What does detox tea actually do?

It's after the holidays and you've just spent your break indulging in a bit more than you would like, so you probably feel a detox is in order. Chances are, you'll be heading to the closest brick-and-mortar or online shop to find an easy way to get back into shape. You may find that one of the quickest ways to do this (at least where social media influencers are concerned) is to use a detox tea.

Detox teas are attractive to many of us because they're herbal (because herbal = natural = good for you), and they claim to flush toxins out of whatever part of your body is in most need a good clean, like your liver or your blood. Women's Health points out that many of these teas highlight ingredients that do specific things, whether it is a diuretic, laxative, or appetite-suppressant, and they are usually made with ingredients like nettle leaf, dandelion leaf, and senna leaf.

So what do detox teas really do?

Alyssa Ardolino at the International Food Information Council says teas that claim to flush toxins from your body are literally all hype. "Detox teas are a marketing scheme," she tells Women's Health. "You already have a liver and a set of kidneys that remove toxins from your body... there's no research that detox teas improve health." In fact, some of the ingredients found in detox teas could actually do more good than harm.

When detox teas combine caffeine with diuretics, they cause your body to shed water, which could show up as a weight loss on your scale. Some, like senna, also have laxative properties, which can cause you to poop more, and which can make you feel lighter, even if your fat-to-muscle ratio hasn't budged. 

But tea makers won't point out that potential side effects of senna use include stomach pains, cramps, gas, and bloating — as well as diarrhea — and that excessive use could lead to a loss of potassium and an electrolyte imbalance. The caffeine in detox teas, which helps you shed water, can also interfere with your sleep patterns, causing you to lose sleep. And that, studies show, can cause your metabolism to slow down, and your appetite to spike (via Health).