Doctor's Note

For more videos on green and white tea, check out:
Antimutagenic Activity of Green Versus White Tea
Cancer, Interrupted: Green Tea
Treating Genital Warts With Green Tea

For further context, see my associated blog posts: The Best Foods: Test Your Nutrition KnowledgeHibiscus tea: flower powerIs Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating? and Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

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  • animalalex

    Where is the evidence to back up your claim that white tea with lemon juice is healthier than green tea with lemon juice? There is absolutely no mention of lemon juice or white tea in the article cited.

  • Animalalex, he must have used the wrong link for the source. Here’s the news story about the study.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Thank you so much for pointing that out that error. Someone else just pointed out a mis-citation on another video and I offered to send them a copy of my new DVD as a token of my gratitude. If you email me your mailing address I’d be happy to do the same for you. I have corrected the citation source (thanks to you!). A group of my interns uploaded the source citations and one of them must have made a mistake. Please help me root out any other errors on the site (and I’ll send you even more free stuff :). And thanks for having my back Greg!

  • I wonder how matcha with (or without) lemon stacks up against traditional steeped green / white. Has anyone seen any comparative research?

    Another interesting finding would be to see if the addition of lemon also enhances the antioxidant activity of herbal infusions like chamomile, tumeric ginger, and other “teas”.

  • JJ

    A new well-loved tea for me is Trader Joe’s: Ginger Pear White Tea. It tastes really good. The question I have is: Is it possible that the ginger might make the same PH effect as lemon? How much lemon/PH change is really needed?

    I’m not a fan of lemon and also it would be hard for me to add lemon in my work setting, which I where I drink most of my tea. So, I’m hoping that this Ginger Pear White tea will give me that nutritional punch without having to add anything to it.

    Here are the ingredients as listed on package:
    ….organic white tea, organic chamomile, organic ginger root, organic lemon peels, natural flavors.

    So, there is both ginger root (which might be the right PH?) and even lemon peels. But both of those are pretty far down in the ingredient list.

    Any guesses on whether I am wasting my money on this tea or not?


    • walfaro

      Dear JJ: Thank you for submitting this interesting question. Catechins are one of the most important antioxidants in tea. An infusion of green tea contains up to 200 mg of cathequins. Black tea contains fewer since catechins are oxidized during fermentation to other forms of polyphenols. In terms of optimum pH for making tea, epicatechins are remarkable heat stable in boiling water at pH=5.0. Please consider to review this article: Regarding the pH you will better use lemon, lime or other acid juice like pineapple to reach an optimum.

      • JJ

        Thanks walfaro!

  • Karen LaVine

    Why isn’t the acid in our stomachs sufficient to lower the pH of the tea?

    • Toxins

      This is indeed a very interesting point, I am curious to know Dr. Greger’s response to this.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      We only have lots of acid in our stomach when we’re digesting food, so unless you’re drinking tea with meals (not a great idea since it can interfere with iron absorption) acidifying white tea with lemon juice might give it an extra little boost. But if you like it lemon-free it’s still one of the healthiest drinks around!

  • Karen LaVine

    Thanks for the explanation, Dr. G. I didn’t realize that. I’ll continue to enjoy a quart of cold brewed green or white tea with lemon in the AM, and a quart of cold brewed hibiscus tea in the PM.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post The Best Foods: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge!

  • Neal

    White tea is younger leaves while green tea uses older leaves-not true. Depends on the green tea. Green tea can be from less mature leaves or more mature leaves. Chinese and Japanese green teas can be from younger or older leaves depending upon the quality and grade. There is such a huge variability of catechin levels from amongst green teas, that I am not sure that it’s easy to say which one is better without a lot of different teas being compared.

  • Brad

    Add lemon is a pretty vague tip. I make a daily batch of white tea using
    6 white tea bags and 2 bags mint for flavor makes a half gallon. How
    much lemon is ideal? What PH is the best to release all positive factors

    • The Ironist

      Source article (p. 1157, paragraph 2):

      “Only moderate levels of AA are required to significantly
      improve digestive stability of catechins in vitro. The current
      recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 60 mg (U.S.
      Food and Drug Administration. 1994. A Food Labeling
      Guide, In perspective, this would
      equate to the 24 mg per 100 mL AA formulation based on a
      250 mL serving size. This dose is shown to provide significant
      protection of catechins through simulated digestion.
      At this dosage, beverages prepared with AA contents as low
      as 50% of the RDI would likely provide effective protection.
      This quantity of vitamin C is typically found in RTD
      tea beverages where vitamin C is claimed and/or utilized as
      an antioxidant ingredient.”

    • Guest

      Source graphs (p. 1158) show that the more water you replace with citrus juice, the better. 20% juice seems to capture most of the benefit, and more (50%) helps but not as much.

      Of course, what would presumably be best would be to eat your lemons, limes, or oranges just before drinking your tea. That way you get whole fruits (with fiber and such) with the additional tea catechin protection!

    • The Ironist

      Source graphs (p. 1158) show that the more water you replace with citrus juice, the better. 20% juice seems to capture most of the benefit, and more (50%) helps but not as much.

      Of course, what would presumably be best would be to eat your citrus just before drinking your tea. (For this purpose, lemons are slightly better than oranges, which are slightly better than limes, which are slightly better than grapefruits.) Eating citrus, you get whole fruits (with fiber and such) with the additional tea catechin

  • Optimal functioning

    Should the lemon be in the water while the leaves are steeping or will you get the same benefits if you add the lemon after?

