Kuding — Is the Bitter Worth the Bite?

Kuding tea Ilex kudingcha
Kuding tea Ilex kudingcha

Tea has long had various healthful properties ascribed to it, but so have a lot of herbals, often labeled as “herbal teas.” Kuding is one such herbal. It is Chinese in origin and known as “bitter tea.” Judging by all the health benefits there are supposed to be in a cupful, this herbal should be labeled “miracle tea” instead. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what kuding is (and isn’t).

Kuding comes from several plants and is also known as “Solitary Leaf,” “Bitter Tea,” and “Ku Ding.” The wax tree species Ligustrum robustum (from Sichuan Province in China and from Japan) and the holly species Ilex kudingcha (grown in other parts of China) are the two most common plants used. The holly kind is related to yerba maté, which is a species of Holly used to steep up a hot, caffeine-bearing liquid in Paraguay and Uruguay.

The dry leaves of the wax tree species, which are about 1.5 to 2 times larger than those of true tea (from Camellia Sinensis) are long and thin, looking sort of like mummified green beans. Sometimes, though, the leaves are processed into balls, usually rolled by hand.

The liquid steeped from these leaves is aromatic and bitter tasting at first and then the taste turns slightly sweet and cool. Kuding tea can usually stand at least two brewings.

Some of the medicinal properties this herbal is supposed to have:

  • disperses wind-heat (no idea what they mean by this and am a bit afraid to ask),
  • clears the head and the eyes, so is good for common cold, rhinitis, itching eyes, red eyes, and headache
  • invigorates digestion and helps maintain proper body weight
  • keeps up the spirits and calms fidgets
  • resolves toxin (not sure what this one means either)
  • reduces inflammation (no, does not reduce swelled heads)
  • lowers blood pressure and promotes circulation,
  • lowers blood lipids, including cholesterol
  • prevents deterioration of heart and brain function
  • alleviates thirst, especially from fever or severe diarrhea
  • transforms phlegm
  • alleviates coughing, thus used in treating bronchitis
  • improves mental focus and memory

Kuding tea contains more than 200 elements including

  • Kuding saponins
  • amino acids
  • vitamin C
  • polyphenols
  • flavonoids
  • caffeine
  • protein
Kuding tea Ligustrum robustum
Kuding tea Ligustrum robustum
    Reads like the litany from one of those “magic elixir” hawkers from the traveling medicine shows in the Old West. If half of it is true, the bitter taste of the first sips should be worth the bite.

To brew: Rinse tea cup and teapot with hot water. Use only 1 or 2 dried tea leaves (also called “sticks” and “nails”) for every 150ml of water. For the first and second brewing, steep tea leaves for 1 minute in hot water at 80-90°c (176-194°F). If you want to steep another round or two, increase the steeping time and temperature a little for each round.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Consult your physician before beginning a regimen of kuding or any other herbal or tea that claims to have health benefits.

See also: Yerba Mate Revisited

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

9 thoughts on “Kuding — Is the Bitter Worth the Bite?

  1. My mother in law bought some in China and began drinking one cup daily. Within two months her triglycerides and cholesterol had decreased by about half, and she was taken off all the medications she had been given previously because of elevated readings. She swears by it and is waiting to see if her blood pressure will decrease.

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Well, it’s certainly an interesting story, and we’re happy that your mother-in-law is feeling better. However, there is no guarantee that the kuding had anything to do with her improvement. If she enjoys it and if it’s not harming her, she might as well continue, assuming her doctor has no objections.

  2. Pingback: Your questions about sambong herbal medicine

  3. Pingback: Yerba Mate some of the goodness in Zeal for Life | Zeal for Life Wellness Formula

  4. Rooibos man

    I really hope ETS starts selling more of the teas that they review!

    You make them sound so good and then I don’t see them on your site!

    1. A.C. Cargill

      They should all be on the site. If there is one in particular that you can’t find, please let us know. Usually, there is a link in the review to the product. Thanks for reading.

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