Q. I wonder whether some additive to Earl Grey tea may cause muscle pain and cramping. I am a yoga teacher with a generally mobile body. Over the past couple of years I have suffered worsening muscle pain, cramping, and restricted movement. Medicine, acupuncture, physical therapy and massage all failed to provide lasting improvement.
When a recent flu-like episode caused me stomach distress, I gave up my two cups of Earl Grey with breakfast and switched to regular orange pekoe tea. Within two weeks all symptoms were gone and mobility was restored.

I am still drinking tea and have made no other conscious changes, so it seems that the Earl Grey tea is somehow the cause of my problems. What is there in Earl Grey that could set up this reaction?

A. A doctor in Austria published a case report on a 44-year-old man who developed severe muscle cramps in his feet and legs after he started drinking a lot of Earl Grey tea (The Lancet, April 27, 2002). The patient also had muscle twitching, but all the tests on the workup were normal. When he stopped the Earl Grey tea, his symptoms also disappeared.
Earl Grey tea is flavored with bergamot oil, from the citrus fruit bergamot. It contains a compound called bergapten that can block potassium channels. Potassium flow in and out of the cells is crucial for muscle function, and this presumably explains why too much Earl Grey tea could cause muscle cramps.

Join Over 90,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.