Are you uncomfortable digesting your food, and wondering if tea can help? What is the best tea for digestion? It depends upon your unique symptoms.
A cup of tea is as simple as it gets; it is easy, relatively inexpensive, and makes a great ritual at mealtime. Could something so small really make a difference?
I’m glad you are here! Read on to learn about 9 different herbal teas. Each tea has properties that are tailored to specific symptoms.
Learn who they can help, why they work, and how to use them. Let’s get started.
A word about Herbal Tea
Using tea for a health condition is not the same as taking a prescription drug. Tea is a gentle solution. It might take a week or longer of consistent use for you to see effects. The good thing is that you will not experience the side effects of pharmaceuticals that can shut off entire metabolic pathways.
While they are gentle, herbal teas definitely create change in your body. Make sure to read each description all the way through so you know if you might be a person who should NOT use a certain tea.
There may be other reasons to avoid a tea besides those I list, so it is your responsibility to make sure a tea is safe for you. This is especially true If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tea is not a substitute for medical care. If you have severe symptoms, go see your doctor. You should never discontinue a medication your doctor prescribed in order to treat yourself with tea.
- Chamomile Tea
- Ginger Tea
- Turmeric Tea
- Dandelion Tea
- Marshmallow Root Tea
- Peppermint Tea
- Fennel Tea
- Green and Black Tea for Diarrhea
- Pu-erh Tea
When to Use Chamomile Tea
Chamomile makes the best tea for digestion if you are stressed out at mealtimes. If you often have cramping and spasms in your digestive tract, gas, colic, nausea and diarrhea, this tea can help you relax and put you in a rest-and-digest state.
Don’t forget the story of Peter Rabbit, and how his mother served him chamomile tea after his stressful time in Mr. Macgregor’s garden.
How to Make Chamomile Tea
Pour boiling water over fresh or dried flower heads. Use one heaping teaspoon for every ½ cup water. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes, then strain ( 1 ).
It is easy enough to find chamomile tea, and a good idea to look for a company that sells organic chamomile. You don’t want to steep a bunch of chemicals in your tea.
Why Chamomile Tea Works
Chamomile contains α-bisabolol, a phytonutrient that is protective for the stomach. The stomach is exposed to all sorts of harmful substances like acid, regurgitated bile, and whatever comes in through the mouth. α-Bisabolol protects the stomach by increasing nitric oxide and acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ( 2 ).
Chamomile is an anxiolytic, meaning it can help to reduce anxiety ( 3 ). Develop a ritual of drinking a cup of chamomile tea before your meal. This will help you to eat in a calmer state, which means better digestion.
When to Avoid Chamomile Tea
If you are allergic to any plants in the daisy family, you might also react to chamomile.
When to Use Ginger Tea
If you suffer from abdominal pain and gas with nausea, or a feeling of fullness that won’t go away, try ginger tea.
The German Commission E, which provides strict surveillance for medicinal herbs, has approved ginger as a treatment for dypepsia (indigestion). Ginger is also effective for travel-related sickness (like seasickness), and nausea during pregnancy ( 4 ).
How to Make Ginger Tea
To make fresh ginger tea, slice a one-inch piece of ginger. Put this in a small saucepan with 8 ounces of water, and bring to a boil. Boil, covered, for 5-10 minutes, then strain.
You can drink this once or twice a day just before meals. Ginger used as a spice in any kind of cooking can also help the digestion.
Why Ginger Tea works
Ginger has been used to help digestion as far back as Greek and Roman times. Greeks used to wrap ginger in bread and eat it after a meal. Later, baked goods like gingerbread incorporated the ginger right into the food.
This root increases motility (movement) of the digestive tract. It increases stomach contractions and allows the stomach to empty faster.
It is still not entirely clear what mechanism has this effect. However we do know that phytonutrients found in ginger, such as gingerol and shogaol, act on receptors in the gut that affect motility ( 5 ).
When to Avoid Ginger Tea
Don’t use ginger if you are on a blood-thinning medication like warfarin, heparin or aspirin.
When to Use Turmeric Tea
If you have digestive problems like gas, nausea or bloating, especially when you eat a high-fat meal, turmeric might be your friend. Turmeric is a cholagogue, which means it can increase the flow of bile.
Along with fats, bile helps you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.
Turmeric is also a carminative, so it can handily rid your digestive tract of trapped gas. Turmeric can help protect the gastrointestinal wall if you take medications like NSAIDS.
How to Make Turmeric Tea
Start with about 1½ teaspoons of grated fresh turmeric rhizome. You can often find these in the produce section of your supermarket. You can also use a ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric.
Add this to 2 cups of water. You can add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Bring this to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add a spoonful of honey if you want for taste.
Why Turmeric Tea works
Turmeric activates our bitter taste receptors. This stimulates the flow of saliva, which has many downstream actions that help with digestion.
Bitter taste also increases the blood flow to digestive organs. The entire process of digestion depends upon this increased blood flow, which provides nutrients to the organs and also carries away absorbed nutrients and waste ( 6 ).
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can help to slow or prevent damage to the gastric lining from NSAIDS and other meds that can lead to ulcers.
Turmeric’s effect in the digestive tract is likely due to local exposure, meaning it does not have to be absorbed into your bloodstream for you to get the benefits ( 7 ).
When to Avoid Turmeric Tea
If you have gallstones, you do not want to stimulate bile flow as they can become impacted. If your symptoms are severe you should get checked out by a GI doctor.
When to Use Dandelion Tea
Try dandelion tea if you have a sluggish digestion, constipation, or difficulty digesting fats. A slow digestive system can cause feelings of fullness, bloating and gas.
