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   Sep 25

Teenager who drank three cups of green tea a day develops hepatitis and turns YELLOW due to liver damage

16-year-old began feeling dizzy, sick and had joint and stomach pains

Went to A&E where she had turned yellow and had hepatitis – liver swelling

She had not drunk alcohol or taken drugs but had been drinking green tea

Doctors say an ingredient in the tea, bought online, caused her illness

A teenager who developed severe inflammation of the liver was shocked to discover it was due to the green tea she had been drinking to lose weight.

The unidentified 16-year-old girl went to her GP with dizziness, nausea, stomach and joint pains.

There, the doctor believed it was a urinary tract infection and she was sent home with antibiotics.

But after two doses – and with her symptoms getting worse – she went to the A&E department of a Birmingham hospital.

A teenager who developed a severe inflammation of the liver was shocked to discover it was due to the green tea she had been drinking to lose weight (file photo)

At this point, she was suffering from jaundice, causing her skin and the whites of her eyes to turn yellow, said doctors describing her case in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Her condition was so serious that she was deemed to need critical attention as doctors believed she was suffering from hepatitis, a swelling or inflammation of the liver.

Hepatitis can be caused by a virus, or when the liver is exposed to harmful substances such as alcohol.

But the girl, who was originally from Yemen, denied drinking any alcohol, and said she had not taken any over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol, or illegal drugs.

She had also not travelled abroad recently, where she could have come into contact with a virus causing hepatitis, and had never had a blood transfusion – another way it can occur.

Then, when doctors questioned her again, she admitted to ordering Chinese green tea over the internet, having been told it could aid weight loss..


The 16-year-old girl patient who developed hepatitis says others should be more aware of what they are buying.

She told doctors writing in BMJ Case Reports: ‘I had bought the green tea over the internet to lose weight. I bought 2 boxes of 100 bags of tea and was drinking about 3 cups a day for a few months.

‘I had only lost a couple of pounds but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick.

‘I was very scared when I was admitted to hospital and had lots of tests, I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time.

‘Now I look back it was definitely due to the tea, I never took anything else and it all started happening after drinking the tea.

‘I will never buy any online tea again or any weight loss pills.

‘People should be more aware of what they are buying and the side effects.

‘Most of the ingredients of the tea I bought were written in Chinese.’

She had bought two boxes, each containing 100 tea bags, and had been drinking about three cups a day for a few months.

As most of the ingredients were in Chinese, she had no idea what was in the tea.

Doctors immediately ordered her to stop drinking it, and after treatment with fluids and drugs through a drip, the swelling in her liver went down.

After an investigation, an ingredient in the tea called Camellia sinensis – a shrub whose leaves and buds are used to make drink – was found to have caused the girl’s illness.

Following a short stay in hospital, she was discharged, and two months later her liver function was found to be normal.

Herbal remedies, including tea and supplements with Camellia sinensis, are ‘readily available from unregulated sources such as the internet and are increasingly used’, the authors of the paper wrote.

Green tea has been linked to liver damage in the past, and there are dozens of cases in medical literature documenting people becoming ill after ingesting tea leaf powder, tea infusions and tea extracts, including in diet pills.

There are cases where it has lead to patients having such severe liver failure they needed a transplant, and has even caused death, the researchers said.

However the authors did acknowledge that green tea is normally a ‘very safe and healthy drink, with antioxidant properties.’

Furthermore, it is the products that are added to the tea, rather than the freshly made leaves, that have been described as causing illness in medical journals, they said.

The 16-year-old said she will ‘never buy any online tea again or any weight loss pills’. She added: ‘People should be more aware of what they are buying and the side effects’ (file photo)
It could be that other chemicals, particularly used in weight loss products, cause liver inflammation.

Or it may be that the pesticides used on the tea trees are to blame.

‘There is potential for pesticide-induced hepatitis to exist, especially from less regulated products ordered from developing countries over the internet.

They concluded: ‘The use of herbal remedies is under-reported, the breadth of use is under-recognised by clinicians.

‘Our case is a good illustration of this rare but recurring theme.’


Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation (swelling) of the liver.

It can occur as the result of a viral infection or because the liver is exposed to harmful substances such as alcohol.

Some types of hepatitis will pass without causing permanent damage to the liver.

Other types can persist for many years and cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).

In the most serious cases, it may lead to loss of liver function (liver failure) or liver cancer, which can both be fatal.

These types of long-lasting hepatitis are known as chronic hepatitis.

Initial symptoms of hepatitis caused by infection are similar to the fluand include:

muscle and joint pain
a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
feeling sick
being sick
occasionally, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)

In many cases hepatitis causes no noticeable symptoms, so when hepatitis is caused by a virus, many people are unaware they are infected.

Similarly, many people with hepatitis caused by alcohol are unaware that their drinking is harming their liver.

Source: NHS Choices/Daily Mail

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