There are many reasons why people drink matcha tea, but it seems that the health benefits of this beverage may come with some side effects.
Matcha is a finely ground powder that is made from green tea leaves. When you drink matcha, you’re consuming all of the nutrients that are found in those leaves (including caffeine) and a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short.
Matcha drinkers say that they feel more energized and focused after drinking it, which makes sense as both caffeine and EGCG have been linked to improved mental performance and mood. However, there’s one catch: matcha may also come with some unpleasant temporary side effects.
In this article, we’ll explore 9 side effects of matcha tea that you should be aware of. Before we proceed, let’s take a closer look at matcha tea benefits.
What are the benefits of matcha tea?
Matcha tea, a powdered green tea, originated in Japan, but its tea seeds were initially cultivated in China. It is a specific type of green tea subject to stringent growth and production standards. Made from the buds and top layers of shade-grown Camellia sinensis (C. sinensis) plants, matcha is consumed in various forms, including capsules, food bars, and reconstituted drinks.
Active Substances in Matcha Tea:
- Catechins, particularly EGCG
Rich in these active substances, matcha offers potential benefits, which is one of the reasons that have fuelled its popularity in recent years. However, despite its growing popularity, understanding the uses of matcha tea, its side effects, and its interactions is crucial for informed consumption. (13)
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The most prominent benefits of matcha tea include:
- Antioxidant Power
Matcha’s catechins act as potent antioxidants, stabilizing free radicals, mitigating cell damage, and potentially affecting diseases related to oxidative damage.
- Improves Liver Health
While additional research is needed, and some results a contradictive, green tea has been studied for its potential to promote liver health.
- Boosts Brain Function
Matcha may enhance brain function, with research showing slight improvements in attention, reaction time, and memory.
- Promotes Heart Health
Matcha’s nutrient profile, akin to green tea, hints at potential heart health benefits.
Despite the health benefits, overindulgence with matcha tea could have potential side effects. Our guide takes you through the different aspects.
Side Effects of Matcha Tea
Can Make You Feel Nervous and Anxious
It’s also worth noting that some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. If you don’t have much experience with caffeinated products, it may be best to start by drinking a little bit of matcha at a time, so see how you feel.
May Mess with Your Sleep
Drinking caffeine at night may affect your sleep. Research suggests that caffeine taken up to 6 hours before bedtime can affect sleep quality, so avoiding matcha close to bedtime may be a good idea (7).
Can Cause Stomach Discomfort
The caffeine and content of matcha can have a laxative effect for some people, particularly those who don’t usually drink caffeinated beverages or tea regularly (6).
If you drink too much matcha in a short period, you may end up with an upset stomach. This is because caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can lead to feelings of jitteriness and anxiety.
Can Make You Dehydrated
Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it increases your rate of urination (3). This can mean that you lose more fluid than usual, which can lead to dehydration.
Can Lead to Anemia
High doses of compounds like EGCG and other compounds found in teas can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron (2).
If you have difficulty absorbing iron or are at risk of becoming deficient, you should consider talking to your doctor about how much matcha is right for you. Certain subpopulations may be more prone to it, such as pregnant women or people with conditions such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (12).
Furthermore, since it’s common to common for people to consume matcha with milk, it’s important to remember that the calcium in milk can further prevent iron absorption. (source 16). Drinking your matcha, with or without milk, several hours before or after iron-rich meals can help.
Contains Tannins That Can Stain Your Teeth
Tannins are plant polyphenols that are found in many different foods, including tea (16). Tannins present in tea can stick to tooth enamel, causing discoloration. This is why drinking dark-colored beverages such as black tea or red wine can lead to teeth staining over time (10).
May Expose You to Toxic Elements
Certain plants contain compounds that are harmful to humans if they’re present in sufficient concentrations. Some of these plants can also become contaminated with elements such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury over time (9). This is because these elements are naturally found in dirt and water, meaning that they may end up on the leaves of a plant after being exposed to them over some time.
Although it is relatively rare, matcha tea may contain toxic metals such as lead and mercury.
