Green Tea Allergy: Is it Possible?

Green tea allergy

photo credit: foshydog via photo pin cc

I’ve always been very allergic.
Dust and pollen makes me sneeze, have a stuffy nose, and itchy eyes.

Two common medications: aspirin and ibuprofen, make my eyes swollen. As if that wasn’t enough, I also have gluten intolerance.

I take antihistamines (which give relief to allergy symptoms) about 3 times per week.
According to the AAFA (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) “Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but only eight foods cause nine out of ten reactions. They are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.”


Green tea allergy

I drink green tea daily and have no problems whatsoever. I had never heard about anyone being allergic to green tea. However, one day while I was at an online forum someone stated that he had a green tea allergy. I decided to do more research and turns out that it does exist. I even found cases in Japan. Green tea allergy is quite rare, though.

The likely culprits

Two components in green tea seem to be the general cause of an allergic reaction: caffeine and tannin. The specific symptoms vary from person to person. They include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, rash and dizziness, among others.

Some people are unaware of the fact that green tea has caffeine. Matcha (especially koicha) has a high caffeine content, as much as a cup of coffee. Houjicha, on the other hand, is probably the Japanese green tea with the least caffeine.

Tannins are polyphenols founds in plants. Catechins are a sub-group of tannins. You’ll find tannins in products in various products such as wine, chocolate, most legumes, some types of nuts, pomegranates, most berries and tea.

Keep in mind that all teas are made with the same plant (Camellia sinensis), so that if you find that you are allergic to one type of tea, then you’re allergic to all of them! In the rare case that you are actually allergic to green tea, be aware that some products contain green tea extract.

Allergies due to a green tea product in Japan

A famous case of allergy outbreak in Japan happened with Cha no shizuku (茶のしずく, a drop of tea), a green tea soap with all-natural ingredients. Hundreds of people throughout Japan claimed to have had an allergic reaction to this soap. A few of them had to be hospitalized!
The cause was later found to be hydrolyzed wheat protein. Apparently, repeated exposure for a long time ended up triggering an allergic reaction. By the way, this compound is also found in some cosmetics in the US. If you have a gluten allergy, stay away from such products.

Additives in tea bags?

I recently drank a green tea from a tea bag, it was very cheap, but I can’t recall the brand since it was written in Chinese. 5 minutes later I had an allergic reaction to it, I felt a pain in my chest that lasted for about 10 minutes.

I drink loose leaf green tea every day and I’ve never had a problem, so I suspect that there is something else in those tea bags besides the green tea. I suggest that you drink loose leaf tea whenever possible, and only from trusted vendors.

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28 Responses to Green Tea Allergy: Is it Possible?

  1. John says:

    I am one of those who are allergic to green tea. At first instance I did not know that my symptoms were caused by the tea, but then one day I drank two bags of tea, that day I had cardiac arrhythmia, it was so scary because you think that are going to die, so horrible. The other minor symptom was difficulty breathing. I told this to my sister some years ago, and today she tried a bag of green tea, she had the same symptoms that I had, she could barely breath, although she did not have cardiac arrhythmia, well this happened to me because that day I tried two bags at same time, I think she would have the same reaction if tried two bags. We are not allergic to coffee, so I think that the damned tannins are the causing things.

  2. Patty Doscher says:

    I am allergic to matcha. I had some in a starbucks drink, and it gave me a horrible rash in my face and across my chest, so now I avoid green tea in drinks and in skin products.

  3. nurulhuda Kasim says:

    Mee too allergy to tea tree bags and body shower/ facial care product.i experienced break out on nose and chest and stomach cramp,.

  4. rox says:

    Seems that I am allergic to green tea too. My skin broke out in hives since a month ago and realized just today that it is after I start drinking the green tea that the itching becomes unbearable. Never imagined that green tea was the cause of the hives.

  5. Scott says:

    I’m not so sure I agree that “if you find that you are allergic to one type of tea, then you’re allergic to all of them!” My wife has been drinking green tea for months now, various brands. She’s been drinking Tulsi brand with pleasure… it’s organic and she loves it. She just tried another brand, Gunpowder Green Tea, also organic… and she’s got hives on the chest, face, arms, and now she’s started getting really itchy. I hope that’s the extent of the reaction… she’s not done yet. This is what brought me to this webpage.
    Of course, while the Gunpowder Green is the only thing we can think of that she did differently today, we’re not 100% sure it was the tea that did it for her. Seems likely though. Could be a difference in the process of preparing the tea that separates one brand of green tea from another (though I know nothing about that process!).
    It should be noted that this Gunpowder Green tea is loose in a glass jar, leaves and stems.

    • Hello Scott, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, it could be something else besides the tea leaves, maybe they degraded and have fungus on them?

      Anyway, I recommend that you buy from a brand that you have no problems with. Don’t trust a product just because it has an organic label, there are many ways that the system is cheated.

      • Scott says:

        I totally agree. Their idea of organic could have nothing to do with my idea of it. And it could be organic but somehow treated with other natural things that effected my wife but not me. I’m gonna try some tomorrow cuz it was good, strong stuff.

