The typical tea drunk around the world is made from a Camellia.

But not just any Camellia, the Chinese Camellia.

Camellia sinensis is the species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the popular beverage tea. It is of the genus Camellia (Chinese: 茶花; pinyin: Cháhuā, literally: “tea flower”), a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation. Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from Camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves. Common names include tea plant, tea shrub, and tea tree (not to be confused with Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil).

I’ve occasionally thought of getting Camellia Sinensis and growing my own tea in the yard. We have a suitable climate for it here. I can even order seeds:

About 42 cents per seed. (and not a lot of information about cultivar…)

These things grow well, but it would still take a couple of years to reach a point where I could figure out if I liked making my own and practice the techniques. So I’ve occasionally asked at nurseries around here if they could order one for me. Usually that ends in a long discussion about “No, I do not want the Camellias you have all over the back wall, they are not the Camellia I am looking for…”

So I’d begun to give up on getting a tea bush. After all, it takes a particular camellia.
Or so I thought…

Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, is of major commercial importance because tea is made from its leaves. While the finest teas are produced by C. sinensis courtesy of millennia of selective breeding of this species, many other camellias can be used to produce a similar beverage. For example, in some parts of Japan, tea made from C. sasanqua leaves is popular.

Hang on a minute, I’m thinking…. I have a large Camellia bush in the back yard…

So at some point, probably soon since ‘harvest’ is in early spring or late spring, I’m going to try making some beverage tea out of my “decorative” camellia bush. The bunnies love to nibble down a few leaves, especially when they look a bit tired, so I figure it likely “has the good stuff” in it somewhere.

Processing looks ‘not too hard’ but takes a bit of time. Pick, dry / wilt, cook, ferment, torture, dry… Fire must be involved somewhere, so I’m good with that ;-)

The wiki seems to cover it, though perhaps with way too many variations for what I really need.

Green tea looks very easy (nearly trivial..)


The ancient Chinese society first encountered the tea plant in what is now southern China and processed it as another medicinal herb for use in Chinese herbology. The processing technique used to process fresh tea leaves was to immediately steam the fresh tea leaves and dried them for preservation. This method is likely the most ancient Chinese form of tea leaf processing that was perfected around near the end of the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE, which results in a product that would be classified today as “green tea” (緑茶) and quite similar to modern Japanese sencha. For consumption, dried tea leaves were either decocted with water around with other herbs, or ground into a powder to be taken straight or in a liquid.

So basically pick, steam, dry. There are several other specialty teas with a variety of degree of several of the steps below, including those for black tea. If anyone really needs to make “yellow tea” or the others, hit the wiki.

Tea processing flow chart, by type of product

Tea processing flow chart, by type of product

“Tea leaf processing methods for the six most common types of tea”

Black tea is that red line of blocks at the bottom. Not too complicated either. Click for a much larger version.



Although each type of tea has different taste, smell, and visual appearance, tea processing for all tea types consists of a very similar set of methods with only minor variations. Without careful moisture and temperature control during its manufacture and life thereafter, fungi will grow on tea. This form of fungus causes real fermentation that will contaminate the tea and may render the tea unfit for consumption.

Plucking: Tea leaves and flushes, which includes a terminal bud and two young leaves, are picked from Camellia sinensis bushes typically twice a year during early spring and early summer or late spring. Autumn or winter pickings of tea flushes are much less common, though they occur when climate permits. Picking is done by hand when a higher quality tea is needed, or where labour costs are not prohibitive. Depending on the skill of the picker, hand-picking is performed by pulling the flush with a snap of the forearm, arm, or even the shoulders, with the picker grasping the tea shoot using the thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger sometimes used in combination. Tea flushes and leaves can also be picked by machine, though there will be more broken leaves and partial flushes reducing the quality of the tea. However, it has also been shown that machine plucking in correctly timed harvesting periods can produce good leaves for the production of high quality teas.

Withering/ Wilting: The tea leaves will begin to wilt soon after picking, with a gradual onset of enzymatic oxidation. Withering is used to remove excess water from the leaves and allows a very slight amount of oxidation. The leaves can be either put under the sun or left in a cool breezy room to pull moisture out from the leaves. The leaves sometimes lose more than a quarter of their weight in water during withering. The process is also important in promoting the breakdown of leaf proteins into free amino acids and increases the availability of freed caffeine, both of which change the taste of the tea.

Disruption: Known in the Western tea industry as “disruption” or “leaf maceration”, the teas are bruised or torn in order to promote and quicken oxidation. The leaves may be lightly bruised on their edges by shaking and tossing in a bamboo tray or tumbling in baskets. More extensive leaf disruption can be done by kneading, rolling, tearing, and crushing, usually by machinery. The bruising breaks down the structures inside and outside of the leaf cells and allows from the co-mingling of oxidative enzymes with various substrates, which allows for the beginning of oxidation. This also releases some of the leaf juices, which may aid in oxidation and change the taste profile of the tea.

Oxidation / Fermentation: For teas that require oxidation, the leaves are left on their own in a climate-controlled room where they turn progressively darker. This is accompanied by agitation in some cases. In this process the chlorophyll in the leaves is enzymatically broken down, and its tannins are released or transformed. This process is sometimes referred to as “fermentation” in the tea industry. The tea producer may choose when the oxidation should be stopped, which depends on the desired qualities in the final tea as well as the weather conditions (heat and humidity). For light oolong teas this may be anywhere from 5-40% oxidation, in darker oolong teas 60-70%, and in black teas 100% oxidation. Oxidation is highly important in the formation of many taste and aroma compounds, which give a tea its liquor colour, strength, and briskness. Depending on the type of tea desired, under or over-oxidation/fermentation can result in grassy flavours, or overly thick winey flavours.

Fixation / Kill-green: Kill-green or shāqīng (殺青) is done to stop the tea leaf oxidation at a desired level. This process is accomplished by moderately heating tea leaves, thus deactivating their oxidative enzymes and removing unwanted scents in the leaves, without damaging the flavour of the tea. Traditionally, the tea leaves are panned in a wok or steamed, but with advancements in technology, kill-green is sometimes done by baking or “panning” in a rolling drum. In some white teas and some black teas such as CTC blacks, kill-green is done simultaneously with drying.

Sweltering / Yellowing: Unique to yellow teas, warm and damp tea leaves from after kill-green are allowed to be lightly heated in a closed container, which causes the previously green leaves to turn yellow. The resulting leaves produce a beverage that has a distinctive yellowish-green hue due to transformations of the leaf chlorophyll. Through being sweltered for 6–8 hours at close to human body temperatures, the amino acids and polyphenols in the processed tea leaves undergo chemical changes to give this tea its distinct briskness and mellow taste.

Rolling / Shaping:The damp tea leaves are then rolled to be formed into wrinkled strips, by hand or using a rolling machine which causes the tea to wrap around itself. This rolling action also causes some of the sap, essential oils, and juices inside the leaves to ooze out, which further enhances the taste of the tea. The strips of tea can then be formed into other shapes, such as being rolled into spirals, kneaded and rolled into pellets, or tied into balls, cones and other elaborate shapes. In many types of oolong, the rolled strips of tea leaf are then rolled to spheres or half spheres and is typically done by placing the damp leaves in large cloth bags, which are then kneaded by hand or machine in a specific manner.

Drying: Drying is done to “finish” the tea for sale. This can be done in a myriad of ways including panning, sunning, air drying, or baking. Baking is usually the most common. Great care must be taken to not over-cook the leaves. The drying of the produced tea is responsible for many new flavour compounds particularly important in green teas.

