- 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 the Chinese green 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.
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.
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, it was found Camellia sinensis – a shrub whose leaves and buds are used to make drink – had 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.
It could be that other chemicals, particularly used in weight loss products, cause liver inflammation.
‘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.
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