Detox teas have been taken off shelves after being shown to include a pharmacy-only laxative ingredient.
Promoted as being aids to weight loss and an organ cleanse, detox teas have had a resurgence in recent years thanks to Instagram influencers hawking them at every turn. What do they really do? According to a recent Consumer NZ investigation, they’ll make you shit and that’s about it.
Three Healtheries teas – Healtheries Naturally Slim Lemon Tea, Healtheries Naturally Slim Superfruit Acai and Blueberry Tea, and Healtheries Herbalax Senna Peppermint Tea – were removed from shelves after the investigation found them to contain senna, a pharmacy-only laxative ingredient used to treat constipation. In other words, D is for detox but mostly diarrhoea.
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin advised consumers not to be sucked in by advertisements and endorsements for detox teas. “These types of products make various claims about weight loss or ‘detoxing’ but they can be little more than laxatives in disguise. There’s no good evidence these products provide any benefits and they could even do you harm.”
Chetwin then took an informed shit on the very concept of detox teas. “You don’t need to buy a pricey tea to ‘detox’. Your body is already primed to get rid of toxins by itself.” she said.
You may not need to but thousands have. Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, and Demi Lovato have all promoted detox teas in the United States. Closer to home, Instagram influencer Sera Lilly recently launched Teatox, a detox tea advertised being designed to “cleanse your body of all the impurities and toxins we accumulate on a day to day basis”.
“This is not a weight loss or laxative tea,” read the disclaimer.
Teatox contains senna, the pharmacy-only laxative ingredient. It has been removed from sale following the Consumer NZ investigation.
Like any number of weight loss scams masquerading as “health” products, detox teas promise a cheap(ish), aesthetically pleasing quick fix. And like most scams, they don’t work and are potentially harmful to consumers. Actress Jameela Jamil has spoken out numerous times about this.
“I was the teenager who starved herself for years, who spent all her money on these miracle cures and laxatives and tips from celebrities on how to maintain a weight that was lower than what my body wanted it to be,” Jamil tweeted in November 2018. “I was sick, I have had digestion and metabolism problems for life.”
Though Jamil’s protests garnered a lot of support, detox teas, like waist trainers (modern-day corsets), remain prolific. Any number of Bachelorettes from past seasons in New Zealand have promoted one brand, SmarTea. SmarTea’s website advertises the different flavoured detox teas on offer, one of which lists ‘Senna Leaf’ as an ingredient. SmarTea were not listed in Consumer NZ’s report has having stopped the sale of their products but as of today, their Instagram page is private. Other, larger brands like Skinny Me Tea in Australia advertise senna-based products to millions of consumers through their global network of influencers.
Consumer NZ warns that anyone advertising or selling products containing the laxative ingredient senna could be fined up to $100,000. While Healtheries and Teatox were specifically called out, there are more out there. The use of natural laxatives in these products is also problematic because they cause people to excrete important electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium,” states the online report. There’s no evidence supporting weight-loss claims for senna. Side effects of consuming senna include stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Studies have linked prolonged use of senna leaf to liver injury, electrolyte disturbances, changes in heart rhythms and laxative dependency.”
Social media, in particular Instagram, is full of products and claims that are, on a number of levels, false and misleading. Consumer NZ has investigated some claims and wants to see better regulation of herbal products. Until then, keep a wary eye out for promotions promising detoxes and cleanses. More often than not, they’re only selling you a bunch of shit.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.