A teenage girl's health nearly turned for the worse when her daily dose of green tea turned out to be damaging her liver.

An unnamed 16-year-old teen from Yemen had taken to buying 200 bags of green tea online and drinking three cups of it a day to lose more weight. Being of fine health and with no history of serious illness, she was surprised to find herself suffering from a multitude of symptoms that grew progressively worse.

"I had bought the green tea over the internet to lose weight," the girl said. "I had only lost a couple of pounds but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick."

The girl described feeling nauseous, dizzy and being afflicted with joint and abdominal pain. At first, doctors thought it was a mere urinary tract infection (UTI) and prescribed her antibiotics; however, a mere two doses in, her skin turned yellow and the symptoms worsened, which prompted a trip to the Birmingham University Hospital.

The acute medical team initially suspected hepatitis, a viral infection of the liver, but had a hard time understanding what brought it about. The teen denied drinking alcohol or drug abuse, was not pregnant, had not taken over the counter medications and had not been abroad.

It was only when the girl mentioned her green tea regimen that the doctors were able to make progress. Aside from forbidding further green tea intake, the patient was also treated with intravenous fluids and anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce the liver swelling.

Within a few days of eliminating green tea from her diet, she quickly recovered and her liver function returned to normal.

Dr. Sebastian Thomas Lugg and his fellow authors wrote in their report that the green tea was indeed the culprit for this patient and several others before her. 

"Hepatotoxicity (liver poisoning) has been widely related to green tea, with reported cases due to ingestion of ethanolic extract, tea leaf powder and infusions," Lugg wrote in the report. 

Lugg adds, however, that green tea itself may not be entirely to blame. Rather, it could be due to other chemicals or processes involved in making commercially sold tea bags, particularly those that are to be used to promote weight loss.

For the patient, the whole experience has been both frightening and enlightening.

"I was very scared when I was admitted to hospital and had lots of tests," the girl recalled. "I didn't fully understand what was going on at the time. Now I look back it was definitely due to the tea."

She adds that she will never buy online tea or weight loss pills again, and cautions people on learning more about what they are buying and potential side effects.

Photo: Dan McKay | Flickr

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