Tea Gargling for Health

December 5, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The old adage goes, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. The field of alternative medicine is replete with examples of this truism. Countless ancient and innovative remedies, often carrying hefty price tags and inadequate and/or unreliable evidence, are promoted as virtual panaceas both online and in health food stores worldwide. However, as another saying goes, “There are exceptions to every rule”. It’s all the better when these exceptions happen to be economical and safe.

Gargling with tea in order to reduce the incidence and severity of upper respiratory infections is a great example of the best case scenario. A just published study in the Journal of Epidemiology is the latest publication to support the practice of gargling with tea. In the research, a group of over 19,000 nursery school children was observed over a 20 day period. The young participants were classified into two groups: those who gargled during a period of respiratory infection and those who did not. The children who gargled with green tea were much less likely (- 68%) to present fever than non-garglers. Similar findings have been documented in other age groups, including healthy adults and seniors residing in nursing homes. In the study involving the elderly residents, a gargling solution containing 200 microg/mL of green tea catechins, was administered thrice-daily over the duration of a typical cold and flu season. Some trials have even reported that black tea and plain old tap water likewise decrease the duration and risk of respiratory infections. These findings have lead some health advocates to recommend the widespread use of gargling in an attempt to reduce health care, insurance and workplace spending.

If you’re wondering how gargling with tea has such a potent preventive effect, the answer may lie in previous investigations unrelated to gargling. In them, researchers report that: Rinsing with tea extracts produces significant antimicrobial activity in the mouth. And, drinking green tea supports immune function by stimulating a subset of T-cells which may protect against influenza infection in at-risk populations such as health care workers. As winter approaches, I know I’ll be gargling as a preventive and therapeutic measure. Will you?

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Gargling for Oral Hygiene and the Development of Fever in Childhood (link)

Study 2 – Gargling with Tea Catechin Extracts for the Prevention of Influenza (link)

Study 3 – Prevention of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections by Gargling(link)

Study 4 – Prophylactic Effect of Black Tea Extract as Gargle Against Influenza (link)

Study 5 – Conventional and Alternative Medical Advice for Cold and Flu (link)

Study 6 – Cost-Effectiveness of Gargling for the Prevention of Upper Respiratory (link)

Study 7 – Potential Use of Tea Extract as a Complementary Mouthwash (link)

Study 8 – Green Tea Consumption Is Inversely Associated with the Incidence (link)

Study 9 – Effects of Green Tea Catechins and Theanine on Preventing Influenza (link)

Study 10 – L-Theanine Intervention Enhances Human γδ T Lymphocyte Function (link)

Garling May Decrease Health Care Costs & Drug-Related Side Effects

Source: BMC Health Serv Res. 2008 Dec 16;8:258. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, General Health

9 Comments & Updates to “Tea Gargling for Health”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Very interesting post. I have heard of drinking tea, especially green tea, for improving health. But this is great information. I think I will brew a pot of green tea and keep a bottle next to my toothbrush. Cheaper than a commercial mouthwash too!


  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Michelle. I hope it helps you stay healthy!

    Be well!


  3. Febe Says:

    Hi JP! Upper respiratory infection is one of my problems. It is a recurrent condition and in my case, it is every year. Your post is a big help for me. I hate using commercial gargle because it stings. This tea gargling is an alternative and it is really cheap. Thanks!

  4. anne h Says:

    Sometimes I think of a topic, and you post about it!
    I take that as a great sign!
    Love it!

  5. JP Says:

    I hope gargling with tea helps you avoid any URIs this year, Febe! Please let us know how it works out for you. 🙂

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Thanks, Anne! I take it as a great sign too! I may be on the right track after all. 😉

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 05/19/16:


    BMC Public Health. 2016 May 12;16(1):396.

    Effect of gargling with tea and ingredients of tea on the prevention of influenza infection: a meta-analysis.