Aging / Curing: While not always required, some teas required additional aging, secondary fermentation, or baking to reach their drinking potential. For instance, a green tea puerh, prior to curing into a post-fermented tea, is often bitter and harsh in taste, but becomes sweet and mellow through fermentation by age or dampness. Additionally, oolong can benefit from aging if fired over charcoal. Flavoured teas are manufactured in this stage by spraying the tea with aromas and flavours or by storing them with their flavorants.

I think I’ll start with green tea…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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38 Responses to DIY Tea

  1. Gail Combs says:

    Rodale has an article on growing tea in the USA

    There is also a native American Buckthorn bush used for “tea” during colonial times. It is called New Jersey Tea or Red Root. ( Ceanothus americanus) It grows in the eastern half of North America.

    Blooming lasts about a month in early summer in northern climes, sooner in Florida. Leaves are gathered when the plant is in full boom. Dry them throughly in the shade and then used like oriental tea, tastes similar to Bohea Tea. It does not have caffeine…. Ceanothus species in other areas of the country have also been used. Leaves and flowers of the C. ovatus, and the C. cuneatus for tea, the leaves of the C. sanguineus, and C. velutinus for tea.

    Let us know how the experiment with grow your own tea works. It is my beverage of choice, I hate coffee.

  2. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M: Can´t believe it but I just noticed your OLD and traditional head image above: The Chaitén volcano erupting. That´s your blog´s ID !

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Yes, some (month or two?) while back I got it reloaded into this theme… (Essentially finally fixing a problem that showed up in a transition to a theme that didn’t like the image)…

    @Gail Combs:

    Will do… but as my favorite is black tea, it will likely take a while to work up to that technique… My report on green tea will be, at most, “Well, it tastes like green tea but has FOO different a little.”

    But now that I’ve realized it’s just standing there, waiting, I’m feeling that impatient “Well!?!” feeling starting…

  4. Simon Derricutt says:

    I’ve found I can buy Hibiscus flowers here – dried whole, but crush them somewhat to make a superb red tea. I don’t know what type of Hibiscus though. Another tea that might be useful is Olive leaf. Since I do have some Olive trees here, I go harvest some leaves when I remember. I’m deep in technical stuff at the moment, so tend to not remember that often – but it’s an interesting taste. Spring is supposed to be the best time to harvest, too, before the leaves get too bitter.

    I’ll look forward to reading reports on home-grown tea. Could be a reason to grow flowers….

  5. DirkH says:

    In your climate, you could probably also grow peppermint. A tea made from fresh peppermint leaves tastes fantastic.

  6. Verity Jones says:

    Tea is grown in Cornwall in the UK where the mild and wet conditions seem to be ideal:

    You may not have to wait long. The Tregothnan site harvests from first flush (of new leaves), which may be now depending on your weather this year, and says their green tea is ready for drinking 36 hours after plucking.

    I have a recent fondness for green tea and have a fantastic tea in a very expensive-looking decorated foil box that was a gift from a Chinese visitor. The taste is so delicate. It is wonderful. I took a notion to start drinking green tea (from tea bags) in work in January as I don’t like the flavour from the brand of tea bags bought by the tea club in work. Well, after a few days I had to cut back as I started to experience mild nausea (the kind you experience after meals when detoxing) and realised it was down to the tea. I have heard this is an effect, and one of the reasons why it is supposed to be so good for you.

    We have several kinds of teas we drink regularly, including Chai and Earl Grey, and love the delicate Orange Pekoe, however I do like my regular black tea as ‘builder’s tea’ – strong and in a mug.

  7. R. de Haan says:

    Just watched a documentary about the possible role of products and processes usng aluminum products triggering cancer, food allergies and Alzheimer disease. Black Tea from India was listed as a potential hazard. For details, the name of the documentary: “Die Akte Alu” broadcasted by ARTE.–7367250.html

  8. R. de Haan says:

    Here is the youtube video, very interesting: You only need a way to translate the video if German is a problem,

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    Yes it is true. Just pluck the first growth from your Camellia bush, age to the color you like, steam or blanch to kill and dry as fast and cool as possible and wa-la stuff for tea. However, it takes a whole lot of new leaves to make a small amount of tea. A very large bush or many small bushes to make a cup of dry material. It is kind of like growing enough barley to make beer, all by hand work. Makes you appreciate the machine age. pg

  10. Gail Combs says:

    DirkH says:
    23 March 2013 at 10:09 pm

    In your climate, you could probably also grow peppermint….
    Pepperment is a WEED, it will take over your garden if you are not careful. Growing it in containers is the best way to handle it since it will spread via the roots. That said there are lots of different varieties including a chocolate mint (YUM) A listing of some of the different mints:

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, we now have “first tea”.

    I’ve picked a pint or so of loose leaves (very loose..) and divided them into two batches.

    One is busy doing a ‘sun drying’ step on the way down the Black Tea path.

    The other got the “Ancient Chinese Green Tea” process. Steamed for 2 minutes (steamer basket over simmering water). Air dried about 5 minutes, then 5 more minutes at 175 F. Out of the oven, cut into strips with scissors, back in the 175 F for another 3 minutes. Cool.

    Made a cup. Boiling water over about 2 leaves worth (Very loose spoon pile).

    The tea is very mild in flavor. Not surprising, really, since it is the oxidation step that intensifies flavors and the old green tea process doesn’t have an oxidation step. It’s hard to describe. Clearly a “green tea” flavor, but mild. With hints of a kind of ‘greenbean / grassy but not either one” flavor. It reminds a bit of some Japanese teas I’ve had (not surprising since the common camellias around here have the same species or hybrid of that species. We have a “Japan Town” here too, so these might have started there for all I know). It also reminds me of ‘special delicate’ tea that a Chinese friend got once. Not much bitter at all.

    I’m generally not interested much in green tea, but have it with Sushi or Chinese food. Were I served this at a dinner I’d not ask “What is this?”, it would just be a “mild green tea”. If you are looking for “Oh Wow!” flavors, it doesn’t have it. (Which is fine with me. The over the top bitter green teas are not, um, favorites…)

    Flavor compounds are intensified with various “Fermentation” and oxidation steps (see the chart above), so in a few days or weeks we will find out if how well I do at that process and how the product does.

    FWIW, I’m only now reaching the bottom of a 12 oz cup, so not a lot of time for it to “hit the blood stream”, but there does seem to be a bit of the caffeine “lift” and theobromine “focused / calming”. I expect that over the next 20 minutes that will intensify, as it does with other teas.

    With that, I’m quite happy to use my “15 minute miracle cure Camellia Tea” as a daily drinker. It needs no milk nor sugar (unlike black tea, IMHO) and is certainly easy to make and “the price is right” ;-) Though it is no Earl Grey… So I’ll be hitting the Earl Grey when I want some flavor of note. And want that savory milky sweet English Experience.

    Hopefully with the Black Tea process and a bit of added oils from my Tangelo tree I can make an analog of Earl Grey… Probably not as good, but if it is at all similar, I’ll be happy.

