Green Tea Benefits for Lupus Disease Activity

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A new study found benefits of drinking green tea for people with lupus, including reduced disease activity.

Green tea originated in China and is made from Camellia sinensis leaves. These same leaves are used to make oolong and black tea, as well. But, for those teas, the leaves must go through a withering and oxidation process. The withering process removes excess water and allows for the easier breakdown of proteins in the tea leaves. In green tea, this oxidation process is stopped quickly when the leaves are picked by either steaming the leaves or dry cooking the leaves in hot pans.


Green tea, lupus, and quality of life

A study published on June 6, 2017 in the journal Phytotherapy Research found benefits to drinking green tea on lupus symptoms. The journal itself focuses on pharmacology, toxicology, and the clinical application of herbs and natural products in a clinical context.

One way that journals are ranked is by impact score. Impact score is a ratio of articles that were cited by other researchers (in the previous two years) compared to the number of articles published (also in the previous two years). Or, it can be written like this:

Impact Score for 2017 = (Citations in 2016 + Citations in 2015) / (Articles in 2016 + Articles in 2016)

A higher impact score suggests that the journal is publishing content that is contributing to pushing science forward. Phytotherapy Research has a 2014 impact score of 2.66, and it was ranked 105th out of 254 journals in the category: “Pharmacology and Pharmacy.” Taken together, these scores and rankings point to the strength of a journal.


Green tea clinical trial methods and results


  • 68 people diagnosed previously with lupus
  • Age range: 39.1 +/- 10.3 years
  • BMI index range: 25.7 +/- 5.21 kg/m^2


Participants received one of two interventions:

  • 1,000 mg green tea extract, 2 capsules per day; or
  • 1,000 mg of starch, 2 capsules per day (serving as a placebo)

The trial was randomized, and double-blind meaning that neither participants nor the clinicians knew whether a person was taking the green tea or a the placebo.

The trial lasted 12 weeks during which the participants took the pills every day.


Disease activity was measured at baseline at at 3-months using the SLEDAI (systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index) and a quality of life questionnaire.

Using the SLEDAI, disease activity was significantly reduced (p < 0.004) for those that received the green tea supplements. Additionally, daily intake of green tea significantly increased vitality (p < 0.006)  and general health (p < 0.01).

The researchers concluded that, “daily consumption of green tea extracts for 12 weeks improves the systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity as well as some aspects of quality of life.”


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Green Tea and Health

This finding is interesting as the health benefits of green tea are being examined in specific diseases. However, the health benefits of green tea have been examined more generically before, with multiple reviews looking at the benefits for people with cancer and for those with autoimmune diseases.

The scientific understanding of the benefits of green tea is expanding. The above review explores how the active ingredient in green tea, epigallocatechin-3- gallate (EGCG), interacts with T cells. T cells are a certain type of white blood cell that is important for regulating the immune response of the body. Medications, such as Orencia (abatacept) work by targetting T cells.

Another review looking into the health properties of green tea noted wide ranging, scientifically reviewed benefits including:

  • Stress relief
    • Due to the presence of  L-theanine
  • Bone density
  • Ultraviolet skin protection
    • Mostly analyzed in animal studies and in-vitro studies though some promising in-human studies

Liver failure and green tea extract

Some case studies had shown that green tea extract was linked to hepatotoxicity. Hepatotoxicity is a type of liver damage caused by increased toxicity. The US Pharmacopeia showed evidence that the concentrated extracts may cause this but it relatively rare.

As a note, even when starting something that may seem safe, like green tea extracts, you should speak with your doctor to be sure it is appropriate for you.

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