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By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD
People have been drinking tea to help treat digestive issues and other illnesses for thousands of years.
Several herbal teas have been shown to help with nausea, constipation, indigestion, and more. Fortunately, most of them are widely available and easy to make.
Here are 9 teas that can improve your digestion.
Peppermint, a green herb from the Mentha piperita plant, is well known for its refreshing flavor and ability to soothe an upset stomach.
Peppermint oil is sometimes used to improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an inflammatory condition that affects the large intestine and can cause stomach pain, bloating, gas, and other unpleasant symptoms (5Trusted Source).
A 4-week study in 57 people with IBS found that 75% of those who took peppermint oil capsules twice per day reported improvements in symptoms, compared with 38% of those in the placebo group (6Trusted Source).
To make peppermint tea, soak 7–10 fresh peppermint leaves or 1 peppermint tea bag in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water for 10 minutes before straining and drinking it.
Peppermint may help improve symptoms of IBS and other digestive issues, but studies on peppermint tea's effects on digestion are lacking.
Ginger, scientifically known as Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant native to Asia. Its rhizome (underground part of the stem) is popularly used as a spice worldwide.
Compounds in ginger, known as gingerols and shogaols, can help stimulate stomach contractions and emptying. Thus, the spice may help with nausea, cramping, bloating, gas, or indigestion (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source. 9Trusted Source).
Another study in 11 patients with indigestion found that taking supplements containing 1.2 grams of ginger significantly shortened stomach emptying time by nearly 4 minutes, compared to a placebo (10Trusted Source).
Research comparing the effects of ginger tea and ginger supplements is limited, but the tea may provide similar benefits.
To make ginger tea, boil 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of sliced ginger root in 2 cups (500 ml) of water for 10–20 minutes before straining and drinking it. You can also steep a ginger tea bag in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water for a few minutes.
Ginger has been shown to improve nausea and vomiting and may help with other digestive issues. Ginger tea can be made from fresh ginger root or a dried tea bag.
3. Gentian Root
Gentian root comes from the Gentianaceae family of flowering plants, which grows worldwide.
What's more, one study in 38 healthy adults found that drinking water mixed with gentian root increased blood flow to the digestive system, which may help improve digestion (14Trusted Source).
Dried gentian root can be purchased from a natural food store or online. To make gentian root tea, steep 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) of dried gentian root in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water for 5 minutes before straining. Drink it before meals to aid digestion.
Gentian root contains bitter compounds that may stimulate digestion when consumed before meals.
Fennel is an herb that comes from a flowering plant scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare. It has a licorice-like taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Animal studies have shown that fennel helps prevent stomach ulcers. This ability is likely due to the herb's antioxidant compounds, which can fight damage associated with ulcer development (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
It may also help relieve constipation and promote bowel movements. However, it's not understood exactly how and why fennel acts as a laxative (15Trusted Source).
One study in 86 elderly adults with constipation found that those who drank a fennel-containing tea every day for 28 days had significantly more daily bowel movements than those who received a placebo (17Trusted Source).
You can make fennel tea by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water over 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of fennel seeds. Let it sit for 5–10 minutes before pouring through a sieve and drinking. You can also use freshly grated fennel root or fennel tea bags.
Fennel has been shown to help prevent stomach ulcers in animals. It may also help promote bowel movements and thus help improve chronic constipation.
5. Angelica Root
Angelica is a flowering plant that grows all over the world. It has an earthy, slightly celery-like taste.
While all parts of this plant have been used in traditional medicine, angelica root — in particular — may aid digestion.
Animal studies have shown that a polysaccharide in angelica root may protect against stomach damage by increasing the number of healthy cells and blood vessels in the digestive tract (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
For this reason, it may also help fight intestinal damage caused by oxidative stress in those with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition that causes sores in the colon (20Trusted Source).
These results suggest that drinking angelica root tea may promote a healthy digestive tract, but no human studies have confirmed this.
To make angelica root tea, add 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of fresh or dried angelica root to 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water. Let it steep for 5–10 minutes before straining and drinking it.