    BACKGROUND: Influenza viruses can spread easily from person to person, and annual influenza epidemics are serious public health issues worldwide. Non-pharmaceutical public health interventions could potentially be effective for combatting influenza epidemics, but combined interventions and/or interventions with greater effectiveness are needed. Experimental studies have reported that tea and its ingredients (especially catechins) have antiviral activities. Although several clinical studies have investigated the use of tea or its ingredients to prevent influenza infections, the effect of gargling these substances has remained uncertain.

    METHODS: We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies and prospective cohort studies to assess the effect of gargling with tea and its ingredients on the prevention of influenza infection. The published literature was searched using the Cochrane Library, PubMed/MEDLINE (1966 to September 2015), Web of Science (1981 to September 2015), and Ichu-shi Web (1983 to September 2015). The extracted studies were read by two reviewers independently, and their overall scientific quality was evaluated. Studies meeting our inclusion criteria were pooled using the Mantel-Haenszel method in a fixed effects model and were also analyzed in a random effects model. The qualities of the model fits were assessed using the Akaike information criterion (AIC) and Bayesian information criterion (BIC).

    RESULTS: The literature search and review identified 5 studies that met the inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis (total number of participants, 1890; mean age range, 16-83 years). The participants who gargled with tea or its ingredients showed a lower risk of influenza infection than did participants who gargled with placebo/water or who did not gargle (fixed effects model, Mantel-Haenszel method: relative risk [RR] = 0.70, 95 % confidence interval [CI] = 0.54-0.89; random effects model: RR = 0.71, 95 % CI = 0.56-0.91). The fixed effects model had a better quality of fit than the random effects model (fixed effects model: AIC = 6.04, BIC = 5.65; random effects model: AIC = 8.74, BIC = 7.52).

    CONCLUSIONS: Gargling with tea and its ingredients may have a preventative effect for influenza infection. However, additional large-scale studies in different populations and a pooled analysis of these studies are needed to confirm the effect.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 02/02/17:


    J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2017 Jan-Mar;35(1):41-46.

    Effect of green tea mouth rinse on Streptococcus mutans in plaque and saliva in children: An in vivo study.

    AIMS: This study was conducted to evaluate and compare the antimicrobial efficacy of green tea catechin as a mouth wash on colony count of Streptococcus mutans in children.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A sample size of thirty children was selected out of screened 290 children by simple random sampling between the age group of 7 and 12 years. The study was conducted over a period of 2 weeks. After 24 h of oral prophylaxis, the baseline samples were collected and each group was subjected to mouth rinsing with green tea mouth wash for 2 weeks and further plaque and saliva samples were collected at 1- and 2-week intervals from baseline. Microbiological analysis of plaque and saliva samples was done by Dentocult SM strip kit (Orion Diagnostica, Finland), and the results were statistically analyzed and tabulated.

    RESULTS: Statistically, there was highly significant reduction in S. mutans count in plaque as well as in saliva for after 1- and 2-week intervals from baseline.

    CONCLUSION: Hence, finally, our study showed that green tea catechin is effective as a mouth wash against S. mutans and having better action in plaque as compared to saliva. It can be used as an adjunct to commercially available mouthwashes.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 08/01/17:


    J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2017 Jul;61(1):14-17.

    Antioxidant properties of green tea aroma in mice.

    Green tea (‘Sencha’), made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, is the most well-researched antioxidant beverage. The major source of its antioxidant activity is polyphenols, consisting mainly of catechins (flavan-3-ols). However, little is known about the physiological effects of green tea aroma, which lacks catechins. In the present study, we performed inhalation experiments with green tea aroma to evaluate its antioxidant activity in mice. As a result, the urinary 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine levels were significantly decreased in comparison with those of the non-treated group, and the serum antioxidant capacity was significantly increased by the inhalation administration of green tea aroma. Furthermore, the increase in the urinary 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine levels due to whole-body X-ray irradiation was significantly suppressed by the inhalation of green tea aroma. This is the first study to show the antioxidant activity of green tea aroma in vivo.

    Be well!


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