Pu Erh Tea: Possible Side Effects and How To Manage Them

The leaves and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant are used to make Pu Erh tea. The white, black, green, and oolong teas are all made from the same plant. However, the various teas are manufactured using distinct techniques, even though the same source plant. 


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Pu Erh tea is processed in two steps once it is harvested. First, the tea leaves are processed in the first phase like green tea is. Then, in an extremely humid environment during the second phase, the leaves are fermented and stored for a long time or aged. Pu Erh tea that has been matured for a lengthy period is said to be more flavorful. Furthermore, bacteria and fungi affect the tea throughout the extended aging process, causing it to smell musty or taste stale. Pu Erh tea is primarily produced in the Yunnan province of China's southwest. However, in recent years, the beverage is also gaining traction in other parts of the world. In addition, Pu Erh tea is utilized in traditional Chinese medicine.

Pu Erh tea is said to boost mental acuity and sharpness of thought. It is also utilized to treat excessive diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, although more scientific proof is needed to support these claims. 

With that, Pu Erh tea offers several benefits. However, it can also have possible side effects. So, if you want to know what these potential complications are and how to manage them, keep reading! 

Side effects of Pu Erh and how to manage each

The caffeine level of Pu Erh tea and the fermentation and aging process play a key role in its negative effects. Here are some of the striking side effects of drinking Pu Erh:

  • Sleep disturbance

    Excessive use of Pu Erh tea, which naturally contains caffeine, may interrupt your sleep pattern.

    Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body that it is time to go to bed. According to some studies, caffeine may suppress melatonin synthesis, leading to poor quality of sleep.

    Chronic insufficient sleep is connected to an increased risk of health problems such as obesity, depression, cognitive disability, poor blood sugar control. Furthermore, poor sleep quality is linked to a lack of energy that leads to poor performance in activities of daily living.

    Caffeine is metabolized at varying rates, making it impossible to predict how it may affect sleep patterns. However, according to several studies, even 200 mg of caffeine ingested 6 hours or more preceding sleep can harm the perceived quality of sleep.

    Management: If you have trouble sleeping and are drinking Pu Erh tea regularly, you might want to cut back, especially if you are also drinking other caffeine-containing drinks or substances. You can also drink Melatonin supplements before going to bed to help you sleep better through the night.

  • Nausea

    Certain components in Pu Erh tea can make you feel sick, especially if you drink it in big amounts or on fasting days.

    Tea leaves contain tannins, which give them a bitter, dry flavor. The Tannins' acidic characteristic can upset the digestive tract, perhaps causing unpleasant symptoms like nausea or stomach pain.

    The amount of tea necessary to achieve this effect varies greatly depending on the individual. For example, more sensitive people may suffer these symptoms after drinking as little as 1 to 2 cups of Pu Erh tea, while some might be able to ingest up to 3 cups of Pu Erh tea without experiencing any negative effects.

    Management: If you experience any of these symptoms following drinking a cup of Pu Erh tea, you should minimize the volume you consume at any given moment. You might also consider putting a dash of milk or eating extra snacks with your tea. Tannins can attach to proteins and carbohydrates in meals, reducing gastrointestinal discomfort.


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  • Restlessness and Anxiety

    Caffeine is found naturally in tea leaves. Whether from tea or any other source, caffeine overdose can cause anxiety, restlessness, and even stress.

    The caffeine content in a cup of Pu Erh tea ranges from 30 to 100 mg. Caffeine dosages of less than 200 mg per day, according to research, are unlikely to induce considerable nervousness in most people. Still, some individuals are more susceptible to caffeine's impacts than others, and they may need to reduce their intake even more.

    Management: If your tea consumption is causing you to feel restless or nervous, you may have drunk too much and should reduce consumption to alleviate symptoms. You could also try caffeine-free herbal teas. Because herbal teas are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant, they are not considered real teas. Instead, they are usually created with non-caffeinated components like herbs, flowers, and fruits.

  • Heartburn

    Tea contains caffeine, which can induce heartburn or increase acid reflux symptoms. Caffeine has been shown to ease the valve that separates your esophagus and stomach, permitting acidic gastric contents to move more smoothly into your esophagus. Caffeine may also raise the amount of stomach acid produced.

    Management: Obviously, consuming Pu Erh tea does not always result in heartburn. People react to the same foods in quite different ways. However, if you drink a lot of Pu Erh tea and have a lot of heartburn, cutting back on your Pu Erh tea consumption and seeing whether your condition improves is a good idea. You can also take oral medications such as H2-blockers or Proton-pump Inhibitors to combat the symptoms of acid reflux.

  • Headache

    Caffeine consumption on an as-needed basis may help alleviate specific forms of headaches. When taken repeatedly, though, the reverse effect can occur. For example, caffeine from Pu Erh tea may promote persistent headaches if used regularly.

    According to some studies, as little as 100 mg of caffeine per day might cause daily headaches. However, the actual amount required to generate a headache varies depending on an individual's tolerance. Pu Erh tea contains less caffeine than other common caffeinated drinks like soda or coffee, but certain varieties can contain up to 60 mg of caffeine per cup.

    Management: If you get persistent headaches and believe your tea use causes them, consider cutting back or removing them from your intake for a period to see if your condition improves. You can also drink pain relievers to manage your headaches.


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Pu Erh Tea Must-know Precautions:

  • Caffeine sensitivity, like sleeplessness, high blood pressure, headaches, or gastrointestinal disorders, should be avoided when drinking Pu Erh tea. However, most people consume 1 to 2 cups of Pu Erh tea each day without any problems.
  • Furthermore, due to its high caffeine level, Pu-erh tea can cause overdose, especially in pregnant women. Caffeine cannot be eliminated from a pregnant woman's diet, although it should not be used in excess. According to experts, caffeine intake for pregnant women should not exceed 200 mg per day. As a result, consuming Pu Erh tea can lead to a miscarriage.
  • Breastfeeding women should not consume more than 300 mg of caffeine each day. Furthermore, excessive Pu Erh tea consumption may interrupt sleep, stimulate bowel movement in breastfed babies, and irritate nursing moms. 
  • Lastly, if someone is bleeding, it is preferable not to consume Pu Erh tea.

References: 

  1. Healthline. 2020. Pu-erh Tea: Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects, and More. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/pu-erh-tea-benefits. Retrieved on 27 March 2022.
  2. Very Well Fit. 2020. Pu-erh Tea: Benefits, Side Effects, and Preparations. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfit.com/pu-erh-tea-benefits-side-effects-and-preparations-5089405. Retrieved on 27 March 2022. 
  3. Very Well Health. 2020. What Is Pu-erh Tea?. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-pu-erh-tea-4114421. Retrieved on 27 March 2022. 
  4. WebMD. 2021. Pu-Erh Tea - Uses, Side Effects, and More. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1169/pu-erh-tea. Retrieved on 27 March 2022.

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