Exposure to high levels of lead can potentially cause damage to your brain, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and red blood cells (11). The dangers are much lower if you simply drink small amounts regularly.
Mercury is another metal that can accumulate in your body over time, which can be particularly problematic if you constantly drink matcha. Mercury poisoning may cause symptoms such as tremors, memory loss, vision problems, and even seizures (14).
Drinking It with Milk May Negatively Impact Iron Absorption
Adding milk to your tea for flavor is a common practice as it helps reduce the bitterness of some varieties, including matcha. However, adding milk also decreases your body’s ability to absorb iron from your meals. This is particularly true for heme-iron, which is found in meat products (19).
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How Much Matcha Should You Drink to Avoid Unpleasant Side Effects?
There are no studies that say for definite how much matcha is too much. However, it’s likely that matcha green tea side effects vary depending on a person’s age, weight, health status, and amount of exposure to the elements.
If possible, it’s best to spread out your consumption evenly throughout the day rather than drinking all of it at once, as consuming too much can increase your risk of experiencing unpleasant side effects.
Some people may also want to stop or reduce their consumption if they’re pregnant, nursing, taking certain medications (particularly those that contain caffeine), and/or at risk of certain health conditions such as anemia or mercury poisoning that could be exacerbated by the consumption of too much matcha.
Is it safe to drink matcha tea every day?
Drinking matcha tea daily can be safe in moderation (1-3 servings) and the following considerations:
- Caffeine Awareness
Before consumption, you need to consider matcha’s caffeine content in order to avoid potential side effects such as insomnia.
- Individual Sensitivity
Monitor intake, particularly if you’re sensitive to caffeine effects.
- Health Consultation
It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional prior to consumption to review medical history and medications, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Quality Assurance
Choose high-quality matcha to reduce the risk of contaminants.
- Balanced Incorporation
Finally, you should integrate matcha as part of a balanced diet and not as a nutritional supplement or meal replacement.
What is the best time to drink matcha?
The optimum time to enjoy matcha depends on individual preferences, wellness objectives, and the nutrient profile of the tea itself. For a morning energy boost and heightened alertness, you can indulge in it during the early hours. As a pre-exercise ritual, matcha serves as a natural energizer, thereby enhancing workout sessions.
However, it is advisable to steer clear of drinking matcha late in the evening due to its caffeine content and to ensure a restful night’s sleep. The choice of when to enjoy matcha ultimately depends on individual routines, preferences, and health aspirations.
The Bottom Line
Matcha tea is a popular beverage that can provide you with a large dose of powerful plant compounds, but it doesn’t come without risks. If you experience unpleasant side effects, decrease the amount you consume and talk with your medical provider.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Proven Ways Matcha Tea Improves Your Health (2023, healthline.com)
- Bioactive Dietary Polyphenols Inhibit Heme Iron Absorption in A Dose-Dependent Manner in Human Intestinal Caco-2 cells (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children – Gareth Richards, Andrew Smith, 2015 (2015, journals.sagepub.com)
- Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption (1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea (n.d., iffgd.org)
- Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults ( 2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Heavy Metals in Contaminated Soils: A Review of Sources, Chemistry, Risks and Best Available Strategies for Remediation (2011, hindawi.com)
- Iron staining of the acquired enamel pellicle after exposure to tannic acid or chlorhexidine: preliminary report (1982, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lead toxicity: a review (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Matcha: Everything You Need to Know (2023, verywellhealth.com)
- Mercury Toxicity and Treatment: A Review of the Literature (2012, hindawi.com)
- Nutrients and Porphyria: An Intriguing Crosstalk (2020, mdpi.com)
- Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease (2009, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Repeated dose studies with pure Epigallocatechin-3-gallate demonstrated dose and route dependant hepatotoxicity with associated dyslipidemia (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Reasons you shouldn’t drink green tea on an empty stomach (2022, hindustantimes.com)
- Review on iron and its importance for human health (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review (2017, frontiersin.org)