Your Facebook questions answered: Is chicory tea a stimulant? What about decaf tea?

Question: “I have a new question which came up at our local tai chi class. Having tea at each class is part of the ritual but of course there are many who can’t have/won’t have caffeine so herbal teas are made instead. Now people are throwing out herbal teas with chicory because of the belief that chicory acts much the same way as caffeine and causes the same reactions. I’ve gone through Google and haven’t found much but what I have found doesn’t seem to substantiate any of these fears. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

I also have more questions about tea. Today I heard “Those decaffeinated teas have chemicals in them to make them decaffeinated. Concerns? Thoughts? And while I am at it – the other concern that seems to keep coming up is drinking teas that have pesticides in them. Your thoughts would be appreciated about both the decaffeination process and pesticides in teas. And, as always, many thanks.”,  says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Jennifer Burnham.

Answer: Jennifer, you’re not alone in wondering about some of these issues surrounding tea. Herbal, decaf or just plain tea, what the best choice?

First, let me tackle the chicory issue. Chicory does not contain caffeine but does contain a compound called caffeic acid. Coffee actually contains both caffeic acid and caffeine but they are very different compounds and are not related.

This may be where the confusion arises.

Caffeic acid is a polyphenol,  a substance which acts as an antioxidant. It’s just one of the many beneficial substances found in chicory. Tell your classmates that chicory extracts can offer a bounty of other health perks besides supplying antioxidants including anti-inflammatory action, possible protection against stomach ulcers, prebiotic effects and immune system perks. It may also lower blood sugar levels so anyone taking medication for diabetes should be aware of this. And since it’s a member of the same botanical family as ragweed, those allergic to members of this family should take note of any reactions.

Herbal teas can be a super substitute for caffeine-containing drinks but there is a note of caution. These beverages are simply extracts of various plants – plants which may contain compounds that could potentially have similar actions to pharmaceutical preparations. After all, many medication were first derived from plants. As a result, having a variety of herbal teas, especially if you’re taking any medications which could interact with the tea, is a smart idea. That way you don’t get too much of any one compound.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should check with a knowledgeable health professional about the safety of various herbal teas. For example, common herbal teas such as chamomile and juniper berries should be avoided during these times in a woman’s life.

Distressed over decaffeinated?

Caffeine can be removed from tea in a variety of ways. Chemical decaffeination involves the use of ethyl acetate or methyl acetate, both of which are considered to be safe. But for those concerned about these compounds due to the amounts of tea they drink, there are water processed decaf teas available.

If you’re drinking copious amounts of decaf tea, though, you might want to check out effects on your pearly whites.

Next up: Part 2 –  Pesky pesticide issues about tea

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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3 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: Is chicory tea a stimulant? What about decaf tea?”

  1. Jennifer Burnham
    December 18, 2018 at 7:44 am #

    A Million Thanks,Rosie! Well done. Bravo!! Much appreciated.

  2. December 18, 2018 at 7:53 am #

    My pleasure, Jennifer! Stay tuned for part 2 about pesticides and tea – the real story.

  3. Jennifer Burnham
    December 18, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

    Looking forward to “The rest of the story”!

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