    @R. de Haan:

    When is German NOT a problem? ;-)

    (Listening to a Swiss German and a Low German speaker trying to sort things out can be, um, interesting…)

    I’ll look at the Aluminum article, but if aluminum were a problem, we’d all be toast, IMHO. It’s absolutely everywhere in every drop of water as most every mountain range and common minerals are full of it…


    Well, this tea was certainly mild and delicate…

    But I sure didn’t take 36 hours to make it ;-)


    I planted Spearmint once. One Little Plant. Took me 5 years to get it out of the rest of the garden… I’m still fighting catnip (another mint) from 10 years back). Don’t talk to me about mint ;-)


    Olive leaves? We have lots of olives about… wonder if it has caffeine…

  12. DirkH says:

    R. de Haan says:
    23 March 2013 at 11:26 pm
    ““Die Akte Alu” broadcasted by ARTE”

    Very interesting, thanks.
    Many of the health concerns presented in the film are listed here. Noteworthy the Camelford incident where drinking water was poisoned with an overdose of Aluminum sulfate which led to subsequent cases of dementia (many years after) and deaths, and compensation claims which succeeded.
    In the film a UK researcher named Christopher Axley was interviewed. He says drinking mineral water with > 30 mg silicium per liter leads to the expulsion of Aluminum from the body. As silicium and Aluminum are highly affine to each other.
    Interesting: Axley complains that Eurocrats won’t give big funds for further health research, as they are influenced by the Alu lobby that says there are no open health questions related to Alu; BUT at the same time tablets against heartburn -that contain Aluminum hydroxide- carry a warning that long term use may lead to dementia (i.e. Alzheimer type symptoms).

  13. DirkH says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    24 March 2013 at 12:02 am
    “I’ll look at the Aluminum article, but if aluminum were a problem, we’d all be toast, IMHO. It’s absolutely everywhere in every drop of water as most every mountain range and common minerals are full of it…”

    Axley points out (the interview is at the very end of the video) that there used to be very little Aluminum ions in nature; most of it exists as Aluminum Silicate. And is not used by biology. Only through mining and refining significant doses of Aluminum come into circulation in our food, deodorants, sunmilk, the aforementioned tablets, and noteworthy, in tap water when aluminum sulfate or aluminum chloride are used for the cleansing of the water (hence the Camelford incident where a truck driver filled the wrong tank with Aluminum sulfate)- the film notes a French study that compared districts that use aluminum salts for cleansing, and districts that used the alternative iron powder; and found a factor of 2 difference of Alzheimer incidence.

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    I get so tired of this Aluminum idea.

    How many TONS of Aluminum Hydroxide (a fairly reactive form of Aluminum) are sold and swallowed every year as antacids? There are loads of folks who have drunk the stuff by the quart for several decades – per person… Their ought to be a massive correlation between persistent GI upset / heartburn and {laundry list of hypothetical Aluminum diseases}.

    There are vast areas of the world where the ground waters are acidic. (Leaves make it so). We’re talking pH 4 or even more acidic. Often running right over aluminum bearing rocks and raising high aluminum ion levels in the water. Whole countries ought to have a dramatic correlation between such water and {hypothetical list of aluminum diseases}.

    And more.

    It just isn’t there. At best, you get things like a “2 x foo” in some small area that doesn’t happen in all the other similar areas and, given the number of places sampled, is best explained by “flip a coin long enough you will get 5 heads in a row”…

    So I’ll believe it as soon as there is come decent proof, with good statistics and not a lot of dodgy bits, and it explains why we all aren’t popping off Right Now from {hypothetical list of aluminum diseases}. Even those who drink a quart of Maalox a day.

    We evolved in an environment with aluminum ions in it. Up to 5 ppb in seawater

    The amount of aluminum in seawater varies between approximately 0.013 and 5 ppb. The Atlantic Ocean is known to contain more aluminum than the Pacific Ocean. River water generally contains about 400 ppb of aluminum.

    400 ppb in river water. There’s a whole lot of living things in, and drinking, river water.

    So like I said: I’ll look at it, but there is a BIG Skeptical hump to get over…

  15. Quail says:

    @Simon D – Baker Creek Seeds has hibiscus AKA roselle seeds. It is very easy to grow in a hot spot with plenty of water. If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow hibiscus for tea.

  16. Graeme No.3 says:

    I’ve had first and second flush black tea from a Darjeeling plantation. Despite usual claims that
    teas from the first flush (the first growth after winter) are generally more fragrant and lighter than the following second flush, I found it more tannic and less fragrant. Much prefer the second flush.

    Possibly this is due to processing. This from another plantation “as a guideline for the processing, we prefer the First Flush to be less oxidized (thus maintaining a greener leaf profile) and to comprise more tips”. This would make it seem lighter. This plantation may well be aiming at the European market, which pays high prices for the best teas.

    Just a thought for when you are processing another crop.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan & Dirk H:

    OK, once again, the Aluminum Paranoia Wars, part 24,084,843….

    The water contamination incident in Camelford is illustrative of what you find when a GASP! Aluminum Toxicity!!!! issue gets just a tiny bit of a ‘dig here’.

    He poured the load of 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate, used to remove solid particles from cloudy water, into the tank, which actually held treated water prior to distribution to the consumers in Camelford. […] The maximum recorded aluminium concentration was 620,000 micrograms per litre compared with the maximum concentration admissible at the time by the European Community of 200 micrograms per litre

    620,000 micrograms or 620 miligrams or 0.62 Grams per Liter. So an absolutely HUGE amount. That’s one of the first things you frequently find. Dose levels that would choke a goat. Similarly, another place where an impact has been seen, down in the weeds, but some extra cases of “issues”, are folks who work in aluminum smelting and breath in the stuff for a few years.

    Means nothing for dose levels down in the milligram range or microgram range.

    Douglas Cross, a consultant biologist based in Camelford, tested the water and found that it contained “not only aluminium sulphate but other noxious substances, too. As the acidic liquid travelled from the plant into people’s homes, it corroded the copper pipes and their soldered joints, made of zinc and lead.” Official advice to boil the water before drinking was, according to Cross, “dangerous advice because it concentrates the contaminants. They kept flushing the pipes out for months after the incident. This will have stirred up debris in the bends and only have lengthened the amount of time the water was coming through the taps with all sorts of metals in it.” 60,000 salmon and trout were killed in the Camel and Allen rivers during the flushing out process. The contamination was compounded by the failure of the authority to carry out the required six-monthly cleaning of the tank, which had not been cleaned for three years leading to a build up of sludge.

    Another almost universal thing is the presence of high acidity in the presence of multiple metal sources. Huge loads of things like lead, arsenic, zinc, copper, and so much more. Even in the “natural water” studies with acidic water (that can mobilize a little bit of aluminum) that same natural water mobilizes all the really toxic metals much much better.

    So you have people sucking down loads of lead and copper and blame aluminum instead of an acid leach of the pipes of known toxic heavy metals…

    As the aluminium sulphate broke down it produced several tonnes of sulphuric acid which “stripped a cocktail of chemicals from the pipe networks as well as lead and copper piping in people’s homes.”

    Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark…

    Health effects
    urinary complaints,
    blistering and peeling of skin,
    hair turning blue or green,
    diarrhoea and vomiting, and
    joint pains.

    Looks like acute copper poisoning to me, aggravated by strongly acid conditions and the presence of lead, along with other unspecified heavy metals.

