The world’s second most popular beverage comes from an endlessly adaptable plant. Tea leaves usually end up on store shelves and find their way to one of the world’s billions of tea pots. But there is more to camellia sinensis than meets the eye, or mouth in this case.
Some people clean with tea, others use it as a medicine. The matcha tea that Japanese use in ceremonies is one of the more expensive varieties of the leaf in existence, but even matcha tea has been called into duty as both an herbal supplement and paint additive.
Medicinal uses for tea have been around for centuries, and many are still being discovered as serious research looks into the value of tea for treatment of anxiety disorders, blood pressure control and numerous other maladies.
Here is a short list of some of the varied uses for tea, ranging from industrial and medical, to botanical and otherwise:
- Composting: When tea is added to compost, all the essential chemical processes are sped up, which means more recycling at a faster rate. In addition, tea in compost helps to grow beneficial bacteria.
- For dogs: Some natural veterinary techniques use a bath of black tea for soaking dogs’ feet. This is said to make their foot pads stronger and resilient.
- As a natural pesticide: Burning a few tea leaves won’t kill mosquitoes but it does help keep them away from an area for about an hour or so after the burning of the leaves has ceased.
- Art: Artists and those who work with fabric in any way have been using black and green teas for centuries as a dye. Water-color artists often add black tea to the paint mix in order to achieve a rare kind of “off-white” hue.
- After an injection: Since at least the WWI era, people have put moist teabags over injection sites on the skin. The treatment seems to make bruising and discomfort disappear rather quickly.
- Organic mouth rinse: By combining a pinch of salt with peppermint tea, you can make you own toothache remedy. This concoction also works to relieve generalized oral pain due to dental surgery and infections.
- Hair conditioner: Green matcha tea works especially well for this but any tea will do. Into dry hair, use your fingertips to massage in a few ounces of sugarless brewed tea. After the tea dries, be sure to rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Wart treatment: One of the oldest uses for tea other than as a drink was as a wart remover. For plantar warts, place a wet teabag onto the spot for about 15 minutes each day until the wart is gone.
- Acne remedy?: There’s a question-mark there for a reason because this use for tea is purely anecdotal. Even so, many veterans of the acne wars claim that a daily facial wash with green tea goes a long way to reducing the effects of chronic acne.
- Skin conditioner: Try using chamomile tea as an additive to water in a facial steamer for smoother, clearer skin. For an all-body effect, use a few teaspoons of matcha tea powder in a hot bath for a powerful skin treatment. The antioxidants in matcha help the skin in numerous ways.
- Flea control for pets: For dogs and cats that have flea problems, a few dry tea leaves in their bed area will help keep the pesky little bugs at bay.
- Sunburn relief: This use for tea is so old that no one knows where it came from or when it originated. Several wet teabags placed over an area of burned skin will immediately soothe the pain and help reduce the long-term stinging associated with sunburn.
- Anti-fish smell: Many people remember their grand-mothers washing with tea after preparing fish and other odiferous foods. A simple tea rinse, without soap, immediately kills off fishy odors.
- Natural furniture polish: Again, this is one of the ancient uses for tea, probably because it has been a carpenter’s “secret” for centuries. Use a soft cloth that has been moistened with tea for wiping down wooden tables and chairs. It even works on wood floors. The tea works as both a cleanser and polish, so there’s no need to use a chemical cleaner at all. The tannins in tea act as a natural coloring agent for wood, helping to bring out its original hue.
- Carpet cleaner: Gather up about a cup of used green tea leaves that are almost completely dried out. Gently crush the leaves with your hand while sprinkling them over a dirty carpet. Use your hands to spread the leaves out evenly all over the carpet, especially on the dirtiest parts. After about 15 minutes, vacuum the broken tea leaves up.
- Bad breath cure: Though only a temporary treatment, gargling with tea is a surefire way to stifle the effects of bad breath.
- Eliminate dust mites: Use a very diluted solution of black tea as a spray to kill dust mites in carpets and furniture. Ancient cultures in China apparently discovered that mites, fleas, and mosquitoes don’t like tea, so they used it to get rid of all three.
- Eye treatment: Salons have been using this trick for generations. A few strategically placed teabags around the eyes will reduce puffiness in short order. The treatment works best if the bags are warm. Green tea seems to work best.
- Blister remedy: Fever blisters, skin scrapes and canker sores can be effectively treated with warm teabags. Chemicals in the tea work to draw out infectious fluids inside the sores and blisters, and help scrapes heal faster.
The above list is by no means all-inclusive; there are probably a hundred other uses for tea that have been discovered and forgotten, or just never made it outside of their small village of origin. Green tea, meanwhile, is becoming more popular by the day in Europe and the U.S. In any case, the curious little plant that goes by the name camellia sinensis will likely continue to surprise and confound humanity for centuries to come.