Already have an account?
Get back to the

Pu-erh Tea May Be the Healthiest Brew You’re Not Drinking: How This Ancient Sip Speeds Weight Loss & Wards Off Diabetes

The ancient Chinese tea is a boon for your health and tastebuds!

With so many teas readily available, it can be hard to decide what brew will work for you. But if you’re aiming to improve your health, look no further than pu-erh tea. The flavor-packed tea isn’t just a delight for your tastebuds. It also provides a dose of wellness from healthful antioxidants and other plant compounds. With just a few mugs of pu-erh tea, benefits start rolling in. Savor a cup and keeping reading to learn more about pu-erh tea benefits. 

What is pu-erh tea?

Pu-erh tea – also called pu-er tea or dark tea – is a unique, fermented tea sourced from the Yunnan province in China. “These fermented tea leaves never spoiled and could be carried on horse caravans along trade routes,” explains Steven Gundry, MD, author of Gut Check. These factors led to the tea’s growth in popularity.

What’s so great about pu-erh tea? “It has a rich and earthy flavor and provides many health benefits when consumed alongside a healthy diet and active lifestyle,” explains celebrity chef, nutritionist and longevity wellness expert Serena Poon, CN.

Unlike fermented teas that undergo fermentation after brewing, like kombucha, pu-erh tea is unique because the tea leaves themselves are fermented. (Click through to learn about the health benefits of kombucha.) It’s made from the same plant as black, green, white and oolong teas. But fermentation makes pu-erh tea’s benefits even more powerful. Keep reading to learn how to harness pu-erh tea benefits for total health.

The two different types of pu-erh tea

Jays-photo/Getty Images

There are two types of pu-erh tea – raw “sheng” pu-erh and ripe “shou” pu-erh. All pu-erh tea starts as raw pu-erh, which is very similar to green tea. However, the fresh leaves are processed so they no longer oxidize, preserving the natural enzymes in the tea. The tea takes form of cakes or bricks for fermentation, which often occurs over decades.

Ripe pu-erh, on the other hand, undergoes a sped-up process where a high-humidity environment promotes fermentation. This variety typically does not come in the cakes or bricks commonly associated with pu-erh. Instead, you can find it in loose leaf or tea bags.

Raw pu-erh tends to have a stronger earthy and floral flavor. Ripe varieties have an earthy and musky sweet flavor. Both varieties have the same benefits. But it may be easier and more affordable to get ripe pu-erh, since the faster fermentation process tends to bring price down.

5 surprising pu-erh tea benefits

When you drink pu-erh tea, Poon says you’ll get a dose of the standard healthful compounds you may get from a cup of black tea, like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Plus, fermentation means the tea supports the gut microbiome, further improving your health. While most of the research on pu-erh tea is on animals, “there is also centuries of anecdotal evidence of pu-erh’s benefits,” says Poon. Pu-erh tea benefits include: 

1. Promotes weight loss

Sipping pu-erh tea may help speed slimming and improve weight maintenance. That’s because the tea can reduce the activity of fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that causes our cells to store more fat. In one animal study, mice fed a high-fat diet with the tea daily maintained a consistent body weight. Mice that did not have tea gained notable weight.

Dr. Gundry credits polyphenols in pu-erh tea, which help the body “uncouple” mitochondria, the energy-burning powerhouses of our cells. In this process, the body begins stimulating mitochondria to grow, divide and make more of themselves. That leads to more calories burning instead of turning into fat. “In essence, they produce a ‘caloric bypass,” explains Dr. Gundry. What’s more, “because pu-erh is fermented, the polyphenols are more bioavailable than regularltea,” says the doc, potentially leading to an even larger impact on weight. 

Related: Hibiscus Tea: How Women Are Using It to Help Boost Weight Loss + Shrink a Stress Belly

2. Reduces diabetes risk

Compelling new research reinforces the common anecdote that pu-erh tea is beneficial for diabetics. Presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Hamburg, Germany, researchers found that people who drank any tea were 28% less like to have diabetes.

But the real kicker was pu-erh tea. They found pu-erh reduced the risk of diabetes by 47% and the likelihood of developing prediabetes by 53%. What’s more, in a news release, lead study co-author and University of Adelaide Associate Professor Tongzhi Wu suggests pu-erh tea works similarly to “sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, a new antidiabetic drug class that is not only effective at preventing and treating type 2 diabetes, but also has a substantial protective effects on the heart and kidneys.” These medications lower diabetes risk by increasing the output of glucose in urine, an effect the researchers saw in folks who drank pu-erh tea regularly. (Click through for other food swaps for diabetes and to see how warding off diabetes can ease restless leg syndrome.)