    Not a lot of room for an Aluminum modality… but there could be some. at the Gram level of intake, all sorts of things that are not normally toxic can have problems. Near as I can tell, aluminum gets deposited after something else causes the damage. It is a symptom more than a cause. Though there is some metabolic damage at high exposures. But that is “informed speculation” on my part. I’d assert that the other metals did damage (along with whatever else was stripped into a chemical acidic stew) and then the aluminum gets deposited after the fact. But it could well be that if drink 0.6 g aluminum / liter of water is screws something up. Especially in the presence of enough copper to turn your hair blue and enough acid to peal your skin…

    Does this have anything to do with folks consuming 9 orders of magnitude less? Especially when we know the body has mechanism for shedding the useless material? Not seeing a lot to worry about here… (But then again, I’ve drunk bottles of Aluminum Hydroxide antacid before, so maybe I’ve just got an addled brain and don’t know it… )

    Per Alzheimer’s the wiki says:

    ” Research in this area has been inconclusive; aluminium accumulation may be a consequence of the disease rather than a causal agent. In any event, if there is any toxicity of aluminium, it must be via a very specific mechanism, since total human exposure to the element in the form of naturally occurring clay in soil and dust is enormously large over a lifetime.

    We’re drenched in the stuff. Folks from dusty climates eat it and breath it. That which is eaten goes to the acid of the stomach that makes it more available. Now where’s that data showing folks from wet areas have less “issues” than those from dry dusty ones?

    As near as I can tell, it is ACID environments that mobilize LOTS of metals. Then, once damage is done by things like heavy metals and other toxins, the aluminum metabolism gets screwed up. (Quite possibly via kidney damage reducing excretion ability) and when there is just so much of it around ’cause it can’t get dumped fast enough, it gets sequestered in places where it won’t do much. Confusing deposits with “bad” and “causal” instead of “symptom” of other “bad thing”. (The phrase “aluminum metabolism” could be misleading. Near as I can tell, there is only a generic ‘demetalizing enzyme’ that ‘takes out the trash’ on a variety of metals. When it gets swamped, the aluminum gets stuck in deposits. So it is more accurately “aluminum transport”.)

    In that kind of complex “multiple things going on at one space”; it’s often better to look back at population exposures and disease patterns. In folks who have NOT been compromised by some massive exposure to metal loads, not much happens. Even in many with such high exposures, not much happens. There just isn’t a smoking gun (nor even a mildly warm one). At most, you have an aluminum gum wrapper laying on the ground at the scene of the crime and large heavy metal footprints leading away…

    There are some members of the Tea family that can concentrate aluminum from the soil somewhat. As there will be more in the river water used to make the tea (or the water pumped from aluminum rock filled aquafers) and yet more in the clay used to make the tea cup, I’m not seeing it as a big deal. Nor where those few ppm are going to change things when that dinner gets followed up with 2 tbs of aluminum hydroxide antacid (dealing with the curry spice).

    This paper takes the Health Service Paranoid approach, but also finds not a lot of worry. Some impacts on growth and such at relatively high levels, normal excretion at lower levels. Stay below the excretion rate.

    Click to access Aluminumf.pdf

    Pennington (1987) noted that the major sources of Al in daily diets are probably grain products, processed cheese, tea, herbs, spices, and salt containing Al additives. Aluminum-containing food additives make a significant contribution to Al intake from food. Based on the quantities of Al food additives used daily Al intake was estimated to be 19-20 mg/day, an alternate estimate of Al intake. Greger (1985) assessed the amount of Al present in the diets of Americans. He estimated that Al content of a diet (with salt and herbs, all foods cooked in Al pans) for a 30-year old male was 26.5 mg/day with 1.2 mg from tea.

    Other Sources
    Much larger amounts (1 g or more per day) are consumed by those taking antacids
    in which Al (OH)3 is one of the main ingredients (Lione, 1985). Aluminum salts are common buffers in drugs. Buffered aspirin contains up to 50 mg Al per tablet (Crapper McLachlan and Farnell, 1985).

    Notice that 1 GRAM / day from antacids. We don’t have folks leaving the ulcer ward for the dementia ward by the drove… Now look at that 1.2 mg from tea. (Finally, back to tea, the topic of this thread…) So 1000 times less than the guy with heartburn… and 50 times less than someone who takes a Bufferin…

    The transfer from cooking utensils or foil of Al to foods on contact, handling, or cooking has been estimated to be less than 0.1 mg/100 g for 47 percent of food items and less than 1 mg/100 g for 85 percent of foods.

    It’s just not an issue at all for cookware. In the ball park of 1/10 that of tea. to about the same as tea.

    But if you are worried about tea and pans, better stop breathing. There’s lots of aluminum in dust in the air: (Not to mention ordinary food.) Some may even be soaking in through your skin:

    There is limited evidence that Al is absorbed through the skin
    . Aluminum was not found to penetrate the epidermis by Reller and Luedders (1977). Alternatively, Anane et al. (1995) found that the application of low aqueous concentrations of Al chloride (AlCl3•6H2O) (0.025 to 0.1 μg/cm2) to healthy shaved Swiss mouse skin for 130 days led to a significant increase in urine, serum, and whole brain Al, especially in the hippocampus, compared to controls. A significant dose related uptake was observed when compared to normal control mice and aged controls for doses of 0.1 μg/d and 0.4 μg/d: 292, 524, 654, and 1114 ng/g hippocampus, respectively (P < 0.05). Significantly, this percutaneous uptake and accumulation of Al in the brain was greater than that caused by oral exposure to 2.3 μg/d in feed and water.

    Where is the most aluminum? In your lungs:

    Inhalation is another route of Al exposure, but is probably a minor pathway. The lungs continually receive Al, mostly as particles of Al, silicates and other poorly soluble compounds. The lungs have a higher concentration of Al than all other organs and the Al concentration increases with age (Alfrey, 1980; Teraoka, 1981).

    If we have more than we excrete, it gets “stuck some where”. ( Maybe we ought to say “Aluminum builds bones”? Since a lot goes there.)

    Organs of particular interest with regard to Al toxicity are bone and brain. The substitution of Al ions into crystals of calcium-hydroxyapatite has been demonstrated (Iwata, 1979). Levels of 3.3±2.9 μg Al/g dry wt. of bone were reported as normal for individuals not on a high Al intake. For those in the high intake group, bone Al of 124.6 ± 62.9 μg Al/g dry wt. was reported for dialysis patients and 24.1 μg A1/g dry wt. was reported for an ulcer patient with normal renal function (Skalsky and Carchman, 1983). Clearly, increased bone deposition is associated with higher doses of Al (Alfrey, 1980, Alfrey et al., 1980). Increased amounts of Al have been reported in the brain of subjects suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dialysis encephalopathy syndrome. Crapper et al. (1976) examined the Al content in various regions of the brain from ten patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Of 585 samples, 28 percent had an Al concentration greater than the normal upper limit of 4 μg/g. In contrast, McDermott et al. (1979) reported no significant difference in brain Al concentration between nine normal brains and ten brains from patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

    We’re soaked in the stuff, so our bodies just stick it somewhere. Folks with Alzheimer’s do the same so we find it when we look, but comparing to a range of non-Alzheimer’s folks finds it in their brains too.

    So how much can a rat like us dump?

    Jouhanneau et al. (1997) found that rats excreted about 50 percent of absorbed 26Al in the urine, with 90 percent of this excretion occurring during the first 48 hours after ingestion. Wilhelm et al. (1992) measured single dose toxicokinetics of Al in the rat. Wistar rats were studied after intragastric (i.g.) doses of 1000 and 12,000 μg/ Al/kg and intravenous (i.v.) doses of 10, 100, 1000, and 12,000 μg Al/kg. Serial blood samples, daily samples of urine, and feces as well as brain, liver, kidney, spleen, muscle, and bone samples were collected. Following i.v. doses of 10, and 100 μg/kg, administered Al was recovered completely in urine (94.4 ± 9.9 percent and 98.5 ± 3.2 percent, respectively. Twenty-nine days after the i.v. dose of 1000 μg Al/kg, daily renal excretion decreased to baseline values while only 55.1 ± 8.0 percent of the dose was excreted. Aluminum accumulated in liver and spleen. After a single 1000 μg/kg i.g. dose, no absorption was detected. The i.g. dose of 12,000 μg/kg resulted in a maximum blood Al level of 47.9 ± 12.4 μg/L after 50 min. The blood concentration-time curve fitted a one compartment open model with a half-life of absorption of 28.6 ± 3.6 min. Cumulative renal Al excretion was 0.18 ±0.10 percent of the dose and oral availability was 0.02 percent.

