Hidden in the Tea Leaves

Chamomile and bluegrass ingredients misidentified in tea

(RxWiki News) Research has confirmed that tea has lots of beneficial and healthy compounds. However, not all ingredients in tea are always listed, which could be worrisome for some health-conscious people.  What’s a tea lover to do?

A recent study confirms that many ingredients go unlisted specificlly in tea and many other herbal products. There's no need to fear though; most of these hidden ingredients are harmless.

"If you’re allergic to chamomile and bluegrass, take care when drinking tea."

Scientists from Rockefeller University, with the help of three New York City high school students, studied 70 teas and 60 herbal products. The team discovered that four percent of the teas and 35 percent of the herbal products were labeled inaccurately.

The most common ingredient left off herbal tea products was chamomile. Other ingredients that were often not listed included parsley, bluegrass and a fern species. While most of these extra ingredients are harmless, a small group of people with allergies could be affected.

The team used an accurate, quick, cheap and easy technology, known as DNA barcoding, to determine the different ingredients in the herbal and tea products. Scientists and researchers all around the world are using DNA barcoding to make a library for plants and animals, so identifying substances and even animal species will be more accessible.

While it’s not realistic for consumers to purchase the DNA barcoding equipment to test their own teas, tea and herbal product makers can. All ingredients should be listed on products and it's the producers’ job to make that happen.

The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Review Date: 
July 27, 2011