Is Tea Effective Against Coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic is an especially troubling one. Not only is the virus capable of infecting people at an astounding rate, but there is currently no treatment or cure for the disease. As such, most people have turned to other traditional and non-traditional methods when attempting to combat COVID-19.
One of the theories that have been put forth is that tea may be capable of protecting people against the coronavirus. Others believe that tea may act as a remedy to the disease. So, is there any truth to these claims at all?
Well, let’s take a closer look.
Where Did the Claims Begin?
Three separate parties have stated that tea could act as a remedy for COVID-19 – Sri Lanka, India, and Madagascar.
The Sri Lankan Outlook
The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka released some evidence questioning the viability of black tea as a treatment. The agency believed that black tea could help people fight the virus in several different ways.
First, it was presumed to be an immunity booster that would strengthen people’s immunity systems. In doing so, individuals would be better equipped to fight off viral agents that may invade their bodies. It is also believed that the catechins found in black tea could attach to the virus and prevent it from spreading.
Another theory was that the theaflavins in black tea were found to have an inhibitory effect on the SARS virus, which is also classified as a coronavirus. Based on this, there was an assumption that it would just as effective in defeating COVID-19 as well.
The Indian Public Claims
A message about tea helping with COVID-19 was spreading across India as well. However, it isn't as clear how these claims got started. This is largely because the story was being broadcasted over social media.
Here, it was assumed that the methylxanthines found in tea could help to inhibit the virus. Indians believed that this was based on research conducted by Dr. Li Wenliang, the famed coronavirus whistleblower. However, there is no evidence that Dr. Wenliang was ever involved in such a study.
The Madagascar Government Statements
The government of Madagascar has been personally involved in producing an herbal tea act as prophylaxis – prevention – to COVID-19. The beverage has been bottled and sold as the COVID-Organics, although it isn't clear what ingredients have been included in the drink.
So far, the scientific community has not been able to prove that the herbal tea does prevent the coronavirus. Furthermore, most scientists and doctors warn against individuals using such herbal remedies as it is unlikely they can help. And, in large doses, they may be harmful.
What Does the Science Say?
Of course, it is one thing for various agencies to claim that tea can help. What is most important, though, is if there is any scientific evidence behind this.
Now, there is some evidence that black tea can be useful against the influenza virus. In one study, black tea extracts were able to prevent the infectivity of the virus. However, it wasn’t able to stop the virus from replicating in cells.
In another study, scientists were able to show that theaflavins in black tea could inhibit the activity of SARS protease. In doing so, the extracts were able to prevent certain elements of the virus from replicating.
Can Tea Be an Effective Remedy?
Now, based on all this evidence, does it mean that tea can be used as an effective remedy? Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be the case. Let’s break this down a little further.
COVID-19 may be a virus, but it is very different from influenza. This is true of the structure and makeup of the coronavirus as well as the symptoms and severity. Thus, although black tea may be suitable for influenza, it will not have the same impact on COVID-19.
What about the fact that it can impede replication in SARS? After all, COVID-19 and SARS are both coronaviruses. The two viruses do have a 79 percent genetic similarity with one another. At the same time, COVID-19 is more easily transmitted than SARS and there are clear differences between the two.
For one thing, it appears that COVID-19 has similarities with other zoonotic diseases as well. This is unlike the SARS virus. As a result of this discrepancy, there is no evidence to support than any treatments for SARS could work against COVID-19 as well.
In the case of the theories floated by the Indian public, there appears to be no truth to these either. For one thing, Dr. Wenliang never actually researched the impact of tea on the coronavirus. It appears that the entire claim was a hoax.
When you look closely at all these claims, you realize that they are hearsay. Some individuals are simply trying to boost tea sales while others are desperately holding out hope for an easy and cost-effective cure.
The Final Verdict
In the end, it doesn’t appear that tea can have any kind of significant impact on the coronavirus. Tea can’t prevent the virus and can’t treat it or cure it either. Thus, any claims linked to this theory have turned out to be false.
That is not to say that tea doesn’t have any benefits. All true teas and herbal teas have preventative and curative properties. Therefore, drinking tea every day can be rather useful.
It should also be noted that any research into coronavirus treatments are still trying to make headway. Due to this, it isn't clear what components work and which do not. So, tea may have a greater use later on.
It is also important to follow doctors' and scientists' advice when treating coronavirus. You shouldn’t blindly follow remedies that claim to help. Only take medications or precautions that have been proven to work. This is the only way to keep you and your family safe.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.
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The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.