    Note that some of these doses are “crazy high”… but it looks like somewhere between 100 and 1000 μg/kg, or at least 10,000 μg for me. 10 mg. Up to 100 mg. (though exactly where the 100% excretion ends is unclear. Call it 50 mg for now).

    But ‘crazy high doses’ and some of it ends up bound into bones and proteins scattered around the body. Or dumped out in the bile:

    Rats given 0.5 or 1.0 mmol Al/kg excreted significantly more Al bile than rats dosed with 0.25 mmol Al/kg or control rats. Urinary Al excretion was many-fold higher than biliary Al excretion in rats given Al but was less than biliary Al excretion in control rats. The high dose in this study was approximately equal to a scaled human adult equivalent dose of 650 mg Al/kg-d (1 mmol Al/kg x 700.75 x 27 mg Al/mmol Al = 653.4 mg Al/kg-d). Although the biliary excretion of Al was saturated at doses of one mmol Al/kg or more, suggesting a carrier mediated process, the mechanism of Al biliary excretion is unknown

    So at doses higher than the one where nearly 100% comes out the urine, more show up in the bile. Even at doses more than 10 x normal dietary intake WITH aluminum pots, pans, and soda cans… and about 600 x that in the whole person daily dose from tea… PER KG(!) so toss in x100 for me (It really does help to put sizes on things…)

    From human dietary balance studies it is clear that most of the ingested Al is unabsorbed. Aluminum levels determined in feces ranged from 76-98 percent of the oral dose (Gorsky et al., 1979). Absorbed Al is excreted in bile and urine. Skalsky and Carchmam (1983) cited studies in their review that reported bile as a major excretory path for Al. In contrast, Kovalchik et al. (1978) reported that the biliary contribution to Al excretion is negligible (less than 0.1 percent of the hemodialysis Al load in dogs). The kidneys appear to be a major excretory organ for Al. Urinary excretion of Al in healthy individuals has been reported to range from less than 3 μg/L to 30 μg/L (Valentin et al., 1976; Kaehny et al., 1977a). Oral doses of Al via antacids can increase the urinary excretion about 50-fold (Kaehny et al., 1977a; Recker et al., 1977).

    So put more in, more gets dumped in the urine and then the bile route kicks in to dump even more. Oh, and we may not even have absorbed 98% of it…

    Look, life evolved in the presence of this stuff. It’s not like it is some never seen in nature ion. It’s all over. Sea water, river water, dust in the air. We have systems to transport it and excrete it. It’s not like aluminum intake only started with the advent of Coke cans and aluminum pots.

    Grain is a major source. How long have people been eating grain and drinking tea?

    I think our bodies know how to deal with it.

    Problem space? Sure there’s a problem space. Take massive doses of anything and wash it down with a sulphuric acid ‘kicker’ that nukes your kidneys, hell yes it’s likely to be a problem. Have something else damage tissues, you might even find more metals accumulating in that area. (Lots of stuff accumulates at damage sites). Is it zero toxicity? NO. It has very limited toxicity though. Enough that unless you are drinking acid-lead-copper-sludge cocktails or working in an aluminum smelter without a ventilator, you really can just ignore it.

    IFF you just can’t let go of that paranoia nagging at you: Avoid antacids. That cuts out the majority of of it in one go. Still not enough? Avoid aluminum pop cans (the acid contents leaches more than most other aluminum exposure). At that point, it’s really not worth worrying about anything else. Not tea. Certainly not pans that are way lower in exposure anyway (with most of what goes in, going out again in the poo…)

    Now, having flogged this (A-gain) can we leave aluminum behind and go back to tea?

    Not yet? O-kay…

    Acute Toxicity
    Mortality studies for aqueous solutions of Al2(SO4)3 and AlCl3 given orally to mice resulted in
    LD50 values of 6.2 g/kg and 3.85 g/kg, respectively. Additional LD50 values for the various
    routes of exposure for Al compounds are given in Table 3.

    The LD50 is measured in GRAMS / kg. Think about it…

    Normal male human intake in America was listed as 26 mg/DAY. Figure a 100 kg male (me) you have 26/100 mg/kg or about 1/4 mg/kg. Compared to Grams/ kg…

    Subchronic Toxicity
    A summary of subchronic and chronic toxicity studies is given in Table 4. Krasovskii et al. (1979) gave male guinea pigs and rats 6, 17, and 50 mg Al/kg-d and rabbits 3, 9, and 27 mg Al/kg as AlCl3 in drinking water for 20-30 days. At the end of the study, ATP, ADP and AMP levels in the blood were significantly depressed in guinea pigs and rabbits receiving 17 and 27 mg Al/kg, respectively.

    to up to 27 mg/kg. I make that about 100 times more than a normal person at that 1/4 mg/kg rate. And what you get was a reduction in some of the phosphorus dependent molecules (where aluminum is known to induce some phosphorus excretion).

    Slanina et al. (1985) treated male rats daily by gastric intubation (6 days/week) with 100 mg Al/kg in the form of Al(OH)3 (9 week) or Al citrate (4 week), with citric acid (4 week) or with tap-water (control, 9 week). The cerebral cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum, and samples of bone from each rat were analyzed for Al. No significant increases in tissue Al concentrations were observed after treatment with Al(OH)3. The rats treated with Al citrate showed significantly increased concentrations of Al in all the brain regions studied and in the bone.

    Again, very high dose levels. With the hydroxide, not much happens. With citrate, it gets stored. OK, avoid consuming via intubation Al Citrate…

    The article goes on to a long catalog of other feeding studies with a real zoo of aluminum compounds and concentrations and then a litany of mostly minor metabolic changes observed (including one that increases tumor necrosis factor…)

    Mouse, M, 5/group, AlNH4(SO4)2•12 H2O 0, 5, 25, 125 ppm Al
    in drinking water ad lib. 0, 0.95, 4.3, 21.3
    30 d Dose dependent increase in expression of Tumor Necrosis Factor α mRNA in cerebrum, P < 0.05
    Tsunoda and Sharma, 1999

    So maybe the stuff has some good side to it too…

    Yet in high doses it can be shown to be neurotoxic. (As can tequila ;-)

    But those statistical studies are prone to finding correlations not causality… so maybe it’s something ELSE that matters…

    Fluoride (F) exerts a protective effect against the toxic effects of Al, as does SiO2, but the effects of SiO2 only become important at higher SiO2 concentrations. The effects of fluoride appear to be based on mutual antagonism in competing for intestinal absorption (Kraus and Forbes, 1992). Canadian investigators studying the toxicity of Al observed that relatively high risks of a measure of mental impairment was frequently associated with relatively low SiO2 and F in the drinking water in different parts of Ontario (Forbes and Agwani, 1994). These authors suggest that the biotoxic effects of Al at low concentrations involve membrane interactions, which are less likely to occur in the presence of higher SiO2 or F concentrations.

