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May 4, 1979

Teatime for Thalassemia

JAMA. 1979;241(18):1932. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290440054033

As every schoolchild knows, tea played an important role in the political strategy of the American Revolution. The tea boycott and the Boston Tea Party are matters of recorded history. Less well known is the medical accompaniment to the political performance. A chorus of physicians led by the famed Dr Benjamin Rush mixed political appeals with denunciation of tea as a poison responsible for many ills.1 The antitea bias, however, subsided with the end of the boycott, and many physicians, Rush included, began to find virtues in the formerly "baneful herb."

No major medical virtues or banes have been attributed to tea since the Revolutionary days. Unlike coffee, which occasionally aroused medical controversy, tea was considered innocuous, innocent of either blame or praise. Recent studies, however, suggest that tea has some hitherto unsuspected pharmacologic effects. Disler et al2 demonstrated that tea inhibited the absorption of nonheme iron from