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Summer Skin Relief from Black Tea

Bug bites, itchy rashes, sunburn… ah, the joys of summer! We all suffer from these minor skin irritations from time-to-time, no matter how careful we are to avoid them. Fortunately, fast relief is only a cup of black tea away.

In contrast to herbal tea, true tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a shrubby plant in the evergreen family that is native to China. While there are more than 1,500 cultivars of this plant, most black teas are produced from the Chinese variety or from Camellia sinensis subsp. assamica, a subspecies grown in the Assam region of Northern India. Another variety sometimes used to make black tea is the ancient pu’erh plant from the Chinese province of Yunnan.

All of these species contain tannins, water soluble polyphenols that naturally occur in many fruits (strawberries, blueberries), nuts (pecans, walnuts), herbs (thyme, cumin) and even tree barks (cinnamon). Aside from regulating growth in root, stem and leaf tissue, the astringent quality of tannin compounds help to protect plants from disease and predatory insects.

Black tea tannins also contain proanthocyanidins, flavonoids with potent antioxidant properties. Also referred to as condensed tannins, proanthocyanidins have been shown to reduce UV-induced skin damage in topical formulations. In addition to providing anti-inflammatory benefits, the astringent properties of black tea help to speed healing by tightening skin and drawing out impurities.

To give your skin to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of black tea, simply brew a cup. While you enjoy sipping the tea, let the tea bag cool on a plate. When cooled, apply the moist tea bag to the area of affected skin. For more coverage, make a black tea infusion using a medium or large-sized muslin bag. You can also use a large muslin bag as a bath bag and soak your entire body in a “tub tea.”

Use a black tea compress on…

  • Burns, including sunburn

  • Insect bites and stings

  • Minor cuts and scrapes

  • Rashes


R. van Wijka, S. Bosmana, G. Achantab, E. van Wijka; "Topical formulation containing natural oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCS) reduces UV-induced oxidative stress in skin as assessed by ultra-weak photon emission (UPE)" European Journal of Integrative Medicine; December 2009.

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