On one of his TV shows, Dr. Oz said soaking your feet in tea stops sweaty (and thus smelly) feet. Many people say this helps them cure smelly feet.
But is this remedy truly effective?
How does it work?
The method of action when taking tea foot baths is caused by tannins. The tannins present in tea dry, constrict, and shrink the tissue in your feet. Tannins are so called astringents.
astringent, any of a group of substances that cause the contraction or shrinkage of tissues and that dry up secretions (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
When you drink tea you can feel the action of tannins when you get that typical dry mouth feel. You may also recognize this feeling when drinking wine because wine is also rich in tannins.
When you put your feet in tea it can reduce sweating because it shrinks sweat gland openings. The tannins in tea also kill bacteria that produce the smell when your feet sweat.
Depending on how smelly your feet are, you will have to take tea foot baths for a while, each bath at least an hour in order to be succesful.
At least that’s what some sources say. In order to confirm this I put this remedy to the test. I let my friend bathe his feet daily in a black tea bath.
The first thing he noticed that it didn’t have much effect. The dry feeling you get when you use aluminumhydroxide is absent. Even after a few days of sitting in a tea bath for at least 20 minutes this feeling did not occur. Neither did his feet become less sweaty or feel dryer.
Note, on the photo there are two tea bags. On days afterwards he used up to 5 bags per bowl.
Conclusion: tea may help if you have really mildly sweaty feet but we know there are better remedies.
Are there studies done on this topic?
Yes, studies show that topical tannins are able to alter proteins existing on the surface of your skin. At least one study concludes;
topical tannins can reduce the openings of sweat ducts and thus reduce sweating locally.
As a bonus the researchers state that “tannins also have antimicrobial properties that help to reduce odorous bacterial by-products” (van Wyk and Wink 2004).
Is tea the most potent remedy for sweaty feet?
No, if your feet are seriously sweaty, you may want to use another astringent that is more powerful.
After all, who has the time to make liters of strong (preferably black) tea and then bathe their feet in it for half an hour and repeating this regularly.
That’s why aluminum chloride, which is a more powerful astringent, may be a more convenient solution for treating those stinky feet.
Studies show aluminum chloride to be effective and as a bonus, it shows to cure athlete’s foot too.
aluminum chloride showed pronounced astringency and was the only compound to bring about rapid resolution of the signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot in open-ended clinical trials.
So concluding, if you suffer from mildly smelly feet, an ocassional tea soaking treatment may be nice, natural way to improve the situation.
However, if you need heavier measures, go for aluminum chloride in combination with some other measures.