Drinking tea is both good and bad for you. How can that be? Regular tea boosts the immune system (unlike coffee), but herbal tea contains acids that eat away tooth enamel.

Regular tea contains chemicals called alkylamine antigens, which are also present in some bacteria, cancer cells, parasites and fungi. When the body is exposed to them through tea drinking, it can build up a defense against them and will be more able to fight them off. Green and black teas contain the antigens, but coffee does not.

Gamma-delta T cells in the immune system are our first line of defense against infections. When these cells were first exposed to alkylamine antigens, then exposed to bacteria, they multiplied up to 10 times more than usual and secreted disease-fighting chemicals, while cells not exposed to tea didn?t respond to the infection.

Next, researchers asked volunteers to drink either five small cups of tea or coffee every day for four weeks. After two weeks, the gamma-delta T cells from tea drinkers were better able to ward off disease than those from the coffee drinkers.

But if regular tea is good for us, certainly herbal tea must be better, since it’s long been thought of as a health food. But dentists have discovered that many herb teas erode tooth enamel, allowing decay to set in. The researchers say, “Many epidemiological studies show a high prevalence of tooth wear, even in young patients. One factor that may be contributing to this problem is the consumption of herbal teas that are often considered to be ‘healthy’ alternatives to other beverages.” However, different herb teas have different levels of acidity.

A spokesman for Twinings tea disagrees, and says, “?Fruit and herbal teas have been proven to have many benefits to mind and body. We believe that consumers should not be concerned, as when consumed normally, any acid remaining on the teeth will be neutralized by the saliva in the mouth.”

Tea may heal but other substances can enlighten.

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