    So if you are really worried brush with fluoride toothpaste and use fluoridated water. Oh, wait, most places have fluoridated water already… So add some SiO2 i.e. anticaking agent to your diet… as in just about any food powder out there or a bit of trail dust… Which also begs the question of “Is Al bad, or the lack of Si and F the real problem?”

    Jacqmin-Gadda et al. (1996) studied cognitive impairment in 3,777 French subjects age 65 years and older. They evaluated the potential relationship of silica, Al, pH, calcium, magnesium, fluoride, zinc, copper, and iron in drinking water and cognitive impairment. An inverse relation was found between calcium concentration and cognitive impairment. No important associations were found between cognitive impairment and F, Mg, Fe, Cu, or Zn. An association between cognitive impairment and Al depended on pH and the silica level. High concentrations of Al appeared to have an adverse effect when the silica concentration was low, but there was an apparent protective effect when the pH and silica levels were high.
    Adverse relationships to Al were seen at low concentrations as well as high, with a threshold value as low as 3.5 μg Al/L.

    All of which sure looks to me like watching your Si level is at least as important as stressing over Aluminum… Read that one line again: ” there was an apparent protective effect when the pH and silica levels were high” So Aluminum is protective then, eh? Or is aluminum just being a proxy for Silicon? Low silicon, get brain problems. Hi silicon, not. Oh, and aluminum hanging around as a confounder… But nobody knows, it’s all just shooting craps with statistical games.

    There’s a pattern that shows up in all of this. Stay within an order of magnitude or two of the normal levels of intake (and that’s a fairly high level, and always has been) and you have metabolic pathways that deal with it. Go to crazy high levels, yes, it causes damage (as does everything else, even table salt and sugar). It is effectively excreted even at mildly high dose levels, and sometimes does good things (like that anti-cancer function and that ‘protective’ with Silicon). It may also be that it is just an “indicator” for other metal (or semiconductor) ions being in surplus or deficit.

    One thing that’s very clear is that a LOT of folks eat a LOT of Aluminum and No Bad Thing happens. IF you are worried, avoid ant-acids with Al in them and skip the sodas in cans and you’ve covered most of it. Tea and cookware are down in the noise level of exposure anyway.

    So how about it? Now can we forget Aluminum and get back to tea? If it rally worries you, nibble a bit of fluoride toothpast and sprinkle some quartz powder on your mashed potatoes…

  18. E.M.Smith says:


    Would you believe I’ve never had hibiscus tea?

    @Graeme No.3:

    From my read of the process above, the flavor profile can be changed a lot with the process. From my observations of the Camellia the leaf doesn’t change that much, really, between ‘flushes’.

    Then again, I’m not very picky about tea… (Though there is this Iranian Earl Grey that I really like…)

  19. J Martin says:

    I thought I read somewhere that Fluoride has recently come under suspicion as a real baddy. I will try and find it. Might have been a Gail Combs comment somewhere or perhaps that New Scientist rag.

  20. Petrossa says:

    peppermint however is pretty toxic in large doses.

  21. Ralph B says:

    Ahhh now I know if ever I get into a losing argument with EM to shift the subject to Aluminum toxicity. With Lief Svalgard you change it to barycenters. :-)
    I need to know this stuff cause I am usually on the losing side and need to somehow save some pride.

    But on subject…here in the ME they drink chai all the time. blechhh I don’t like the stuff. massive amounts of sugar, evaporated milk, and a handful of loose tea. Of course most people don’t drink tea the way I do either…I like the bag to steep in the mug until its lukewarm then drink it straight up no milk, no sugar. Maybe thats why I am the only one in the family with a hairy back…

  22. Gail Combs says:

    If you wish to avoid the Al antacids try ginger. -Examination of the Pharmacokinetics of Active Ingredients of Ginger in Humans: …The antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) have been reported in previous studies… – Do not forget the yogurt. (Like everything use in moderation as ginger can be disruptive in high doses.)
    Fluoride is controversial.
    Univ of NC @ Chapel Hill – Fluoride in drinking water cuts tooth decay in adults

    An overview of the published studies – Government and Top University Studies: Fluoride Lowers IQ and Causes Other Health Problems: This post doesn’t discuss any conspiracy theories. It simply presents a scientific review of the studies by mainstream sources on fluoride.
    Back to tea. I drink a lot of tea, black first cup in the morning, switching to green for the rest of the morning followed by white at midday and non-caffeine herbals for the afternoon and evening. This allows me to sleep better at night. I use Chamomile if I have trouble sleeping. Supposedly good for stomach cramps too. Again in moderation.

    The active ingredient in chamomile is Bisabolol

    Involvement of mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening in alpha-bisabolol induced apoptosis


    Alpha-bisabolol is a natural monocyclic sesquiterpene alcohol. It has been used in cosmetics for hundreds of years because of its perceived skin-healing properties. Alpha-bisabolol is known to have anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. In precedent studies, we described how alpha-bisabolol exerts a selective pro-apoptotic action towards transformed cells [Cavalieri E et al. (2004) Biochem Biophys Res Commun 315, 589-594] and its uptake is mediated by lipid rafts on the plasma membrane [Darra E et al. (2008) Arch Biochem Biophys 476, 113-123]. In this study, we hypothesize that the intracellular target of alpha-bisabolol may be the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP). To evaluate this hypothesis, we used one transformed cell line (human glioma T67) in comparison with a nontransformed one (human fibroblasts). We assessed the effect of a specific mPTP inhibitor (cyclosporine A) on the toxic action of alpha-bisabolol. Results show that the alpha-bisabolol-induced decrease in oxygen consumption is abolished by the addition of cyclosporine A in T67 cells, indicating that alpha-bisabolol may target mPTP. The central role of mitochondria was also demonstrated by using galactose to force cells to a more aerobic metabolism. In this condition, we observed higher alpha-bisabolol toxicity. Furthermore, we studied the effect of alpha-bisabolol on isolated rat liver mitochondria. This study expands the notion of the specific action of alpha-bisabolol on transformed cells and suggests that it may act by disturbing the structure and function of the mPTP. Alpha-bisabolol toxicity is clearly related to its cellular uptake, which is higher in transformed cell lines.

    BTW thanks for the information on water and metal toxicity. I am going to have to be a lot more careful boiling my tea water. We have well water and in using vinegar to clean my corning ware tea pot I noticed the formation of pretty green-blue crystals – aka Copper acetate.

    Copper was discovered and mined in Northern Lee County near Deep River school apparently in the late 1850s or early 1860s. A report by the “Sanford Herald” on January 16, 1932 stated that the mine last operated around 1900…

    Well that explains the copper in my well water. There is also gold, silver, sulphur and of course iron found in my neck of the woods. I am in the piedmont otherwise known as the dump pile from the erosion of the Appalachian Mtns complete with a volcanic dike running through the middle of the property so who knows what minerals are dissolved in my water.

  23. Verity Jones says:

    Re Aluminium, this was discussed on a previous thread. I happen to have used the faculty in Oxford (in the dim and distant past) that helped to counter the Al in Alzheimers scare.

  24. DirkH says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    24 March 2013 at 6:46 am
    “So how about it? Now can we forget Aluminum and get back to tea? If it rally worries you, nibble a bit of fluoride toothpast and sprinkle some quartz powder on your mashed potatoes…”

    Sorry, I just watched the video Ron linked and as it was in German I wanted to help, giving a short summary. So that you Amis know what it’s about. But anyway, thanks a lot for your instant switch to nerd mode. A lot of useful info.

