What is Palo Azul?
It's the most magical tea in the world!
Palo azul means "blue stick" in Spanish, and it gets it's name because by simply brewing the plant's bark in water...it produces a fluorescent tea, so it turns blue when it absorbs light and it looks incredible!
Studies (1, 2, 3) have shown that palo azul's fluorescence is caused by fluorescent flavonoids, which are polyphenols that plants produce to defend themselves from oxidative stress, UV light, fungi, and other pathogens. Some plants evolved the unique ability of fluorescence to defend themselves against excessive UV radiation by absorbing this high energy sunlight, and emitting a lower energy light which is harmless.
But palo azul isn't just a beautiful tea...Dozens of studies about palo azul tea have found that its flavonoid-rich content makes it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. It's also a potassium-saving diuretic, alkaline and it's caffeine-free! Because of these beneficial properties, palo azul tea has been used traditionally for over 500 years in Central America to promote kidney, liver, and urinary tract function.
Tasting notes: Most people describe it as earthy, smooth, refreshing, slightly sweet, and bright. Despite palo azul's supernatural blue fluorescence, it has 0 calories and 0 sugar, so it’s not sweet, but you can add honey, monk fruit, stevia, or sugar if you’d like to sweeten it. Many have said that it feels cleansing, detoxifying, or alkalinizing in the body when they drink this magical tea.
- Inhibits primary and secondary inflammatory reactions
- Detoxify free radicals and inhibit oxidative stress
- Essential electrolytes for hydration
- "Alkalinizing nature" in the body
- Flush out toxins while retaining electrolytes
- Rich in polyphenols
- Great for when you need a break from caffeine
What makes palo azul so magical?
The magic in palo azul is that it has fluorescent flavonoids which give this incredible blue color and there are many fluorescent plants…but as far as we know, palo azul is the only one that produces a fluorescent tea! These fluorescent flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, so what makes palo azul tea blue...is also what makes it healthy!
Asides from palo azul's incredible fluorescence, it's also an alkaline tea, as opposed to black tea, hibiscus tea, fruit teas, and some herbal teas which are slightly acidic. You can read our article on the benefits of alkaline drinks here:
Palo azul tea is caffeine-free, so you can enjoy the most beautiful tea in the world at any time of the day! Not that there's anything wrong with caffeine, but when consumed in excess, studies have shown that it can lead to insomnia, anxiety and digestive issues. So palo azul tea is perfect for later in the day or whenever you need a break from caffeine.
Also, a 2016 study showed that palo azul is a "potassium-sparing diuretic", meaning that it increases urination without electrolyte loss during urination because it spares potassium...as opposed to regular diuretics like coffee and green tea.
Palo azul was popularized shortly after the discovery of America, when it was transported to Europe for its mesmerizing blue fluorescence. In fact, Isaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists in history, researched this magical tea for its fluorescence! Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, was also amazed by palo azul!
* Here's a fascinating fact: Two books about fluorescence titled "Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences" and "Early History of Solution Fluorescence" both mention that the phenomenon of fluorescence was first discovered in palo azul!
Perhaps even more fascinating...an article mentions that because of palo azul's supernatural beauty, cups of this tea "were given as gifts to royalty." The article mentions that Athanasius Kircher, considered to be one of the fathers of the science of fluorescence, "presented the cup to the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III." Now we feel like royalty drinking our palo azul tea!
Safford, William Edwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Scientific names: Eysenhardtia polystachya, Cyclolepis genistoides, Lignum nephriticum. It's also known as kidney wood or palo dulce (sweet wood).
Botanic family: Fabaceae, leguminosas
This is the family with the third-greatest number of species. The palo azul tree grows in dry locations in Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
How to prepare palo azul
- Boil 1 gallon of alkaline water and add 1 oz of palo azul bark (1-3 pieces)
- Palo azul tea will only turn blue with alkaline water! Tap water or fridge water is usually alkaline. Avoid using cheap bottled waters because they're usually acidic, so your palo azul won't turn blue. If you're going to use bottled water, make sure the pH is 7+.
- Brew on low heat for 20 minutes. You'll notice the color begins to turn into a blueish amber color.
- Let it cool down, then strain the tea to remove the palo azul bark and store the tea in the fridge. You can drink the palo azul tea hot or cold.
- Pour the tea in a glass cup, then take it outside so that it can absorb sunlight and enjoy the magical blue fluorescence!
Palo azul's scientific and common names: Eysenhardtia polystachya, Cyclolepis genistoides, Lignum nephriticum, kidney wood, kidney tea, palo dulce