Animal and test-tube studies have shown that angelica root protects against intestinal damage and stimulates the release of digestive acids.
Dandelions are weeds from the Taraxacum family. They have yellow flowers and grow worldwide, including in many people's lawns.
Animal studies have shown that dandelion extracts contain compounds that may promote digestion by stimulating muscle contractions and promoting the flow of food from the stomach to the small intestine (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
A study in rats found that dandelion extract also helped protect against ulcers by fighting inflammation and decreasing the production of stomach acid (24Trusted Source).
Hence, drinking dandelion tea may promote healthy digestion. However, research in humans is limited.
To make dandelion tea, combine 2 cups of dandelion flowers and 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove it from heat and let it steep for 5–10 minutes. Strain it through a colander or sieve before drinking.
Dandelion extract has been shown to stimulate digestion and protect against ulcers in animal studies. Human studies are needed.
Senna is an herb that comes from flowering Cassia plants.
It contains chemicals called sennosides, which break down in the colon and act on smooth muscle, promoting contractions and bowel movements (25Trusted Source).
One study in 60 people with cancer, 80% of whom were taking opioids that can cause constipation, found that more than 60% of those who took sennosides for 5–12 days had a bowel movement on over half of those days (28Trusted Source).
Thus, senna tea may be an effective and easy way to find relief from constipation. However, it's best to only drink it on occasion so you don't experience diarrhea.
You can make senna tea by steeping 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of dried senna leaves in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water for 5–10 minutes before straining. Senna tea bags are also available at most health food stores and online.
Senna is commonly used as a laxative, as it contains sennosides that help promote contractions of the colon and regular bowel movements.
8. Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root comes from the flowering Althaea officinalis plant.
In addition to increasing mucus production and coating your throat and stomach, marshmallow root may have antioxidant properties that help decrease levels of histamine, a compound released during inflammation. As a result, it may protect against ulcers.
In fact, one animal study found that marshmallow root extract was highly effective at preventing stomach ulcers caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) (32Trusted Source).
While these results on marshmallow root extract are interesting, more research is needed on the effects of marshmallow root tea.
To make marshmallow root tea, combine 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of dried marshmallow root with 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water. Let it steep for 5–10 minutes before straining and drinking it.
Compounds in marshmallow root may stimulate mucus production and help coat your digestive tract, providing relief from stomach ulcers.
9. Black Tea
Black tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. It's often brewed with other plants in varieties like English Breakfast and Earl Grey.
This tea boasts several healthy compounds. These include thearubigins, which may improve indigestion, and theaflavins, which act as antioxidants and may protect against stomach ulcers (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
One study in mice with stomach ulcers found that 3 days of treatment with black tea and theaflavins healed 78–81% of ulcers by suppressing inflammatory compounds and pathways (36Trusted Source).
Another study in mice found that black tea extract improved delayed gastric emptying and resulting indigestion caused by a medication (34Trusted Source).
Therefore, drinking black tea may help improve digestion and protect against ulcers, but more research is needed.
To make black tea, steep a black tea bag in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled water for 5–10 minutes before drinking it. You can also use loose black tea leaves and strain the tea after steeping.
Drinking black tea may help protect against stomach ulcers and indigestion due to compounds in the tea that act as antioxidants.
While herbal teas are generally considered safe for healthy people, you should be cautious when adding a new type of tea to your routine.
What's more, some herbs can interact with medications, and herbal teas may cause unpleasant side effects like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting if consumed in excess (39Trusted Source).
If you want to try a new herbal tea to improve your digestion, start with a low dose and take note of how it makes you feel. Also, be sure to consult your doctor first if you are taking medications or have a health condition.
Although teas are generally considered safe for most people, some teas may not be appropriate for children, pregnant women, or those taking certain medications.
The Bottom Line
Herbal teas can provide a variety of digestive benefits, including relief from constipation, ulcers, and indigestion.
Peppermint, ginger, and marshmallow root are just some of the many types of teas that may help improve digestion.
If you want to start drinking a certain tea to aid your digestion, be sure to confirm the appropriate amount to brew and how often to drink it.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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