Herbal tea: why is it better to avoid tea bags for health?

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Bulk or sachet, what is the best way to consume tea and herbal teas? Medisite’s editorial staff has looked into the matter and helps you see things more clearly with a plant specialist and the latest scientific data on the subject.

A Canadian study published in 2019 in the journal ACS Environmental Sciences & Technology revealed that it some tea bags that are immersed in boiling water could release microparticles of plastic during infusion, which we then ingest while sipping the drink. The affected sachets are produced with nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and are used by many industrial manufacturers. In general, they are pyramid-shaped and slightly shiny white sachets. The scientists specifically noted that each test cup where a single sachet steeped for five minutes at 95°C contained between 13 and 16 micrograms of plastic, or astronomical quantities according to them. “Table salt, for example, has been shown to contain around 0.005 micrograms of plastic per gram,” explained Nathalie Tufenkji, lead author of the study.

But for now, scientists do not know what the risks are for the body. “We have few data on human exposure to nanoplastics and their potential toxicity. We cannot therefore to date predict the risks of their consumption for human health ”, they specified.

A point also underlined by the herbalist Myriam Amchikak who specifies that “the hotter the water, the more plastic microparticles or pesticides are released into it”. Most commercial sachets are affected, “even when labeled organic”. These bags may also contain heavy metals and chemicals “which become harmful to health after a certain time”.

Herbal tea: loose plants are of better quality

While most tea bags sold in stores are unhealthy, the plants found there are generally of lower quality as well. “He is difficult to know exactly the contents of his herbal tea bag, and it sometimes happens that they are designed with leftover leaves, without any nutrients, or with plant debris, without whole leaves so that it spreads better through the paper. It’s called dust, which strongly alters the quality and taste of tea and herbal teas”, points out the herbalist Myriam Amchikak.

Infusion: loose plants are richer in nutrients

Conversely, the specialist praises loose plants, whose leaves “are often better qualities than those contained in the sachets because they are not chopped or broken”. This allows the plants to retain all their flavors and be very aromatic. “Bulk herbal teas are more indulgent with fresh herbs full of flavor. When they are not contained in a small bag, the leaves are whole and they have more room to infuse, so we obtain more minerals, vitamins or antioxidants than with herbal teabags.”

Bulk: an economical and ecological solution

Another advantage of choosing plants in bulk to consume infusions: its lower impact on the environment. “We limit packaging and individual bags and therefore produce less waste”, argues the herbalist Myriam Amchikak. “When you’ve finished your loose leaf tea or herbal tea, you can make compost, for example, without feeling guilty about using disposable bags all day long.”

Bulk plants keep longer

We do not pay for packaging and packaging that can raise prices.” In addition, a sachet of plants in bulk makes it possible to make more herbal teas than with a box of sachets, traditionally sold. So if at the time of purchase, the price is sometimes higher due to the quality of the ingredients, it balances out “because we reduce purchases over time”. Finally, “the whole bulk plants can be stored for about a year unlike plants in infusettes with an expiry date”.

If despite these reasons, you prefer to keep the traditional tea bags, the herbalist advises to avoid “paper bags bleached with chlorine, or closed with staples or glue”, for prefer silk muslin bags.

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