Dieter's tea refers to many different brands of beverages carrying names such as herbal dieter's tea, dieter's drink, super dieter's tea or similar variations. Below the name on the label, you'll usually see a tagline telling you that the drink offers herbal support to promote cleansing. These dieter's teas are primarily laxatives, and the laxative they contain can cause serious side effects, such as depleting your potassium and affecting muscles in your colon.
Dieter's Tea Basics
Dieter's teas may have green or black tea as an ingredient, but most of them don't contain real tea; rather they're made from a blend of herbs. According to the labels on several brands, these teas cleanse toxins from your body, which is supposed to support your weight-loss efforts. But such claims aren't backed by evidence to date, reports NYU Langone Medical Center. Their labels often carry reminders that weight loss depends on restricting calories and getting regular exercise. Some even come with a sample menu or healthy diet recommendations. You'll also notice that the label warns you to carefully follow the directions. This is because many dieter's teas share one common ingredient -- senna -- which is a strong laxative.
Senna is a stimulant laxative, which means it works by stimulating muscles in the intestine to contract and push stool through your system. If you use senna too long, your bowel muscles may lose their normal tone and be unable to work on their own, reports FamilyDoctor.org. Some brands of dieter's tea report the amount of senna in one tea bag or serving, but many simply list it in the ingredients, so you won't know how much is in your cup of tea. Senna can cause cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea and low levels of potassium. Do not use senna if you have gastrointestinal problems such as Crohn's disease. Consult your physician before using it if you're pregnant or nursing, recommends Drugs.com.
Few, if any, of the ingredients in dieter's teas are weight-loss aids. A short list of the herbs they can contain includes mallow root, licorice root, chrysanthemum, hibiscus, locust plant, and flavorings such as cinnamon, orange peel and spearmint. While these ingredients are used in traditional Chinese medicine, most are not associated with weight loss. For example, chrysanthemum is traditionally used to treat fever, high blood pressure and chest pain, while licorice is used as an expectorant to loosen mucus. Columbia University notes that some ingredients in dieter's teas are touted as appetite suppressants, but the current evidence doesn't support their effectiveness.
Expectations and Risks
Laxatives do not help you lose weight. You may shed a few pounds, but it's due to water loss, which you'll gain back when you eat or drink again. Senna-based drinks won't help you reduce calorie consumption because food is absorbed in the small intestine, and senna isn't active until it reaches the large intestine, reports Drugs.com. The herbs in these teas may not contribute to weight loss, but they're still active ingredients. As just one example, licorice may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial abilities. Any herb with bioactive potential can also cause side effects or interfere with medications.
- Columbia University: Go Ask Alice: Herbal “Diet” Teas for Weight Loss
- FamilyDoctor.org: Laxatives: OTC Products for Constipation
- Drugs.com: Senna
- Center for Clinical Interventions: Laxative Misuse
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Chrysanthemum
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Licorice
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Colon Cleansing: Don’t Be Misled by Claims