The Hidden Hazards of…Herbal Tea?

Over the last two years, I have had problems with water. Not the water I drink, but rather the water in my body. I suffer inexplicable bloating, I retain it, I have ridiculous thirsts, and I find myself running – sometimes tripping over the cat in my haste – to the bathroom. Sometimes I get there without mishap; sometimes I don’t.

As a result of all of these seemingly shifting tides, I’ve been known to head to the Wal-Mart in the second nearest town in the middle of the night to purchase Poise, as I certainly don’t want to be seen in my local CVS with the telltale pink and turquoise package.

So, if I’m so embarrassed by my recent predicament that I’m willing to go 20 miles out of my way to avoid the stigmatizing exposure associated with mild urinary incontinence then why the heck am I writing a blog about it, you ask. Good question. The answer: because I’m willing to face the mild embarrassment to get this information known. Besides, when you admit something publicly, it loses its sting. Or maybe I am tired of being what Erving Goffman refers to as discreditable and have decided to discredit myself openly and on my terms.

Notably this biggest, most stigmatizing water problem varies by the season. It tends to get worse in the winter and all but disappear in the summer. Weird, huh?

And as we are heading into what seems like the sixth month of winter, I have been at my wit’s end, seriously. I have tried meditating. I have a regular appointment with an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, who assures me that healthy kidneys – at least from the Chinese perspective – are the seat of good health. In fact, at our last appointment, he asked me if I still drank coffee.

Nope. But, I told him proudly, I drink a ton of herbal tea.

What kind?

What kind? What do you mean, ‘What kind?’! It’s herbal tea, for God’s sake.

I mean what kind. Not all herbal tea is the same. They all have different energies and, therefore, different effects on the body.

Well, Tazo’s Sweet Wild Orange, Cinnamon Apple, and Orange Spice.

Do they have hibiscus in them?

Uhm, I think so.

Hibiscus is a diuretic.


So, essentially, when I had replaced my daily water intake with herbal tea (which “everyone” – everyone other than my Chinese herbalist acupuncturist, that is, tells you is cool), I was essentially downing 8 – 10 cups of a pretty powerful diuretic. One that also has, in clinical trials, been shown to lower blood pressure. (Last time I was at the doctor, my blood pressure was 86/45.)

Do you know what happens when you get dehydrated (which diuretics will do)? You retain water.

Do you know what happens when you drink 64 to 80 ounces of diuretics? You spend a lot of time running to the bathroom, not to mention quite a bit of time skulking around the pharmacy section of a big box store in a town where no one knows your name.

My prescription: start drinking tea (even green tea) that does not contain hibiscus.

Do you know how hard it is to find an herbal tea (other than chamomile, which is undoubtedly the Coors Light of herbal tea) without hibiscus? Pretty darned hard, as it turns out. Apparently all fruit flavored teas – including Blueberry – have hibiscus as their number one ingredient. Who knew?

I ended up with three boxes – all from Celestial Seasonings: Bengal Spice, Honey Vanilla Chamomile, and Green Tea Honey Lemon Ginseng. So far, the Bengal Spice is pretty tasty – beneath a veritable explosion of cinnamon, it has a nice under flavor of almonds.

So, I’m drinking more water, I’m drinking less hibiscus tea – actually, no hibiscus tea. And, big surprise, I am holding on to less water, and more often than not, I have time to stop and pet the cat on the way to the ladies room. All in all, it’s a win-win.

The more I learn about my body, the more I realize that there’s always more to learn. In my next life, I want to be a holistic health care practitioner and I hope I live in a world where all forms of knowledge – Eastern or Western – are easily accessible, available, and appreciated.

1 comment so far

  1. Noah on

    …green tea wont help, it may only have half the caffein of coffee but caffein is still a diuretic, most teas are diuretics (including peppermint). your body is almost 60% water.. just drink water. if you like it hot then go for it, but 6 months of immense dehydration will take a massive toll on your organs because your body rations most of its water to the cardiovascular system.

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