just as good if not better to drink than water. Depending on the tea, it is thought to aid weight loss, give cancer preventing anti-oxidants, lower blood pressure and sugar, and generally help people relieve stress. With the exception of the anti-oxidants, many of those positive attributes can be contributed to the water within tea, rather than the drink itself. However, there is no denying the facts that tea does help lower cancer rates. However, there are some additives in tea that may actually be hurting you rather than helping, especially if consumed in great mass.
I am personally a big fan of tea. Like many I, too, thought you can never get enough of it. I mean, it is supposed to be so healthy for you, right? I have an addiction to green tea in particular. I drink it when I first get up, in the afternoon, before and after dinner. During a day I probably drink at least a half gallon of the stuff. My favorite brand is Bigelow Green Tea, but I also enjoy trying tea from other companies. Everything was all fine and dandy until I read a report about what is in 91% of Celestial Seasonings tea, a brand I see frequently dominating shelves in the supermarket.
So what was in 91% of Celestial Seasonings samples?
A lot of pesticides. In fact, if this product was any other sort of product like a fruit or vegetables and contained as much pesticides as those tea bags do, they would be illegal to stock on shelves. Considering Celestial Seasonings has flavors like Sleepytime Kids Goodnight Grape that is marketed towards kids, this is something close to a travesty.
I've never much cared for Celestial Seasonings, as many of them are made with artificial flavors and most are not even made with the camellia sinensis plant, the only true tea plant. However, it got me thinking, what could be lurking in my other tea bags?
Another example of tainted tea bags is Stash Premium Green Tea. Stash is tainted with a pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1972—DDT. DDT used to be exceedingly useful in the 1940's and 50's as a weapon against body lice and mosquitoes. While in use it essentially helped in eliminating typhoid and malaria in North America and Europe. It seemed like a wonderful thing to be spraying all over the countryside, until everyone found out that it was responsible for the killing or sterilization of thousands of songbirds, trout, salmon and later connected to the development of breast cancer.
This pesticide is still used in more tropical climates to battle malaria due to the never ending life cycle of mosquitoes, like in China, where Stash Premium Green Tea is grown. The pesticide was found in small amounts, but DDT has a tendency to build up in the body during prolonged exposure, like drinking Stash Premium daily.
So how do the high level of pesticides and DDT get into the United States? Tea isn't treated like vegetables or fruit, They aren't tested to see if they have acceptable levels of pesticides, nor regulated. In fact, leaves used to make the drink often aren't washed at all before packaged and shipped out. So that swirling pot of relaxing plant juice is also a lovely swirling pot of pesticides.
Pesticides aren't the only potential dangers that lurk in your cup, though. There is a story of a 47-year-old Michigan woman that had been drinking green tea in mass over the past twenty years. She thought it could only be good for her, so she drank around a gallon of it daily. However, now her bones have become so brittle that she even had to have her teeth removed.
Would you believe that the green tea was the culprit? More specifically, it was the naturally occurring fluoride in the green tea that near destroyed her bones. During growth, fluoride accumulates in the leaves, thus it makes the mature leaves used to make green, black, and oolong teas chocked full of fluoride while white tea (made from young leaves) contains relatively low amounts of fluoride.
In small amounts, fluoride passes harmlessly through our body. We have even been taught that it is great for our teeth. However, combining gallons of fluoride-packed green tea over twenty years as well as the fluoride that is put in small amounts in North American drinking water, you get brittle bones and toothless gums. This Michigan woman's story is truly one of moderation. After she stopped drinking the green tea in mass, her bones recovered.
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The last potential danger that can be found in tea is actually found within its packaging. Beware of those advertised "silky satchels" and "luxurious mesh bags," these are the sort of brands that are made from plastic and nylon. Plastic or nylon bags are usually found in the brands that host triangular pyramids, rather than the square paper ones, to help show off the aesthetic beauty of the tea. However, they are made from food-grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are generally considered safe—unless you heat them up, with say, boiling water.
When heated, the plastic and nylon break down and leak out harmful phthalates which, when digested, are thought to cause reproductive issues.
So are the paper tea bags any better? Alas, no they are not. Paper tea bags are treated with the compound epichlorohydrin, which is considered a potential carcinogen and also used as a pesticide. Yes, more pesticides showing up in your tea.
The best way to go is to use an infuser with loose leaf tea, however in some cases like with the popular Teavana, pesticides will still be found in the loose leaf variety unless it is certified organic, which Teavana is not. In a 2012 study, they found that almost all of Teavana's tea contained pesticides that exceeded U.S. regulations. Consider the outrageous prices that Teavana hosts, that is just ridiculous.
It seems like the only way to get safe tea these days is to grow your own.
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