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Latest Science on Rooibos & Nettle Tea

Rooibos, or red tea, is anecdotally reported to aid stress-related symptoms, but it has none of the mood-altering phytonutrients thought responsible for the increased calm and decreased stress after drinking green tea (see Dietary Brain Wave Alteration). So why do some people feel less stressed drinking red tea?

Researchers recently found that human adrenal gland cells in a petri dish produce about 4 times fewer steroid hormones in the presence of red tea. This could certainly result in lower stress hormone levels if it happened within the body, but the effect was so dramatic the researchers were concerned it might adversely effect the production of sex steroid hormones as well. Thankfully, that’s not what they found when they tested it in human subjects. The same, however, may not be true of nettle tea.

Nettle is used to relieve the symptoms of prostate enlargement by boosting estrogen levels, but case reports show men drinking too much may grow breasts and women may actually start lactating. Nettle tea is safe as long as you 1) don’t drink too much, 2) don’t mistake it for deadly nightshade if you forage it, and 3) don’t put the leaves in your mouth fresh. They don’t call them stinging nettles for nothing! In the video above I show a close-up of the impalement of a nettle spicule in the skin.

My go-to herbal tea is hibiscus (see my last Care2 post Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?). But nettle tea is touted for being packed with minerals. This always seemed a bit strange to me. Yes, if you boil dark green leafy vegetables long enough, you do lose minerals into the cooking water, but how many minerals could we be getting if you just steep some tea? We never knew because it hadn’t been tested, until now.

Researchers compared the mineral content of nettle tea to chamomile tea, mint tea, St. John’s Wort, and sage. Nettle tea didn’t seem to have much more than any of the others, but maybe they’re all really high?

One cup of nettle tea has the same amount of iron in a dried apricot, the zinc found in a single pumpkin seed, one-twentieth of a mushroom’s worth of copper, and 4 peanuts’ worth of magnesium and a fig’s worth of calcium. I agree with the researchers that a cup of herbal tea may not be an important source of minerals, but it’s not negligible. Greens are so packed with nutrition that we can benefit by just drinking some hot water they’ve been soaking in for a few minutes.

The fact that so much nutrition leaches into the water in nettle tea is a reason we don’t want to boil greens unless we’re making soup or otherwise consuming the cooking water. See†Best Cooking Method for more tips on preserving nutrients.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my videos here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: rimblas / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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7:36AM PDT on May 13, 2013

Thanks for sharing, must add red tea to my diet!

5:13PM PDT on May 5, 2013


3:40AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013


8:07AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

Thank you Dr. Michael Greger, for Sharing this!

9:56PM PDT on Apr 17, 2013

Anyone for a cuppa?

6:36PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013


4:44PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

If you pick a nettle to put in your mouth, it will sting your hand..... Incidentally, for a PERFECT cup of tea, brew one rooibos tea-bag with one ordinary black tea-bag.... it has the smoothness of rooibos and the tang of real tea!

For more on nettles, see: 'Milarepa'. :)

8:00AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013


5:50AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Thank you Dr. Michael Greger, for Sharing this!

4:04AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Let's take a time out with tea

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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