  6. Ally says:

    I figured out I was allergic to green tea when I was about 8 maybe 9 or 10 something like that. My mom had bought a soap that contained green tea in it and I think the soap was new and after my mom had helped me get washed in the shower since I was young and didn’t know how to clean myself at the time. after I got out of the shower a few minutes went by and I broke out in a rash. we didn’t know what it was from at first so my mom checked the ingredients in the soap and we realized it was green tea. then yesterday at school I had one of those flavored fizzy ice drink things and I had like 4 sips of it and I felt like my throat was gonna close up. my teacher let me get some water and like 2 hours later I started to feel a little better. ends up there was green tea extract in the drink when I checked the bottle. I gave the drink to one of my best friends since I couldn’t drink it. the rest of my family has no problem with it, but we did recently find out my mom cant have caffeine so yah. maybe I got it from her I don’t do well with coffee it makes my stomach hurt and I get really bloated and gassy.

  7. Shilpa says:

    Hello sir,

    this is Shilpa here from past one year I m suffering from berathing problem I was check with doctor also they told no problem now I m thinking it’s food allergy how I can I find out with this allergy is this food only from past 2 years I having green tea but I have problem with this from past 1 year pls help me on this

    • Hello Shilpa

      I’m not a doctor, so I can’t really help you. But from my experience, maybe you should check to see if you have acid reflux. Sometimes it gives the feeling of breathlessness, it happened to me.

  8. LG says:

    John, Not breathing is not just an adverse reaction. It sounds like such a bad allergic reaction that you and your sister were having an asthma attack (or possibly mild anaphylaxis). I am allergic to various environmental things and if I am around too much of them at once then I will get an asthma attack.

  9. Jennifer Mallinson says:

    I used to drink green tea all the time,until I had my last baby 8 years ago. I cannot drink it at all anymore! I do not have allergy reactions at all but if I drink green tea even the smallest amount, the next day I feel like I have very bad arthritis!!! My joints and my spine hurt for a couple days. I have tried MANYdifferent brands with the same reaction.

  10. Kathy C. says:

    Has anyone ever heard of an adverse or allergic reaction after smelling loose teas? My daughter’s throat became itchy, swollen, and had trouble swallowing withing ten minutes of smelling several loose teas (green, black, and herbal varieties) in a large east coast grocery chain.
    I took her to a local ER where she was given a steroid shot and Benadryl. We could not pinpoint which tea could have caused the reaction, but she has consumed green and black teas (hot and cold) in the past with no problem. Any insight you could share would be most helpful–thanks in advance!

    • Hi Kathy

      You can definitely have an allergic reaction just by smelling something, such as a flower.

      Some teas are scented, so maybe your daughter should stick to non-scented, non-flavored teas just in case.

  11. Kathy C. says:

    Thanks Ricardo, that makes sense. She is going to be very careful in the future for sure!

  12. Ryan E says:

    I have just started drinking green tea, I brought some lipton green gunpowder and enjoyed it (teabag) went to a real tea shop and brought oolong. here is the think
    My throat feels a little itchy like the start of a sore throat, so I stopped, ive only had 2 bags and 1 cup of oolong. the itch was before the oolong tho so im a bit worried to continue. I have recently been sick tho so I will give it a few days and when i am well will try again, and report my findings back to you. My only allergy is asthma and most likely Hypochondria lol !

  13. tlaleng says:

    I drank chinese green tea ,had hives all over my body,did not know what caused it .i went to the docter she gave me something to help,but had no idea what caused it.I drenk the green tea after ten days,same thing happed,now i know that was caused by the green tea

  14. chamie says:

    me too.. im just wondering, ive always love to drink green tea HOt?cold.. sad that im allergic to it since 2012..

  15. Pat M says:

    I have been a tea drinker for years, mostly Green Teas. About 6 weeks ago I developed a bad cough that has continued to linger. It was diagnosed as a Sinus infection and treated with antibiotics. The 1st round seemed to clear my cough for a few days (over the weekend) the following week it started back up while still on the medication. I was then prescribed a second antibiotic and pretty much the same thing, it went away over the weekend and returned the beginning of the work week. It just dawned on me today that about 6 weeks ago I picked up a new brand of Green Tea, “Uncle Lee’s Organic Green Tea”, that I have been drinking only at work. I’m not 100% certain but it makes sense that this could be causing my cough! I will refrain from drinking that tea and see what happens.

  16. Gary Bourne says:

    Hi, I’ve just been given a box of gunpowder green tea, but it’s 8months out of date, do you think it’s still safe to try? I’m really unsure, if it was anything else I know I wouldn’t, any advise please

    • Hi Gary

      If it is correctly stored, you can drink a green tea until up to a year. After that it’s still safe to try but a big part of the flavor and aroma is lost.

      Just make sure that it isn’t spoiled and you’ll be ok.

  17. Tom says:

    I’ve been asthmatic for many years but after a mild cold in November the symptoms worsened and I found I was getting very little help from the inhaler. After trying to eliminate airborne irritants with no success I began eliminating foods and discovered that the green tea I had been drinking for years without experiencing asthma symptoms was the cause. Switching to rooibos tea has helped but I miss the green tea. I am puzzled by the reaction to green tea and am hoping that it is related to the lingering effects of the cold and only temporary.

  18. Skye says:

    I am pretty sure I am allergic to all tea. Even the tinest sip and it’s like instant flu (maybe a bit worst ) for me and then I’ll be sick for days after.

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