    • The Ironist

      The primary benefit discussed in this article is the protective power of lemon juice’s ascorbic acid during the digestive process. So add tea before you drink it.

  • Crystena

    Dr. Greger,

    what about the caffeine in white and green teas for caffeine sensitive people. I started drinking white tea and I could not fall asleep at all it became painful laying in bed for hours but unable to sleep. I looked up white tea and caffeine and everyone seems to say it has the least but one site said because it’s actually the least processed it has the most.

    I only drank it for two days and then stopped.

    How much caffeine is in white tea? Does it have more than green? Are there any recommendations for those who want to drink enough to get some of the benefits of white tea but are caffeine sensitive? I wanted to drink it because of the antioxidants, allergies, effects on skin and collagen and also weight.

    What do you think?

    • Tea has less caffeine than coffee and the amount varies according to the tea and preparation. Practically speaking if you are sensitive to caffeine you should avoid or minimize intake. Caffeine has about a 6 hour half life in the human body. This can vary. So if you drink a cup of coffee with 120 mg of caffeine at 9 AM at 3 PM you will have about 60 mg and at 9 PM you will have 30 mg and at 3 AM you will have 15 mg. There are caffeine free varieties based on rooibos which are antioxidant rich. See herbal-tea-update-rooibos-nettle/ and herbal-tea-update-hibiscus/ among others. Personally I find that if I can drink one cup early in AM but later in day it can interfere with my ability to get to sleep. Good luck.

  • Richard Crandall

    Is there any indication that lemon juice boosts (or possibly negates) the antioxidant effects of hibiscus tea?

    Thank you!!

  • Peter

    An interesting link about caffeine and teas:

  • jeniferransom

    Russell Blaylock advises against lemon in tea:

    “Unfortunately, tea also contains high levels of two toxic substances, fluoride and aluminium. Studies have shown that little of the aluminium in tea is absorbed by the body because it is bound by catechins (flavonoids) in the tea. Yet, squeezing lemon in tea dramatically increases aluminium absorption, somewhere close to 700 percent, so tea would be better flavoured with mint for example.

    The lowest levels of both of these toxins are found in white tea, and the highest levels are in black tea.”

    I’ve been taking vitamin C supplement with my tea, don’t know if that has a similar adverse effect.

    • Wade Patton

      Fantastic, just picked up some wild growing mint from the field tonight. Don’t care for lemons in my tea anyway.

  • Jaroslav Ružička

    Does adding lemon not pose a greater risk by increasing the bioavailability of aluminium content than benefit by stabilising the catechins?

    • Wade Patton

      Now that sir, is a good question. I came to see what the fuss was about (re lemon). Don’t care for it, always thought it was to offset the super sweetness of Southern Iced tea (black). Haven’t found any white tea yet, so moot issue for me anyway.

  • uuzume

    Would the acidic enviroment of our stomachs be enough to get this benefit without adding lemon?

  • SR

    I Drink the Trader Joe’s decaf green tea all the time but I drink it cold (similar to a sun tea) If I were to start adding lemons to boost the effect should it be at the time of brew or per glass for best results?

  • mike

    The citric acid in lemon is the activating factor. You can buy citric acid in crystallized form almost anywhere. I used to use it in tea. Tea is acidic enough when left to steep overnight. I used to strain my tea leaves, then lost a good strainer to the residual acidity in the leaves. I left my citric acid alone for a few years and am now experimenting with converting magnesium oxide and calcium carbonate to their citrate forms for better absorption. Crystallized citric is very cheap, too. I may go back to citric acid in the tea someday.

  • mike

    PS. There are no “better” types of tea. It depends on the purpose. Black teas do more for the cardiovascular system than green or white. Green and white fight cancer more efficiently. Oolong is in the middle of both while yellow tea is too new a product to tell. Which type of tomato is best. The ones you love the most! Eat all kinds of strange vegetables that you’ve never heard of? Eat what doesn’t taste good? Brusell sprouts! Bleh! Eat what you like and change them up periodically. This advice came from a guy in England a long time ago through his free news letter. Don’t waste your time. Star fruits are cool. I can’t tell the sweet from the sour ones. The sours are problematic. Hm, hm. I’ll eat them ’cause i bought them.

  • JDJT

    Dr Greger, I just had a 1.0 drop in blood sugar on waking after having a mug of white tea with two tea bags. This kind of drop is comparable with cinnamon. I know you don’t recommend cinnamon and I know why. But surely this kind of efficacy with white tea is better than diabetic drugs that increase mortality?

    A trial comparing camomile tea and white tea in diabetic patients would be interesting.

  • Darrell Cheney

    Only an idiot would drink Green Tea over White Tea. If you study teas, it is clear that White Tea is far superior than any other tea. Green tea is for the public and White Tea is for Emperors!!! White is has the most Anti-Oxidants and one of the least studied (Probably because so little is made each year being that it is 1) Made either partially or all from buds and only picked a few weeks out of the year!)

    It has already been proven that White Tea kills more cancer cells than Green Tea and has 3-5 times as much EGCG!
    Health Master Darrell
    PS: I have studied Green and White Tea, Turmeric, Raw and Cooked Garlic, Ginseng, Ginger, Karela, and many other medicinal herbs along with super-greens (Too many to mention here). I know how to prevent cancer 100% and I have cured diabetes II.

  • Sophia Emma

    Green tea is always better then white tea. its more beneficial with lemon.

  • sinlou0911

    White tea is good for blood glucose/sugar control.