Detox Tea 101: What Is It (Really) And Is It Worth All the Buzz?

Detox Tea 101: What Is It (Really) And Is It Worth All the Buzz?

If you don’t know “detox tea” from the coffee and tea section of your grocery store, you probably know about it from Instagram. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Vanessa Hudgens have long touted the successes of going on a 28-day or two-week detox tea program. Detox tea programs were basically the hair gummy of 2017 (AKA brands partnered with every influencer and the entire cast of The Bachelorette). 

But many brands selling “fitness teas” have come seriously under fire for false claims or damaging culture surrounding “skinny teas.” Beyond just the negative self-image they promote (that’s an article for another day), the teas can also come with negative side effects that no amount of temporary “de-bloating” is worth. But various teas and tea leaves have been used for thousands of years to boost health. So are detox teas actually bad, is there a certain detox tea that is “good,” and what’s up with those de-bloating and weight loss promises? Because it’s so confusing, I asked the experts for answers. Want to know the tea (pun intended)? Read on for your comprehensive guide to detox tea. 



What is detox tea?

There’s two different types of tea that can identify as detox tea. “Some ‘detox teas’ are a safe blend of tea leaves, just like any other tea, that naturally assists in the body’s detoxification,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a psychologist and author. “Others include extra chemicals like strong herbs, laxatives, high-caffeine medicines, and substances like ephedra, means to empty your intestines and bladder.” 

Sounds confusing? Let me walk you through the difference. One type of detox tea is just tea leaves known for detoxifying benefits by assisting the body’s natural detoxification process with the goal for an overall boost in health. These teas are made from herbs and plants like dandelion root, licorice, red rooibos, lemongrass, or green tea leaves. They’re typically caffeine-free (except for green tea) and are intended to drink whenever, just like any tea or coffee drink. 

The second kind of “detox tea” is what you see all over Instagram. These 28-day programs or teas that go by “skinny tea” or “fitness tea” claim to have specific outcomes such as weight loss or de-bloating rather than just overall assisting the body’s natural functions. They typically contain some of the ingredients you see in the first type of detox tea, like green tea leaves or dandelion root, but they likely contain high doses of these ingredients, as well as other ingredients like added caffeine or laxatives. These teas “work” by acting as a diuretic to get rid of water weight in the body (you know you’ve seen all those before and after pics). The “detox” title is misleading because the intention has more to do with six-pack abs than getting rid of toxins. 



Are there any cons of detox tea?

Just a general FYI: anything that’s temporary (like a program or diet you’re meant to maintain for a certain period of time) is not sustainable by definition. You might see less bloating for a short period of time from these programs, but it won’t change the body overtime. More importantly, you could experience some of the side effects and damage the body. “Many of these detox teas are essentially just laxatives marketed as a cleanse diet,” explained Dr. Martin Jugenburg, a renown plastic surgeon based in Toronto. “Laxative additives might lead to a small drop in weight, but doesn’t have a long term benefit and could lead to rebound weight gain.”

“Even if you do lose water weight from the diuretic effects, you’ll recover it back when you stop the tea,” agreed Dr. Katerina Schkodzik MD, an OB-GYN and medical writer for Miracare. “More importantly, the effects on the body are harmful. Since it’s making you lose water weight, there’s a risk of dehydration. Many ingredients found in detox teas are not regulated by the FDA. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, bloating, nausea, nervousness, irritation, headaches, and sleep disruption.” Bottom line: steer clear of any product that claims to get rid of bloat or help you lose weight in 14 days. At best, they’re a waste of money; there’s no scientific evidence that supports claims made by these detox tea companies. At worst, it could have damaging effects on your entire body and lead to dehydration. 



Can the body benefit from “detox” products?

Yes, the body is regularly exposed to toxins through food, skincare products, and environment. But the body is built to detoxify all on its own. “Cleanse diets or detoxes are among the worst types of fads because they are based on the myth that one needs to ‘cleanse’ their body,” Dr. Jugenburg said. “Unless you lost your liver and kidney (the organs that filter out unwanted substances), there is no need for any detoxes–your body has a sophisticated detoxification system all on its own.”

“The human body already has a perfect detox system that works through the liver, kidneys, and excretory system,” Dr. Schkodzik agreed. “If you want to boost the health of the body’s detoxification system, ask your doctor about diet and overall lifestyle changes you can make to boost health.” For more information on detoxing and how to support your body’s natural detoxification system, read this



So are all “detox teas” bad?

Now that we’ve addressed that kind of detox tea, let’s talk about the other kind, or the tea leaves that are intended to drink just like any other tea and can assist the body’s natural detoxification. In reality, “detox tea” is not an Instagram trend; people have been using tea to assist the body in detoxification for thousands of years. Practices like Traditional Chinese Medicine have always used blends of tea leaves as medicine or to boost health. There’s a wide variety of teas (and different teas in different parts of the world), and many of them come with amazing health benefits and healing properties. 

When it comes to the dandelion root, licorice, red rooibos, lemongrass, or green tea leaves that are known for detoxifying, the tea is not literally removing toxins from the body. Rather, they are supporting the liver, kidneys, or other key organs in the body’s detox system. They are not intended to give you symptoms (like diarrhea to flush out water weight), and do not promise any immediate benefits. Instead, these teas are just another way to support your body’s overall health.

For example, Dr. Sandra El Hajj, a naturopathic doctor specialized in preventative health and medical writer for MyMSTeam, recommends green tea infused with ginger and lemon to help assist the body’s natural detoxification. Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, likes teas with a high antioxidant content because antioxidants help keep the detoxification system (and overall body) healthy. “Some of the most effective detox teas have a high antioxidant content, like green tea, cinnamon, turmeric, clove dandelion, and ginger,” she explained. Bottom line: if it’s a “tea” that’s intended for a temporary time period and promises weight loss or bloating benefits, run. Instead, look for organic and high quality tea leaf blends that are meant to support your overall health. Trust your body to do its job, and do whatever you can to love and support it. Now that’s the tea. 


Please consult a doctor or a mental health professional before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.


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