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Green tea: good for the gut, brain, heart—and potentially toxic to the liver? That was the case for a 16-year-old girl from the U.K. who ended up in the hospital after drinking Chinese green tea she ordered online as part of a weight-loss plan, according to a recent article published in BMJ Case Reports.
After sipping the beverage three times a day for three months, she started having symptoms of dizziness and stomach pains. Her physician diagnosed her with a UTI, but after a few unsuccessful rounds of antibiotics and even more symptoms (she started showing signs of jaundice, a yellowing of the skin), she was sent to the hospital, where docs uncovered she had herb-induced hepatitis.
Freaky—so what was going on? This kind of liver damage (called hepatotoxicity) can occur when too many herbs, supplements, or even medications (like Tylenol!) keep the liver from doing its job of clearing out toxins, says NYC-based gastroenterologist Valerie Gustave, M.D. “When something is billed as a weight-loss aid or supplement, odds are there are super-high concentrations of the herb or other toxins mixed into the product, and we have no way of regulating it,” says Gustave. (Study authors say pesticides may also be at fault for the girl’s reaction since other countries don’t share the same food-safety regulations we do.)
The bottom line: Don’t trash or swear off green tea since the plain-old bags you buy at the supermarket aren’t concentrated enough to cause similar effects, says Gustave. (More good news: The girl made a full and quick recovery after she stopped drinking the tea.) But it is essential to run any and all supplements by your M.D., and be extra cautious when buying them online.