Do tea bags benefit eye health?
Camellia sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica are two varieties of tea plant that grow in around 45 countries, including China, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.
Some scientific studies suggest that tea may have healing properties and reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions.
This article looks at the benefits of using tea bags on the eyes, whether different varieties of tea affect the eyes in different ways, and how to use them.
Tea bags are a good size for use as a cold or warm compress.
Very few studies have specifically investigated the benefits of using tea bags on the eyes.
Some evidence has suggested that using cold and warm compresses on the eyes has benefits, and tea bags are the perfect size to use as an eye compress.
Researchers have also examined the health benefits of properties present in tea, such as caffeine and polyphenols.
As a cold compress
The benefits of using tea bags as a cold compress include:
- Reducing dark circles under the eyes. Dilated blood vessels below the eyes may play a part in dark circles. Holding a cold tea bag over the area may make the vessels constrict.
- Shrinking bags under the eyes. A cool tea bag compress may improve the appearance of puffiness or mild swelling under the eyes.
- Relieving pink eye. Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, occurs when the mucous membranes become inflamed and swollen. A cold tea bag compress may help alleviate some of the dryness and inflammation.
- Soothing red eyes. Red or bloodshot eyes occur when the blood vessels under the surface of the eye become irritated. Placing cold tea bag compresses over the eyes may help ease this irritation.
- Easing minor eye injuries. If the eye sustains a hit by a ball, elbow, or other hard object, placing a cold tea bag compress on the area for 15 minutes may reduce pain and swelling.
As a warm compress
The benefits of using tea bags as a warm compress include:
- Reducing blepharitis. Blepharitis refers to inflammation of the eyelids due to bacteria, scalp dandruff, or problems with oil glands in the eyelids. Holding a warm tea bag over closed eyes for at least 1 minute may loosen the flakes that are stuck to the eyelashes and prevent oil glands from clogging.
- Draining a stye. A stye is a red, painful lump that grows under the eyelid or at the base of the eyelid, usually due to an infection. Applying heat with a warm tea bag compress to the stye for 10–15 minutes two to three times per day may help release the pus and heal the stye.
- Treating a chalazion. A blocked oil gland usually causes a chalazion. Using a warm tea bag compress on the eyelid for 10–15 minutes four to six times per day may help unclog the blocked duct.
- Relieving dry eyes. Dry eyes occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears, or when the tears evaporate too quickly. Putting warm tea bags on the eyes may release oil from the glands and improve the quality of tears.
There is no evidence to suggest that using a tea bag is any better than using a clean washcloth soaked in cold or warm water, however.
Different types of tea may have different benefits for eye and skin health.
Black, green, and white teas have antioxidants and caffeine that may help with some eye conditions, whereas herbal teas may soothe eye irritation and inflammation.
Black tea and green tea
Black tea and green tea contain polyphenols, caffeine, and certain minerals. Some of these compounds may have protective or disease preventing properties.
Polyphenols act as antioxidants and may protect against free radical induced damage. Polyphenols include many different components, including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
Some research suggests that EGCG has anti-inflammatory effects. Additional studies suggest that polyphenols may:
Green tea may be more effective than black tea due to having higher flavonoid content.
Although many studies have looked at the health effects of black, white, and green tea, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health note that it is currently unknown whether or not they have any conclusive health benefits.
People have traditionally used chamomile tea to relieve eye infections, blocked tear ducts, and conjunctivitis.
It also contains flavonoids, so it may be helpful to reduce inflammation.
Some people believe that calendula tea can decrease swelling and help new tissue grow. However, there is limited scientific evidence on using calendula for skin and eye health.
How to use them
After steeping in hot water, a person should wait for the tea bags to cool down before applying them to the eyes.
To make a cold or warm tea bag compress for the eyes:
- Steep two tea bags in hot water.
- Squeeze out the liquid from the tea bags.
- To use as a warm compress, wait for them to cool down slightly.
- To use as a cold compress, cool them in the refrigerator.
- Place the tea bags on closed eyes for up to 15 minutes.
- Repeat as often as needed.
The eyes are very sensitive, so people should always be cautious when using tea bags for this purpose.
Never use hot tea bags on the eyes, and stop using them if there is any irritation. Putting tea bags on the eyes may also be unsuitable for children.
Tea bags are an effective means of applying cold and warm compresses to the eyes. Cold and warm compresses help relieve the symptoms of many eye and skin conditions.
Evidence is accumulating to suggest that black and green tea may be useful for eye and skin health.
However, more studies using a variety of teas are necessary before researchers can make any firm conclusions.
Always be cautious when using any alternative or home remedies on the eyes, as they are a sensitive area.
Shop for tea
Some of the teas listed in this article are available to purchase in grocery stores and online: