Are All Pu-erhs Alike?

Q I have been reading about Pu-erh tea, principally in Life Enhancement, but online as well. Can you tell me what it is that maker some Pu-erhs superior to others?


A All Pu-erhs are not alike. Although most Pu-erhs are produced in Yunnan Province, China, there is a vast difference in the microbial fermentation process that characterizes the teas made there in many hundreds of factories. And each factory makes many different varieties, depending on the microbes that are used, whether the tea is raw or cooked, and how “select” the tea is, among other considerations. Suffice it to say that there are a number of difficult to calculate differences and that pertains to the sensual experiences of these teas, just as there are with fine wine, as well as their biochemical and functional differences.

However, it seems reasonable that you are asking about the later rather than the former: What makes some Pu-erhs biomedically superior? There are many considerations, including:

  • Reducing fat synthesis
  • Increasing energy expenditure
  • Inhibiting alpha-glucosidase
  • Inhibiting lipase
  • Upregulating PGC-1alpha (enhancing thermogenesis, mitochondrial biogenesis, and increased antioxidant defenses)
  • Increasing naïve T lymphocytes and reduces memory lymphocytes
  • Enhancing NK cells and CD8 T cells activities, while reducing inflammatory marker IL-6

We don’t have an entire profile of all of the ingredients in the Pu-erh teas, nor do we know the different amounts of the ingredients that have been identified. That varies, and may vary substantially. While the reduction of fat synthesis has been noted in the literature, it is clear that some Pu-erhs are more effective than others. This anti-obesity property is associated with certain catechins, especially catechin gallate and epigallocatechin-3-gallate.

Also, even after you’ve identified a Pu-erh tea that demonstrates an anti-obesity benefit, according to Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw, “One potential limitation on the inhibition of fatty acid synthase is that a ‘regular’ Western diet, loaded with digestible carbohydrates, results in such a large oversupply of malonyl-CoA, the substrate for FAS [fatty acid synthase] that is formed in the fat-synthesizing pathway from glucose, that any potential inhibition of FAS is largely overpowered. Hence, we have found that going on a reduced-glycemic-index diet is absolutely ­necessary in order to benefit from tea’s FAS inhibitors.

Back to your question, we found that many Pu-erhs had to be tested to find one that produced significant anti-obesity results. With regard to other properties, such as reversing age-related immunity loss, the Pu-erhs (both crude and ripened) that were used in the study titled “Decreasing Pro-Inflammatory Cytokine and Reversing the Immunosenescence with Extracts of Pu-erh Tea in Senescence Accelerated Mouse,” contained eight polyphenol compounds including gallic acid, (+)-catechin , (–)-epicatechin, (–)-gallo­catechin, (–)-epigallocatechin, (–)-gallo­catechin gallate, (–)-epigallo­catechin gallate and (–)-epicatechin. But no percentages were noted. Work continues in understanding the mechanisms of Pu-erh and how to ensure that users can get the results they desire.

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