Tea has been enjoyed by various cultures worldwide for thousands of years. Today’s researchers are finding that traditional teas (i.e. black, green, or oolong teas) and various herbal teas contain antioxidants that may be effective for treating many health conditions, including high cholesterol. In this article, we’ll examine the science behind drinking tea for cholesterol problems.
Whether traditional or herbal, each tea is distinct based on how it is processed and grown.
Traditional teas, for instance, are made from the buds and leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Black tea will undergo extensive fermentation, oolong tea is subject to partial fermentation, and green tea leaves are dried and heated for minimal fermentation.
Herbal teas, on the other hand, are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant. They may derive from the parts of any edible plant, including the flowers, bark, roots, fruit, or buds. Some of the most promising cholesterol-lowering teas include ginger, peppermint, dandelion, jasmine, and hibiscus.
In This Article:
Tea and Cholesterol: How Does It Work?
Why does drinking tea lower your cholesterol levels? It is likely due to specific antioxidants in traditional teas and some herbal ones.
Theaflavins are thought to be the main bioactive ingredient in traditional tea, and may give the drink its cholesterol-lowering effects.
Theaflavins are antioxidant plant compounds (polyphenols) formed by the condensation of antioxidant flavan-3-ols known as catechins. This process occurs in the leaves during the fermentation of black tea and green tea. The more fermented the tea leaves, the fewer catechins are present. As a result, green tea has a higher catechin concentration than black tea.
How do theaflavins and catechins lower cholesterol?
They appear to do this by removing the plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol in the liver, which results from increasing the amount of binding sites on the liver for LDL.
At the same time, they may also inhibit the absorption and reabsorption of cholesterol in your intestines. Bile is made in the liver, and it is high in cholesterol. Catechins, in particular, will block the reabsorption of bile in the body, and this increases cholesterol excretion through the gut.
The evidence for the benefits of tea drinking comes from a number of animal and human studies.
Research shows that cholesterol absorption may be decreased after drinking black tea and its catechins in studies involving cholesterol-fed rats. Reduced absorption was thought to be behind the cholesterol-lowering effects in rat studies, and worked by blocking the cholesterol from assimilating into lipid molecules.
Human studies have also produced favorable results. One study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine in 2003 found that 375 milligrams (mg) of theaflavin-enriched green tea extract given for 12 weeks had reduced total cholesterol and increased the “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in 240 adult men and women on a low-fat diet with mild-to-moderate high cholesterol.
The theaflavin-enriched green tea extract had included 150 mg of green tea catechins, 75 mg of theaflavins, and 150 mg of other polyphenols.
A similar study from 2010 of 77.5 mg of isolated theaflavins in women with mild high cholesterol revealed no significant cholesterol reduction in comparison to a placebo group. That being said, this was a smaller study with fewer theaflavins, which may explain why the isolated theaflavins performed no better than the placebo.
Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2005 found that black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea were all effective at reducing serum triglyceride levels after 30 weeks. People with lipid disorders will often have high levels of either LDL cholesterol or a fat known as triglycerides, or both.
Teas to Lower Cholesterol
What is the best tea to lower cholesterol? This section will feature what may be the best traditional and herbal teas to lower cholesterol, based on research studies.
The popular traditional teas for lowering cholesterol will include black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea. When it comes to herbal tea, the best cholesterol-lowering teas seem to be rooibos tea, bitter melon tea, ginger tea, hibiscus tea, jasmine tea, peppermint tea, and dandelion tea.
We will look closely at these traditional and herbal teas to see how they might reduce your high cholesterol.
Best Traditional Teas to Lower Cholesterol
A 12-week study published in the journal Preventive Medicine in 2012 compared black tea drinkers to plain hot water drinkers.
The black tea used was high in theaflavins, flavonols, flavan-3-ols, and derivatives of gallic acid. Researchers found that the consumption of nine grams daily of black tea infusate, or three cups of black tea, would result in a highly significant reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, such as fasting serum glucose and triglyceride levels.
Triglyceride levels had dropped by 36%, while HDL cholesterol levels had increased by 20%. There was also a significant reduction in the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol.
Other research suggests that black tea also helps keep the arteries open in those with high cholesterol. As a result, having black tea on a regular basis could possibly improve the function of blood vessel walls, and this would allow for improved blood flow and dilation.
Pu-erh Tea (Chinese Black Tea)
Pu-erh tea is also known as Chinese black tea. This highly valued tea comes from China’s Yunnan province, and is named after a southern Yunnan city known as Pu’er. Pu-erh tea is often sold in specialty Asian stores.
You can brew pu-erh tea as you would oolong or black teas, and depending on the variety of pu-erh, the color when brewed can be red, golden, yellow, or dark brown.
Pu-erh’s cardiovascular benefits are likely due to its antioxidant content; as a result, it may be able to lower cholesterol. Research shows that long-term ingestion of pu-erh tea extract can significantly decrease levels of blood cholesterol in rats.
In a human study published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2008, pu-erh tea extract had significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and improved body weight in 47 people.
Green tea is everyone’s favorite health drink due to its higher antioxidant content, particularly of catechins, when compared to black or oolong tea. As a result, this tea may prevent many heart disease risk factors, including high cholesterol.
