There are few occasions, in my humble opinion, that aren’t made better with a cup of tea. Black and green tea make mornings a little brighter, herbal tea makes stressful moments a little calmer, and any tea’s a terrific accompaniment to times spent with good friends or a good book. And because it’s chock-full of antioxidants that repair cellular damage (which leads to wrinkles and disease), we do our bodies a great service every time we enjoy a cup. That’s why it seems such a shame to throw out a tea bag after it’s served its purpose; surely the magic that lies in each pouch has use beyond the beverage realm? As it turns out, the last place we should throw used tea bags is in the trash—at least not immediately, anyway. There are multiple ways to heal health ailments and spruce up our beauty regimens, homes, and even gardens with the help of a brewed tea bag or two.
Treat Your Health Ailments
All teas have varying levels of tannins, the naturally occurring chemicals (also called polyphenols) that give tea its astringent, or bitter, taste; they’re released as the tea steeps. Caffeinated teas, like black and green, have more than herbal varieties, which is why they taste more bitter than their herbal counterparts. Tannins also have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning that tea can soothe more than just our stomachs and moods.
1. Allow the tea bags to cool after steeping, then place them on sunburns and minor burns (including razor burn) for relief. If the majority of your skin needs tending, brew a tea bath and submerge yourself in the cooled-off water.
2. Apply used tea bags to rashes and insect bites to ease itching.
3. Alleviate sore or bleeding gums by putting a cooled, used tea bag over the problem spot. Tannins constrict blood vessels, which will stop the bleeding, and they reduce the swollen tissues that cause soreness.
4. Put a soaked tea bag on a bruise to heal it faster. Ruptured capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body, create bruises. Since tannins constrict blood vessels, they stop the leaking that causes discoloration.
5. It’s said that the tannic acid in tea shrinks warts, possibly because of its bacteria-fighting properties. To try this method, put a warm tea bag on the wart for 10 minutes per day, a few times per day. The wart should shrink after a couple of days.
Add a Natural Touch to Your Beauty Routine
Tannins do good things for your skin and hair health, too. If your eyes look tired or your hair looks dull, relief is just a used tea bag away.
6. To reduce puffiness around your eyes, soak a tea bag in warm water and place on each eye for 20 minutes.
7. You can use the same method above to reduce undereye dark circles, too. Dark circles are a form of bruising, which means that tannins can alleviate them in the same way.
8. Rinsing hair with a cup of tea can make it shiny and easier to manage. Do this only if you’ve got darker hair, though; tea can temporarily dye light hairs.
9. If you have light hair and want a natural change of color, rinsing with tea water on a regular basis could add a few fun highlights. It’ll be more subtle than dramatic, unless your hair is very fair.
10. Make your feet smell sweet by soaking them in a steeped-tea bath for 20 minutes every day. Use black tea to conquer particularly bad odors. The astringency in tea closes up the sweat-emitting pores that create the smell in the first place, and the tannins kill stinky bacteria.
11. Need a quick substitute for facial toner? The aforementioned astringency makes our faces less greasy, so quickly wipe a tea bag over your trouble zones and then blot with a clean towel.
Spruce Up Your Home and Garden
Not only do our insides and outsides thrive on tea, but it works wonders inside and outside the home as well.
12. Wipe down wood furniture and surfaces with a clean washcloth or rag dipped in cooled tea water. Pat dry with another cloth.
13. Clean dirty mirrors and pots and pans with tea. Just as its astringent nature cuts down on facial grease, it decreases grease on other spots, too.
14. Take the odors out of refrigerators and ashtrays by placing a used tea bag in them to soak up offensive smells.
15. Acid-loving plants like ferns, citrus trees, and gardenias thrive when you add a little tea-spiked water to their soil once in a while. You can also use tea leaves to increase the nitrogen levels in the soil, creating a nice fertilizer.
16. Throw used tea leaves in the compost heap to speed up decomposition. Don’t throw the whole bag in there unless you know it’s made of compostable materials, like paper. (Many don’t, so compost the leaves and put the bag in the trash if you’re unsure.)
After learning about the many uses for used tea bags, I might never look at a cup of Earl Grey or peppermint the same way. Instead of being saddened by the look of a used tea bag at the bottom of the mug, the symbol of a tasty beverage’s end, I’ll see the beginning of possibilities I’d never considered before. Gardening projects, gorgeous hair, a cleaner home—tea is truly good till the last drop, and then some.