    Now I’m thinking about
    a) getting myself a source of silicium.
    b) starting a business scaring my fellow Germans into submission with the Al scare. And of course selling them a Si-rich mineral water with a fancy name, which wouldn’t be that bad for them in any case.

    A simple product. I love simple products.

  25. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. It is good to turn, once in a while, as you do, after a controversial issue as the elite banking system and its consequences, to turn as I said to these little things of the good old life. Things, of course, those darkened “illuminati”, in spite of all their trillions, do not enjoy.

  26. DirkH says:

    J Martin says:
    24 March 2013 at 8:39 am
    “I thought I read somewhere that Fluoride has recently come under suspicion as a real baddy. I will try and find it. Might have been a Gail Combs comment somewhere or perhaps that New Scientist rag.”

    Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ – Published in Federal Gov’t Journal

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ralph B:

    So find a solar system with a planet made of aluminum and you will be set for all comers! ;-)


    I don’t know about that… they sure seem to be enjoying themselves in the pictures I’ve seen…

    But Sir! I must protest! Calling tea one of “these little things”? Where are your priorities?
    I have to admit that a good cup of tea is worth more than money…


    Switch to Nerd Mode? Switch?… I didn’t know there was a switch… where’s the off position… ;-)

    I appreciate the “summary” but so many reasonable people go running off the deep end on Al without even taking a moment to look at the numbers. Somebody eats 2 pounds of it and has a marginally demonstrable problem then a load of folks get scared about a mg of it in tea. 90% of which doesn’t even get absorbed from the gut.

    Per your product idea: As bamboo, being a grass, has more Si in it than other plants, you could make a “bamboo water’ from the leaves…. Don’t know as it would do much, or have much Si make it to the water, but I’m sure the story would sell…


    Everything is toxic in “pretty large doses”, even water. (Hyponatremia kills you) But yes, some of the mints a bit more so than salt, water, and nitrogen. ( At 3 atm pressure nitrogen makes you a bit drunk. At 10 atm you are on the edge of blackout. Somewhere beyond that, you die. Need to swap to helium to stay alive.)

    “With the limitation that the concentration of pulegone in these ingredients should not exceed 1%, it was concluded that Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaves, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Water are safe as used in cosmetic formulations.”

    So avoid very high concentrations…

    The basic problem is this: We have detoxification and clearance mechanisms that handle all sorts of bad crap. The testing method used for just about everything goes to very very high doses. At some point, it swamps the detox and clearance mechanisms. Then we see bad things, so folks leap to the conclusion that small amounts must be bad too, when they are not.

    Wine is a great example of “the problem”. “Tea totallers” (note the crafty connection to the thread topic ;-) say that since too much damages the liver, they will avoid ALL alcohol. They then proceed to die at an earlier age… After a LOT of work, it was shown that modest alcohol intake increases life span. The curve of alcohol damage is not a straight one, it has bumps and wiggles… and even goes to ‘negative damage’ at some intake levels.

    Life is like that…

    So just look for that basic “problem” in every single one of the “FOO causes BAR bad-thing in large doses” study.


    Oh Dear… did a search on silicon foods…

    23 Foods high in Silicon to make you look good naked
    23 Foods high in Silicon. Bell peppers. Soybeans. 7 ways Silicon helps you look good naked… Silicon is needed to help you make more collagen or skin protein. More from

    Foods Rich in Silica – High Silica Content Foods List
    Why created a salad to feature the mineral silicon? Silicon is know as the beauty mineral and its as Among some of the foods high in Zinc are pumpkin seeds, fresh oysters, Brazilian nuts, eggs, pecans. More from

    Looks like folks are already pushing Silicon as a ‘beauty mineral’… (I suppose you could still take the water angle and put both claims on it, beauty and smarts, and cut a ‘product swap deal’ with the food makers to cross sell…)

    @J Martin:

    Oh Dear, I’ve opened the Evil Fluoride door haven’t I …..

    It can harden bones and teeth. If done to excess it makes them yellow and brittle. In very high doses, other bad things happen (oh, wait, where have I heard that before… ;-) so keep the dose low.


    Yes, it was discussed before. Surprised you could find the particular comment. And it will be discussed again… and again… and again… and again… like a bad Movie Zombie it just won’t stay dead no matter how often you shoot it full of holes…

    I’m all for folks continuing to study it, since (momentarily taking the other side) we don’t know what is really happening in those plaques yet. So there might well be some kind of role Al plays. I could see several plausible paths – things like a breakdown of the kidneys and metal excretion leading to a defect in elimination leading to deposition leading to abnormal plaques and immune responses to them. BUT those will generally have some ‘upstream’ defect and be part of a cascade failure that just isn’t important to “the average person” and where avoidance of Al exposure is irrelevant. So why have everyone scared about Al when they ought to be worried about their kidneys?

    But we will never know that kind of thing if we don’t look, so looking is a good thing… but don’t expect to find Al causal, or, like I said before, all the Maalox drinkers of the world would be showing a huge correlation with the mental health wards, and it just isn’t happening.

    We find Al deposited in tissues all over the body. It gets stuck in the nucleus too. We slowly metalize as we age. The stuff just likes sticking to various organic parts. Nothing special about the brain. And it doesn’t seem to slow down folks like George Burns or any of the other old folks who have the same metalizing process going on and no symptoms. Why? No idea why. But just like Strontium and several other metals, they end up stored in the bones if there is too much in the blood, and excretion goes up, but never enough to drop the body levels back down to zero; yet the body doesn’t seem to care. Metabolism evolved in a very dirty soup and does pretty will with it.

    @Gail Combs:

    Your second link is an “empty”. If you provide the link ‘naked’ I’ll ‘fix up’ the prior pointer to it…

    There can be all kinds of surprises in well water. I’ve got no problem drinking it as long as the taste is in bounds (that’s why, IMHO, we don’t like the taste of some water – the natural warning system saying “this exceeds spec”…) But just like out here, the Kesterson area has toxic levels of Selenium (an essential nutrient BTW…) other places can have their own problems.

    Just bringing the tea water to the boil ought not to be a problem, but if you boil it half away before remembering to make the tea… that does concentrate the metals… As I’ve swapped to using the gas stove for making tea, my tendency to “wander off to do something else while it heats” has gone way down. The much faster heating rate means very short waits so no getting bored…

    For your high metals problem: Easiest solution I can think of is get a water softener. They don’t just pull the excess calcium out of the water, but a whole lot of metals. (You get more sodium in exchange, but I think I’ve seen potassium chloride pellets sold somewhere for folks with high blood pressure who want a water softener… Yes, a quick search turned up: )

    So if it worries you, get a water softener…

    It’s been a while since I had chamomile tea… I think I’ll see if some is still in the stash…


    Well, after 3 large cups of the “DIY Green” yesterday evening, this morning I’m having a bit of theobromine withdrawal symptoms. (That slightly dry mouthed, bit irritated ‘where’s that damn tea” feeling).

    The caffeine level is a bit low compared to my “usual” in that I never did get the ‘caffeine hyper’ from it (the excess theobromine was over riding the hyper with calming) that I would have expected from 36 oz of tea. Yet it did have some caffeine. A bit of an ‘alert lift’. Just not a lot. As some of the steps above listed increased caffeine availability as the result, it looks like just crushing the leaves and letting them oxidize a bit more may fix that. As it is, it reminds me of many oriental teas that have that same kind of “more theobromine less caffeine” ratio.

    Also, the leaves I used were just “run of the mill leaves”. No selection other than “easy to grab and not with a flower bud”. So learning how to properly pick and select leaves likely matters too.