How does the use of green tea for cholesterol work? The polyphenols in green tea are thought to lower cholesterol by preventing the absorption of cholesterol.
A 12-week-long, 2003-published study found that taking 375 mg capsules of green tea extract had reduced LDL cholesterol levels. The polyphenols in the capsules were said to be equal to the amount found in 35 cups of green tea. The green tea extract had resulted in a 16% reduction of cholesterol levels.
In a 2009 study, 250 mg of green tea extract daily for eight weeks was found to lower total cholesterol by 4.5% and LDL cholesterol by 3.9% in patients with high cholesterol.
A 2011 meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed green tea’s ability to reduce both LDL and total cholesterol.
Large-scale studies of 76,979 people between ages 40 and 79 have found that oolong tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of death due to heart disease.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014 found that oolong tea was able to reduce the risk of dyslipidemia, which can lead to atherosclerosis and is characterized by high triglycerides and high cholesterol.
For the study, patients consuming more than 600 ml of oolong tea daily found the most reduced risk, associated with a decrease in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 found that 750 ml of oolong tea daily for 35 days reduced cholesterol levels through the prevention of fat absorption.
Best Herbal Teas to Lower Cholesterol
Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) is the national drink of South Africa, and is considered a popular beverage around the world. The antioxidant content in rooibos tea has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol.
What does the research say about rooibos tea cholesterol-lowering effects?
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2011 found that those drinking six cups of fermented rooibos tea daily for six weeks experienced a reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL cholesterol levels. The study included 40 overweight men and women with a high risk of heart disease.
Another 2011 study, published in the journal Phytomedicine, also reported rooibos tea’s significant cholesterol-lowering effects in rats.
Bitter Melon Tea
Bitter melon tea is made from the fruit of the Momordica charantia plant, which is native to Africa, Asia, and parts of the Caribbean. It also has a long history in both Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.
The fruit extract of bitter melon has shown potential for reducing symptoms of cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol.
Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2004 found that bitter melon tea could reduce triglyceride levels in rats, which meant there was less likelihood of cholesterol deposition in the arteries. Consequently, bitter melon tea may also be able to prevent atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
Several animal studies have also found that bitter melon is able to significantly reduce both LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) tea is often documented for its digestive benefits; however, research indicates that it is able to lower cholesterol as well.
One study published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research in 2013 found that ginger extract lowered LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol with a similar effectiveness as a common cholesterol-lowering medication called atorvastatin.
Another study published in the Saudi Medical Journal in 2008 found that ginger significantly reduced triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), and total cholesterol when compared to a placebo group taking lactose capsules.
The most common hibiscus used for tea is Hibiscus sabdariffa. Due to its antioxidants, hibiscus tea may be able to help those with dyslipidemia manage their high triglycerides and high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol and high triglycerides are symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
One 2010 study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that hibiscus extracts had lowered triglyceride and cholesterol levels in metabolic syndrome patients.
Other research showed that taking hibiscus tea twice daily for a month had significantly increased HDL cholesterol levels while also lowering triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetics.
Although we know the benefits of hibiscus are mostly likely due to antioxidants, more recent research from 2018 indicates that the cholesterol-lowering effect of hibiscus can be attributed, in part, to the antioxidant anthocyanin.
Jasmine varieties often used for jasmine tea include Jasminum officinale and Jasminum sambac. This tea may be able to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
How is jasmine tea able to reduce cholesterol? The cholesterol-lowering effect is thought to come from the catechin compounds, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate. These catechins are known to inhibit LDL oxidation, and this, in turn, may prevent heart disease.
Research published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1999 found that the epicatechins in jasmine tea had a hypolipidemic, cholesterol-lowering effect in hamsters fed a high-fat diet.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) tea is another potent cholesterol-lowering tea. A study of diabetic mice published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2011 found that peppermint significantly lowered VLDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and increased HDL cholesterol levels.
Another 2011 study found that peppermint tea could lower cholesterol by helping the body produce bile. Since bile contains cholesterol, the production of bile could help the body use cholesterol more efficiently.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) tea is another herbal tea that is noted for its heart health benefits, and especially for lowering high cholesterol.
One study done on rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2010, found that dandelion root and leaf could protect against atherosclerosis by significantly lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
This effect was due to the antioxidant and hypolipidemic effects associated with dandelion.
Final Thoughts on Teas for Cholesterol
Following a healthy diet has a major impact on reducing dangerously high cholesterol levels, and tea consumption can play a role in your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.
In this article, we reviewed what could be the best teas to lower cholesterol, according to scientific evidence. Effective herbal teas to lower cholesterol may include ginger tea, bitter melon tea, rooibos tea, jasmine tea, hibiscus tea, peppermint tea, and dandelion tea.
If you prefer a traditional tea for cholesterol effects, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, or pu-erh tea—also called Chinese black tea—may each work well.
How do you make tea to potentially lower cholesterol? Steeping green tea will take only two to three minutes; steeping any longer will cause the tea to release tannins that make it bitter. Other teas will take three to five minutes to steep.
It is also a good idea to combine a healthy diet and tea consumption with exercise that consists of weight training and burst training. This can boost human growth hormone levels, which may naturally lower serum LDL cholesterol and increase serum HDL cholesterol.
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