12 Surprising Benefits of Black Tea You Haven’t Heard Before

Updated: Feb. 06, 2023

Not just an alternative to coffee, black tea is bursting with surprising health benefits for both inside and outside your body.


Mend cuts and scrapes

Black tea’s tannins act as astringents to stop bleeding from open cuts or scrapes. Gently press a cool, damp tea bag on the affected area to feel soothing relief and reduce any swelling. However, if you notice any signs of an infection, get to your doctor ASAP.


Kill foot odor

No one wants to deal with stinky feet. Luckily, black tea is one of the most effective home remedies for foot odor. The tannic acid in strong black tea kills bacteria and closes pores—and it can help your feet sweat less. Take advantage of this benefit by soaking in a black tea footbath. Boil two tea bags in a pint of water for 15 minutes, remove the bags, and dilute the tea with two quarts of water. Let the mixture cool if necessary, then soak your feet for 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat daily. Rub a couple drops of these essential oils on your feet to keep them smelling fresh.

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Improve gum health

Black tea contains astringent tannic acids that shrink swollen tissues and help staunch bleeding. (Here’s the real reason your gums are bleeding.) If you have swollen gums, press wet black tea bags directly on them to start healing. You can also use tea as a mouthwash to improve gum health. If you have any concerns, you should always check with your doctor or dentist.

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Boost your immune system

Strengthening your immune system is a lot easier than you think. Once you pick up these natural immune-boosting habits, you’ll start feeling healthier in no time—and you can start with black tea. Scientists at Tufts University compared the ORAC capacity of tea with 22 vegetables. (ORAC refers to the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a measurement of the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances: The higher the ORAC score, the greater its antioxidant capacity.) Although there was variation among various teas, the highest scoring teas were green tea and black tea that was brewed for 5 minutes, and they outranked the top fruits and vegetables. Drink well-steeped black tea to get the maximum benefits for your health.

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Relieve irritated eyes

Suffering from dry, itchy eyes? Soak two black tea bags in warm water for ten minutes. Press out excess liquid and place on your eyes for ten minutes to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation. These home remedies for irritated eyes are just as helpful.


Heal cold sores

Like many cold sore home remedies, the flavonoids and caffeine in tea have been shown to inhibit the growth of the herpes virus; reportedly, Earl Grey tea bags seem to be the most effective. To get the full benefits of black tea here, at the first twinge of a cold sore you should apply a damp, cooled black tea bag to the area where you expect the outbreak to occur, and keep it on for 10 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times a day to help reduce the duration and severity of an outbreak. Tea can also treat canker sores, which are equally stubborn.

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Fight allergies

Whether you fall victims to the triggers of spring allergies or feel your fall allergies flare up, you can find relief in your favorite mug. Tea is rich in flavonoids, which are plant chemicals that protect against inflammation. Sip a few cups a day and you’ll benefit by relieving your allergy symptoms.

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Soothe poison ivy

So, you went hiking through what you thought was a harmless patch of plants, and now you just can’t stop scratching. First, memorize what poison ivy looks like so you can avoid it next time. Then, throw three to five tea bags into a filled bathtub, stir them around, and then take a pleasant soak. The tannic acids in the tea should help relieve the inflammation and the itching.

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Reduce conjunctivitis

Otherwise known as pinkeye, conjunctivitis has prevalent symptoms that go beyond just your eye turning red or pink. If you suffer from this condition, place a warm, wet black tea bag over your infected eye for 5 minutes, followed by a cool wet tea bag for 2 minutes. The tannins in the tea bags work to help reduce the swelling. Repeat several times a day with a fresh tea bag.


Calm diarrhea

Tannins in black tea also have an astringent action on the mucous membranes in the intestines, which helps the body absorb fluids and calms intestinal inflammation. Choose decaffeinated black tea, as caffeine is dehydrating, to get the best benefits. If you like, you can sweeten your tea with honey, another natural remedy for diarrhea.

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Heal boils

Boils are caused by the staphylococcal bacteria and most commonly appear on the face, neck, shoulders, armpits, and butt. (Here’s how to tell if that unusual bump is a boil.) To soothe boils and draw out the infection, try a plain warm tea bag as a compress; its natural tannins have antibacterial properties. The heat of the tea bag, applied for 10 to 15 minutes four to five times a day, should help the boil to drain and heal.

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Treat hemorrhoids

Before we talk about treating hemorrhoids, make sure you’re not giving yourself hemorrhoids without even realizing it. If you already suffer from the painful condition, place a warm, wet black tea bag directly on the painful swellings. The warmth should soothe, and as an added benefit, the tannic acid will help reduce swelling, plus its astringent action should help stop the bleeding.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest