Puerh tea benefits stem from the deeply complex fermentation process of traditional Chinese tea leaves. It just might also be the most complex tea on the planet. Puerh, a delicious and smoky tea, benefits health because is rich in antioxidants and fermentation products that reduce inflammation in the body. By dampening inflammation, it may reduce all chronic diseases.
What is Puerh Tea?
Puerh is fermented tea that comes in tea cakes or loose leaf varieties. This tea comes from trees that are from 700 to 1000 years old in a very remote village in the Yunnan region of China [R]. There are many names for Puerh, including Pu erh, puer, pu’er, po lei, dark tea, black tea, and bolay tea
The long fermentation and carefully controlled conditions of aging of the tea leaves is what sets it apart. This process makes the teas taste complex and deep. This is why Puerh tea may appeal to those who like bolder flavors like coffee.
Many types of puerh tea are on the market today. Lake Missoula Tea has a great Puerh tea that I tried called Shou Puerh. It has a complex, deep, almost woody flavor. I’m drawn to a specific kind of Puerh called Shou Puerh a lot because I love strong flavors.
The complex properties of Puerh outshine the benefits of the popular green matcha tea. Read on to learn more of the fascinating Puerh tea benefits.
History of Puerh Healing Powers
Ritual and secrecy of women healers are central to the power and history of Puerh. This tea is made from ancient tea trees and then fermented by traditional methods. Secrets of Puerh tea-making are also deeply hidden still today.
Thousands of years of healing traditions, including the healing powers of Puerh tea, are passed down by women to their daughters. Women hold the power of plant medicine here in the Yunnan part of China.
What are Pu erh Tea Health Benefits?
Puerh tea has a vast number of healthy compounds [R]. It is rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body. By dampening inflammation, it may reduce all chronic diseases.
Puerh tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including:
- gallic acid
- resorcylic acid
- gallocatechin gallate
These antioxidant compounds help protect the body from pollution, toxins and more.
Puerh also has many compounds that helps the digestive tract, including probiotics, prebiotics, antibacterial compounds and healthy fungi.
Puerh May Prolong Lifespan
In a small village on Jingmai mountain, there are over 100 people over the age of 100, many still with health and vitality. They drink a lot of puerh tea. Science shows that pu erh tea benefits and any other tea for that matter, may be partly due to the ritual of tea. Frequent tea drinking, in general, may increase lifespan.
The Ritual of Tea
I am an unapologetic coffee drinker. Lately, though, yearning for more variety in my life, I am pulled toward the mysteries and complexities of tea. Coffee feels wonderful, but also hurried and over-stimulating at times.
We need to, as a society, take time to incorporate ritual and slowing down. Tea is perfect for this.
Drinking Puerh tea is different than drinking other black tea. It has a very complex, smoky flavor.
Puerh For Brain Health
Puerh tea may improve memory and protect the brain because it has numerous compounds that reduce inflammation.
Tea drinking may also slow down memory loss, especially in people who carry certain genes for inflammation.
Puerh may protect the nervous system by reducing a toxin called glutamate in neurons [R].
Puerh also contains a substance called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter which may help improve mood, reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and calm the nerves.
Puerh Tea Weight Loss Benefits
Many people swear that they lose weight while drinking Puerh tea. Now, research is proving that Puerh tea benefits may truly be to maintain and lose weight.
In a rigorous clinical study (DB-RCT), daily Puerh tea-drinking resulted in increased weight loss compared to placebo [R].
Fat loss in the arm, belly and legs within the Puerh group also occurred.
Puerh Tea is Energizing and Relaxing
Like all tea, Puerh has small amounts of caffeine, but also contains L-theanine, which helps the body relax.
Warm beverages are known to help the body warm, which in turn can be calming.
Puerh Cholesterol Benefits
In a study of 59 overweight or obese adults, cholesterol levels known as small, dense LDL levels improved with Puerh tea drinking using 3 grams of tea per day compared to placebo. The dangerous cholesterol numbers were improved in 4 weeks as well as 8 weeks.
Puerh, especially the types that are fermented for longer duration, contain statin, a known compound that lowers cholesterol.
Puerh may also reduce fat build-up in fat cells as shown in rat study.
Puerh Tea is a Probiotic
Probiotics are critical to our immune system and for keeping our digestive tract healthy.
Puerh tea is complex and its composition is highly dependent on how it is fermented, stored and aged. Fermented foods have probiotic effects and help digestion.
Many people aren’t aware that fungi can play roles as probiotics and prebiotics. Think mushrooms.
Samples of two different Puerh teas found both had around 390 fungal strains and around 630 bacterial strains in each, making them probiotic in nature.
Fungal diversity is greater if made from fresh tea lives in the traditional fermentation methods.
In contrast, yogurts typically only have a handful of strains of bacteria [R].
Fermented of tea increases antioxidants. These include gallic acid, resorcylic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol [R]. These are all beneficial compounds in the body.
Puerh May Help Fight Cancer
I found over 10 preclinical studies that studied the effects of Puerh on cancer: all of them reduced growth and/or spread of tumors. Here are examples of what I found:
- Puerh reduced the cancer cell growth in cell culture, while reducing the metastasis of cancer in mice [R].
- Puerh tea reduced growth of tumors while keeping healthy cells healthy in a mouse model of cancer [R].
Puerh May Improve Bone Health
Puerh tea reduces inflammation, which may help keep bones healthy. Puerh protected from bone loss by reducing bone breakdown (osteoclast activity) in a research study of post-menopausal mice.
Tea Rituals Protect Overall Health
The health effects of slowing down enough to sit and sip some tea with a good friend or family member are also important.
Japanese tea ceremonies use rituals of creating both aesthetic and calming environment when preparing and drinking teas. Schools are even created around drinking tea ceremonies in Japan.
Ritual of tea drinking itself may be healthy. Sipping tea that was treated with good intentions (given by Buddhist monks) largely improved mood compared to the tea that wasn’t treated with good intentions [R].
Buy Quality Puerh Tea
These days you can find Puerh in many places. Why does source matter?
Pu erh tea benefits depend on the quality of the fermentation and quality of the tea leaves. Find tea companies like Lake Missoula Tea that help support farmers of tea and support growing sustainable and quality tea. They help elephants survive and thrive in a world with ever-increasing demands on land space.
Buy organic teas that are from ancient tea trees.
Health benefits of Puerh tea and all teas are vast and rigorous in research by now. But quality will always matter.
How To Brew Puerh
- Boil filtered water
- Add 1 tsp of Puerh tea to 8 oz of hot water.
- Steep for 3 minutes
Drinking Pu erh tea is safe. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to limit your tea intake to 2 cups or less per day. I prefer to drink my tea before noon to minimize any chances of caffeine-induced insomnia.
Interactions with Medications
Puerh tea has positive health benefits, but could interact with medications such as:
- Diabetes medicines
- Blood clotting medicines
- Blood pressure medications
As always, talk to your doctor before starting a new food or beverage.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.