Credit goes to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds created during pu-erh tea’s fermentation process. Explains Poon, who recently outlined the blood sugar benefits of Pu-erh in an Instagram post. these compounds “increase insulin sensitivity and the performance of beta cells in the pancreas.”

3. Improves gut health

More and more research is pointing to the gut microbiome as an essential driver of our health. Poon notes that it plays a major role in overall wellness, including immune, emotional and brain health. And pu-erh contains a dose of gut-healthy probiotics thanks to the fermentation process.

Indeed, studies show the tea can raise levels of microbes like Bacillus coagulans, linked to enhanced digestion, and Akkermansia muciniphila, a probiotic that may ward off diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And taking care of our gut is even more essential as we grow older, Poon notes, since “as women age, they also tend to lose gut microbiome diversity.” (Click through for Dr. Gundry and other experts’ top tips for leaky gut symptoms.)

Related: Are Prebiotic Sodas Good for You? Top Doctors Weigh In

4. Improves cholesterol

Pu-erh is the same leaves as other teas. However, that doesn’t mean they have all the same benefits. In fact, research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that pu-erh is more effective than other teas at lowering cholesterol. Probiotics from the fermented tea help the body absorb excess cholesterol in the gut. This helps to raise “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.

5. Boosts longevity

The powerful antioxidants and polyphenols in pu-erh tea bring on what Poon says may be the most notable benefit of the brew: Longevity. Indeed, studies show that sipping green tea can add healthy years to your life. The effect may be even more pronounced from pu-erh tea due to the fermentation. (Click through for other green tea health benefits.) “Drinking tea is a very accessible – and delicious – way to support enhanced longevity,” says Poon.

Other potential pu-erh tea benefits

More research on pu-erh tea is needed to confirm other benefits, but there is potential the tea can do even more for your health. One reason: The tea brims with compounds like polyphenols, theaflavins and catechins. Poon says these compounds may aid in cancer prevention, support cardiovascular health and boost cognitive function.

What’s more, the anti-inflammatory compounds in the pu-erh tea can ease whole body inflammation. Poon notes that this can help ease inflammation that often occurs from hormonal changes during the menopause transition. That’s key since chronic inflammation can lead to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, cognitive trouble and cancer.

Plus, Dr. Gundry says, “polyphenols also uncouple liver mitochondria, preventing or reversing fatty liver.” While more research is need to confirm the effects in humans, preliminary animal research revealed that mice given the tea had less liver damage and reduced activity in genes liked to poor liver function.

Related: Could This TikTok-Trendy Tea Be the Next Superfood? What to Know About Chaga

How to brew pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea comes in a variety of forms. If you’re opting for ripe pu-erh (the easier to find and less expensive version), you can purchase the brew in bags, like Numi Organic Emperor’s Pu-Erh (Buy at iherb, $6.66 for 16 bags). Poon recommends loose leaf tea for ease of use and to avoid microplastics that may be present in tea bags. One to try: Harney & Sons Pu-Erh (Buy at Harney, $11 for a 4-oz. tin).

If you want to try raw pu-erh, you can source cakes and bricks from specialty tea shops, like Silk Road Teas Raw “Sheng” Pu-erh Cake (Buy at SilkRoadTeas, $47.75, makes about 100 mugs). To brew, break off 1 teaspoon of the tea leaves from the cake. Brew in 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep for at least 1.5 minutes, adjusting time to your preferred taste. Even better, you can reuse the leaves multiple times,

Regardless of how you enjoy it, Dr. Gundry and Poon both advise sipping pu-erh tea daily to get the healthy benefits. Pu-erh tea does contain caffeine, however, so limit intake if you’re sensitive to caffeine and in the evening.

To make a pu-erh tea latte

Getty Images


  • 4 pu-erh tea bags
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

In pot, simmer first 4 ingredients in 2 cups water 10 min. Strain; stir in milk and syrup. Simmer 5 min. Pour into 4 mugs. Makes 4 servings

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

Click through for more health-boosting teas:

Cinnamon Tea Can Help Protect From Alzheimer’s and Boost Immunity — Top Docs Tell How to Get These Perks + More

Does Green Tea Help With Bloating? Yes! Plus, It Speeds Weight Loss + Helps Blood Sugar

The ‘Lullaby’ Lavender Tea Guaranteed to Melt Stress and Deepen Sleep

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.