    And with that, I think I’m going to go put some fertilizer on the camellia bush… until now I just ignored it and it was on it’s own… Now “we have a deal” ;-)

  28. R. de Haan says:

    I love this blog. Fact remains that the researchers in the documentary claimed they found: mutated cells eating (destroying) muscle, nerv and brain tussue contained elevated amounts of aluminum Brain tissue from alzheimer patients contains elevated aluminum levels. I accidently watched the documentary and was triggered by it, that’s all. Still the same old skeptic.

  29. E.M.Smith says:


    Notice how weasel wordy they are in that article, though:

    Harvard University researchers’ review of fluoride/brain studies concludes “our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.”

    In other words “Send More Funding Money”…

    “The children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ than those who lived in low fluoride areas,” write Choi et al.

    Which can just be the result of poor kids living in dense urban centers with fluoridation and rich kids born to Ph.Ds and Dr.s and Lawyers living on rural estates being in non-fluoridated areas. Did they control for economic status? Ethnicity? Nutritional status? Disease history?

    They do include:

    Water was the only fluoride source in the studies reviewed and was based on high water fluoride levels. However, they point out research by Ding (2011) suggested that low water fluoride levels had significant negative associations with children’s intelligence.

    So high fluoride correlates with reduced intelligence AND low fluoride correlates with reduced intelligence… Sure sounding like a “coincidence is not causality moment” to me…

    I also note that the only number of interest given was the low level added to drinking water. Nothing about how high “high” levels are. Without numbers, this is just a “Scary Scary bad things might happen send more money” story. A lot of science lately seems to have caught on to that method…

    Maybe we could plot the ongoing increase in autism along with the increased use of Fluoride and get a nice correlation graph and go get a few $million to study it! Need someone with an M.D. or Ph.D. to ‘front’ for it, though…. (Both were rising at the same time, so I know in advance we can find somewhere with a positive correlate….never mind that one is due to changes of diagnostic method as much as anything else and both are correlated with affluence letting us do more medical testing and more medicating the water…) I’m sure I can make a Scary Fear Story out of it suited to harvesting Grant Money…

    So take my ‘standard tool kit’ and apply it to the Fluoride Scare Papers as well. Ask “Where are the numbers?” Ask “Is it ‘not disproving the possibility’ or is it ‘direct causality has been demonstrated’ that they claim”? Ask “Are there existence proofs of the contrary?” (Hint, look at the places with natural high fluoride levels, good teeth, and smart people. The places where we discovered the fluoride tooth protection angle.) Ask “are they doing yet another statistically weak shotgun for some correlation”? Ask “if it is so horrible, where is the stack of dead bodies”? Look for nonsequitur and ‘plausible but dodgy cross linking’ like:

    Choi et al. write, “Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neurodevelopment. They recommend more brain/fluoride research on children and at individual-level doses.

    Just loaded with “weasel words”. “may cause” (but no dose level), an appeal to massive dose acute effects to demonstrate the Monster To Fear, then bring in The Children… Send More Money.. wave talisman…

    I’m all for leaving fluoride out of municipal water (my lawn and car don’t need it, nor does my garden) and it is best applied in toothpaste at controlled levels anyway. Besides, I’ve not seen a kid drink much tap water these days anyway. But I just find the fear mongering a bother.

    Fluoridation doesn’t work well, isn’t needed, and spreads fluoride to all sorts of places that don’t need it (is highly inefficient). That’s enough.

  30. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    The problem there is that “broken cells accumulate aluminum” is not the same as “aluminum breaks cells”… we already know aluminum accumulates in tissues, so not a big leap to ‘broken cells accumulate more’. We already know people world wide are exposed to loads of aluminum without problems, so a very giant leap to “aluminum breaks cells”.

    Oh, and don’t mistake my rant for being a dump on you (or any other individual). It is just that I’ve seen this same Aluminum (and fluoride) scare sooo many times it gets old…

    Always willing to accept ‘new evidence’, but very resistant to “The Fear Sell”…

  31. DirkH says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    24 March 2013 at 5:18 pm
    “Ask “if it is so horrible, where is the stack of dead bodies”? ”

    With Fluoride, that’s simple. It kills the brain.
    Americans have re-elected Obama.
    There you go.

  32. DirkH says:

    Now I was googling for some native tribe using bamboo in some ritual so I can attach some mystical meaning to my bamboo water and all I found…
    …was this bloody Tetseo Sisters video (of a tribe called Tati in Northern India it seems and that tribe seems to eat a load of Bamboo shoots)

  33. DirkH says:

    Oh sorry, the tribe is called Naga, the Tati is the weird stick instrument they’re playing…

  34. E.M.Smith says:


    Um, we elected FDR perpetually until he died mysteriously… so Americans have been over 50% brain dead for a very long time… Don’t think Fluoridation is the issue…

  35. DirkH says:

    Ok, that leaves only the Aluminum from the tea.

  36. J Martin says:

    EM Smith said “and go get a few $million to study it!”

    You just have to say in your application for the grant that you promise to show that the result (whatever result the granting authority requires) is undoubtedly caused by increasing levels of anthropogenic co2.

    There is so much money sloshing around co2 climate science that you could successfully get a grant to show that the reason your home made tea was not as tasty as expected is due to dangerous levels of anthropogenic co2. And therefore (?) it will affect wheat in 4 years time and so the government must give you another grant to study that to enable decision makers to prevent this disaster in an enlightened and timely manner. Or some such guff.

  37. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    24 March 2013 at 5:27 pm
    @R. de Haan:

    The problem there is that “broken cells accumulate aluminum” is not the same as “aluminum breaks cells”… we already know aluminum accumulates in tissues, so not a big leap to ‘broken cells accumulate more’. We already know people world wide are exposed to loads of aluminum without problems, so a very giant leap to “aluminum breaks cells”.

    Oh, and don’t mistake my rant for being a dump on you (or any other individual). It is just that I’ve seen this same Aluminum (and fluoride) scare sooo many times it gets old…

    “Always willing to accept ‘new evidence’, but very resistant to “The Fear Sell”…”

    E. M, I never spend a single second taking your comment as a rant, let alone taking it personal. I am fed up myself with all the scare stories popping up all over the place. So without the objective to stretch the subject to a level where it becomes “tiresome” let me be more specific about what triggered me….
    I don’t know if you watched the video I linked but somewhere half way In the video the scientist doing the tissue research detects these aggressive cells attacking sound muscle cells, nerve cells and brain cells. This observation is made from tissue samples under a microscope. He sends a sample to another researcher who responds with the news that the “aggressive, sound tissue attacking cells” contain aluminum. As a next step they trace these cells with a fluid that makes the aluminum saturated cells visible. They apply this fluid in vivo with a patient.
    In this part of the video they show ct scans of the attacked muscle tissue and the rogue cells. Now here is the clue: some time ago I had the unpleasant opportunity to watch a bunch of ct scans from an Alzheimer patient (related). Now what triggered me was the pattern of holes in the muscle tissue presented in the video caused by the “rogue attack cells” and the pattern of holes in the brain tissue of the Alzheimer patient. It was just an observation without any scientific value whatsoever let alone a breakthrough, nothing more, nothing less.

    As for the “scare factor” that is supposed to be triggered by the video there is none for me. I will continue to use modern sun blockers, deodorants, alu foil and I certainly continue to keep my vaccinations for yellow fever and hepatitus for exapmple up to date. Life is full of risks and we make tens of life determining decisions every day. Believe me that the decision to cross a busy road by foot has a much higher potential impact on life compared to the decision to spray some deodorant.

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