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Do Tea Bags on Eyes Help with Puffiness and Dark Circles?

Placing tea bags on your eyes may temporarily help reduce puffiness and dark circles. Here are other long-term solutions to help brighten and depuff the area.

Woman holds two used tea bags over her eyes.

Pharmacy shelves are decked out with creams claiming to help reduce puffy eyes and dark circles and you’ve probably heard of popular remedies like placing cool used tea bags on the eyes, which are a cheaper and more accessible option. But do they work?  

Even better, we’ll share Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alternatives that get to the root of the problem.

Do Tea Bags on Eyes Work? 

As you age, your skin loses its elasticity, resulting in under eye bags. Thinning skin makes blood vessels under the eyes more visible, giving them a dark appearance. Can a pair of used tea bags undo these things? The short answer would be yes, but only a little.

Black, green, oolong, and white tea leaves come from either the Camellia sinensis or Camellia sinensis assamica tea bushes. Different oxidation levels produce different types of tea, giving them different flavour characteristics as well as nutritional content. 

Here are three reasons why putting tea bags on your eyes can help: 

  • Antioxidants: Tea leaves are chockful of polyphenols and flavonoids (catechins) that have antioxidant activity against free radicals. 
  • Caffeine: The caffeine in tea constricts blood vessels upon contact, reducing the appearance of dark circles.  
  • Cold compress effect: Cold tea bags that sit over the eyes mimic cold compresses to work against puffiness and inflammation. 

What Does TCM Say? The Eyes as an Indicator of Health

Woman sits in front of a laptop with her hands propping her head, eyeglasses placed awkwardly on her forehead and a pen held in one hand; she has tired puffy eyes with dark circles.
Having a hectic lifestyle that drains the body can show up as tired, puffy eyes with dark circles.

TCM Physician Kelvin Goh from Real Health Medical considers the eyes as the window into what’s going on in your body. The five-wheel theory in TCM divides the eye into five parts that correspond to five health wheels associated with the zang (脏) organs: 

  • Flesh wheel = Spleen (Flesh around the eyes)  
  • Blood wheel = Heart (Inner and outer of canthus or corners)  
  • Qi wheel = Lungs (Sclera)  
  • Wind wheel = Liver (Iris)  

Based on this concept, those puffy eye bags and pesky dark circles could signal an issue with your Spleen and/or Kidney qi (vital life force). The culprits? A hectic lifestyle with little sleep, a poor diet, and a lack of exercise. 

You might be experiencing one of these Deficiencies if you have puffy eyes and dark shadows under your eyes.

Kidney Qi Deficiency 

“Black and dark circles around your eyes indicate an issue in the Kidneys. A Deficiency in Kidney Qi leads to poor water metabolism, causing fluid build-up in the eye area. This creates puffy and dark eye bags,” Physician Goh explains. 

Other accompanying symptoms of Kidney Qi Deficiency include: 

  • Frequent urination 

Spleen Qi Deficiency 

“This could be due to a poor diet. Another cause is too much exposure to Dampness such as in cold and moist climates or too much air-conditioning.”

TCM Physician Kelvin Goh

This could be due to a poor diet. Another cause is too much exposure to Dampness such as in cold and moist climates or too much air-conditioning.

Those with Spleen Qi Deficiency will have a low immune system and these symptoms: 

  • Digestive issues 
  • Fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath and a weak voice 

Back to Basics: Focus on the Tea Rather than the Bag  

To correct the imbalances that are causing these issues, try these different herbal tea combinations. 

“Eyesight” tea with chrysanthemum and dendrobium

Ladle filled with chrysanthemum flowers boiled in hot water; a large cooking pot of the same tea in the background.
Chrysanthemum and dendrobium make up the main ingredients in the TCM herbal formula Ming Mu Cha (明目茶) for eye health.

A popular herbal formula that often comes readily in teabags is Ming Mu Cha (明目茶) or “eyesight” tea. The two main ingredients in this tea are wild chrysanthemum flower (ye ju hua, 野菊花) and dendrobium (shi hu, 石斛).

This tea helps with a tired Liver due to a hectic lifestyle and lack of sleep. if you suffer from dark circles and undereye bags will benefit from taking this tea. 

Drain excess fluids with barley and dandelion  

Your body may be holding too much fluid, causing the puffiness you see around your eyes. Coix seed or barley (yi yi ren, 薏苡仁) drains Dampness, while dandelion (pu gong ying, 蒲公英) clears Heat. Both are good at resetting your water metabolism by acting as a diuretic to help drain excess fluids that cause puffy eyes.

Try this recipe: Boil 50g of coix seeds and 3g of dried dandelion flowers in 1 litre of water. Reduce heat and brew for 10 minutes. Let it cool, then sip and enjoy.

Stress-busting rose and hawthorn tea 

Those dark circles around your eyes are a likely sign of stress due to poor sleep and an improper diet. Rose flower (mei gui hua, 玫瑰花) promotes calmness and improves your skin health by treating Qi Stagnation. Meanwhile, hawthorn fruit (shan zha, 山楂) regulates qi and improves poor digestion. As a combination, they are relaxing, reduces mood swings, and promote good sleep. 

Try this recipe: Steep 8 dried roses and 3g of hawthorn fruit in 800ml of hot water for 5 minutes. Sip and relax. 

Using tea bags on the eyes as a remedy for puffiness and dark circles can help refresh and calm your eyes to a certain extent. A more long-lasting alternative would be to get to the root of your problem.

How about making “eat healthier, go to bed earlier, reduce stress” your “cup of tea” too? In the meantime, try these TCM herbal alternatives and tell us if they work!

References

  1. NVisionCenters.com. Do Tea Bags for Eyes Actually Work (Puffy Eyes & Other). [online] [Accessed 23 January 2023]  
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Dark Circles Under Eyes. [online] [Accessed 23 January 2023] 
  3. Advanced Biomedical Research. 2015. Evaluation of the clinical efficacy and safety of an eye counter pad containing caffeine and vitamin K in emulsified Emu oil base. [online] [Accessed 23 January 2023]  
  4. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. 2022. Review of eye diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine: Modernization and future prospects. [online] [Accessed 23 January 2023] 

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