Butter Tea- Benefits, How to Make & Side Effects

Some of the surprising benefits of butter tea include increasing energy levels, moisturizing the skin, warming the body, aiding digestion, boosting heart health, improving cognitive function, suppressing appetite and preventing dehydration. There are some side effects caused by the caffeine, salt and butter found in this specialty tea, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular risks, headaches, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. However, when consumed in moderate quantities, the health effects of butter tea can be quite impressive!

Butter tea is the common name of Po cha, a traditional Tibetan tea that is made by churning yak butter, brick tea and salt into a thick, warming and nutrient-dense beverage. It has been a popular beverage in that country for more than 1,500 years, and many Tibetans drink the tea all day, every day. While most people don’t live in harsh conditions like Tibet, the same health effects that protect and support the Tibetan people can also be enjoyed by people around the world. Most of these benefits are derived from the antioxidants and caffeine found in the tea, as well as the rich supply of linoleic acid fats in the butter.

Benefits of Butter Tea

Drinking traditional butter tea is particularly helpful for people dealing with weight-loss problems, indigestion, low energy levels, fatigue, muscle weakness, fever, cognitive difficulties, poor water retention, chronic disease, osteoporosis and diabetes, as well as those with a high cancer risk.

Energy Booster: Due to the high caffeine content, this rich beverage can be an excellent way to boost energy. Traditionally, it is used to improve Tibetans’ ability to work long hours in arduous conditions. Combined with the energy derived from the fats in the butter, this tea can help you power through your day without fatigue.

Brain Enhancer: This ancient tea has long been known for its antioxidant properties, and the ability to counter the dangerous effects of free radicals in the body. This also applies to the brain, where plaque and beta-amyloid deposition can begin to compromise memory, focus and concentration. As we age, drinking butter tea can help prevent the onset of dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Appetite: Long known as an appetite suppressant, butter tea is a good choice (in moderation) for those who would like to lose weight. The caffeine content works to stimulate the metabolism without inspiring hunger, while the rich supply of fats can make your body feel full, helping you avoid those between-meal snacks and bouts of overeating.

Digestion: This tea is known to reduce the acid levels in the stomach that can result in acid reflux and other unpleasant conditions, while also stimulating the metabolism to digest food more rapidly and with more efficiency, meaning you get more nutrients out of every meal!

Moisturizing Qualities: In Tibet, this tea is widely praised for its ability to keep the lips from getting chapped in the harsh winds of the mountainous region. For other people, this moisturizing ability can help to keep your skin and lips feeling fresh and smooth, while the high salt content can also help your body retain water, if you are feeling dehydrated or are in an environment where it is difficult to stay hydrated.

Altitude Sickness: Altitude sickness affects many people, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this unique type of tea can counter the effects of dizziness, lightheadedness and nausea that often accompanies life in the clouds. If you travel extensively, or are planning a trip to Nepal any time soon, consider trying this tea to negate the effects of altitude.

Heart Health: While too much of this tea can cause high cholesterol levels, there are significant amounts of linoleic acids in this tea, which are good for heart health and essential for lowering “bad” cholesterol levels. While drinking butter doesn’t immediately sound like the best choice for heart health, when consumed responsibly, it can give your cardiovascular system a much-needed boost.

Immune System: The catechins and other antioxidants found in butter tea can help improve the strength of your immune system’s response to free radicals, which can cause cellular mutation, tissue inflammation, oxidative stress and chronic disease.

Diabetes: There are certain anti-diabetic properties to linoleic acids, which can help to mitigate the fluctuations of diabetic patients, and lower the risk for people who are at risk for developing this condition.

How Do You Make Butter Tea? 

Traditional Tibetan butter tea can be quite difficult and time-consuming to make. The tea that is typically used is called “brick tea” or Pemagul. A chunk of this brick is broken off and boiled for hours, until a highly concentrated liquid remains, called chaku. The chaku is then added to boiling water when people want to make the tea, followed by a significant amount of yak butter, as well as salt. This is then churned for 3-5 minutes and served.

Fortunately, there is an easier way to brew a similar tea, without having to find yak butter and elusive Tibetan brick tea.

Recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of loose black tea
  • 2 tablespoons of salted butter (yak butter, if possible)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of milk

Step 1 – Bring the water to a boil in a stainless steel pot.

Step 2 – Add the loose tea to the water and allow it to steep for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3 – Add the salt.

Step 4 – Strain the mixture to remove the tea leaves.

Step 5 – Add the milk and then remove the mixture from heat.

Step 6 – Pour the tea into a blender, along with the butter.

Step 7 – Blend for 1-2 minutes until it has a consistent texture.

Step 8 – Serve the tea immediately, as it tastes better when hot!

Side Effects of Butter Tea

 Despite the many benefits of butter tea, the side effects can include weight gain, high cholesterol, hypertension, sleep disorders, water retention, irritability and headaches.

  • Caffeine – The caffeine content found in black tea can have negative effects on the body when consumed in large quantities. Consuming an excessive amount of butter tea can result in headaches, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and stomach discomfort. It is not recommended that you drink more than 2-3 cups of this tea per day, despite how constantly it is consumed in Tibet. 
  • Cholesterol – While butter has some beneficial fats and positive effects, it can still elevate cholesterol levels, which can be dangerous for people who already have cardiovascular problems. If you have high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, or a history of heart attacks or strokes, speak to a doctor before adding butter tea to your diet.
  • Salt Content – The salt content in this tea is excellent for retaining water in the bitter, windswept mountains of Tibet, but adding too much salt to your diet can cause high blood pressure, which can compromise heart health in various ways. Furthermore, too much salt in the diet can lead to water retention and edema. 
  • Pregnancy – Although research on butter tea is somewhat limited, it is generally not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, due to the high caffeine content and potential complications.
References
  1. http://as.ucpress.edu/content/43/5/758
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  4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1463-1326.2004.00389.x/full
  5. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1097-4644(1997)27%2B%3C52::AID-JCB10%3E3.0.CO;2-N/full
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/030698779190174W
  7. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129966
  8. http://pubs.rsc.org/-/content/articlelanding/2015/fo/c5fo00114e#!divAbstract
  9. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/4/887.short
  10. https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/25/5/583/2282077/Prevalence-Awareness-Treatment-and-Control-of

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