This tea can also help you to better absorb your fat-soluble vitamins. It can ramp up your detoxification pathways, and has been traditionally used as a spring tonic.
How to Make Dandelion Tea
You can certainly drink dandelion tea every day if you don’t have a medical condition that precludes it. However I think this tea works well as an occasional tonic.
Try it for a few days once a month, or every few months, depending on how sluggish your digestive and detox systems are running.
It is easy enough to find dandelions, but I don’t recommend using any you dig up from a yard or the side of the road to use for tea. They are likely covered with pesticides and other chemicals.
If you happen to have a good, organic source for dandelions, you can make your own tea.
Use 2 tsp dried leaf or root in 8 ounces of water. The root should be decocted, or boiled right in the water, for about 10 minutes. You just need to pour water over the leaf. Steep both root and leaf for about half an hour.
Why Dandelion Tea works
Dandelion is a bitter herb that stimulates saliva and bile flow. Bitter taste increases the blood flow to digestive organs. This enhances the whole process of digestion as nutrients flow into the digestive organs and waste is carried away ( 6 ).
The inulin in dandelion root, which you can get through a tea, makes a good prebiotic that feeds gut bacteria. Well-fed bacteria means more diversity and a healthier gut.
When to Avoid Dandelion Tea
If you are allergic to any plants in the daisy family, you might also react to dandelions. Also stay away from this herb if you have liver or gallbladder disease or bowel obstruction. Check with your doctor if you take prescription meds to see if they might react with dandelion.
Marshmallow Root Tea
When to Use Marshmallow Root Tea
If you have heartburn, ulcer pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, or other symptoms of an irritated gut lining, marshmallow makes the best tea for digestion. Marshmallow is a demulcent which coats the digestive tract and soothes irritated membranes.
I am not talking about the bag of marshmallows you buy in the grocery store. This is an herb called marshmallow. It has beautiful white flowers and velvety soft leaves.
How to Make Marshmallow Root Tea
You will want to buy the dried marshmallow root. It is best used as a cold-water tea that is steeped overnight. Add 1 teaspoon of dried root to 8 ounces of cool or room temperature water and let it stand overnight, or at least for an hour. Strain before drinking.
If you don’t love drinking marshmallow tea, you can always add a cup to your smoothie.
Make sure to use an organic high-quality marshmallow root, such as this one from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Why Marshmallow Root Tea works
Marshmallow contains a lot of branched carbohydrate chains that can easily trap water and create a smooth coating. Besides making a protective coating, it can stimulate cell growth in your gut lining so that it heals faster.
When to Avoid Marshmallow Root Tea
Do not drink this at the same time as other medications or supplements, as it might keep them from being absorbed. Separate them by at least 2 hours.
When to Use Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea can help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, like pain and cramping in your gut, and diarrhea. It can also help if you are having spasms in your esophagus that make it difficult to swallow.
However, be aware that it might make heartburn worse.
This herb is actually a hybrid combination of two other mint family plants, so you won’t find it growing in the wild. You can grow your own, or buy peppermint tea from a good, organic source.
Heather’s Tummy Care sells a high quality, organic peppermint tea.
How to Make Peppermint Tea
Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over one peppermint tea bag or an equivalent amount of loose herb. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Drink it before, during or after meals. Experiment to see what time works best for you.
Why Peppermint Tea works
Peppermint relaxes the smooth muscles of your digestive tract, from the esophagus on down. This reduces pain and cramping and slows down your transit time, or the time it takes food to move all the way through your gastrointestinal tract ( 8 ).
If you have frequent diarrhea, your food is moving through too fast, so slowing it down is a good thing. If you have constipation, this might not be the herb for you.
When to Avoid Peppermint Tea
If you have acid reflux (heartburn), you might want to avoid peppermint, as it can relax the sphincter between your esophagus and stomach. This herb can stimulate bile flow, so avoid it if you have liver or gallbladder disease or a blockage in your intestine.
When to Use Fennel Tea
If you are suffering with gas, and the bloating and cramping that can go along with it, give fennel tea a try.
Fennel is a carminative, which means it relieves gas, and who doesn’t want that? You often see a mixture with fennel seeds offered in Indian restaurants after a meal. It is also a common remedy in European countries for babies with indigestion.
How to Make Fennel Tea
You can make fennel tea just using the seeds. Try to get an organic variety. Put 2 teaspoons of seeds in a small bowl and use a heavy pestle (or any other kitchen tool) to crush and bruise them a little bit to release the oils.
Place the seeds in a teaball, or use a teapot with a metal strainer. Pour your boiling water over, and let them steep for at least 5 minutes. That’s how simple it is! You can add a sweetener if you want.
You can also buy good quality fennel tea in bags from Heather’s Tummy Care.
Why Fennel Tea works
A carminative works by both relaxing the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and increasing peristalsis. Peristalsis is the muscle movements that propel things through your gastrointestinal tract. In this way fennel helps you to expel the gas that is causing you pain.
Fennel is also a bitter herb, which stimulates saliva, stomach acid, bile and blood flow to the digestive system. All of these things are going to improve your digestion.
When to Avoid Fennel Tea
If you have liver or gallbladder problems, check with your doctor before using fennel. Fennel contains some estrogenic compounds, so if you have a hormone sensitive condition like uterine fibroids or breast cancer, run this by your doctor as well.
Green and Black Tea
When to Use Green and Black Tea
If you are suffering from diarrhea, a green or black tea regimen might help you to regulate your system.
Both green and black tea, when taken in large enough quantities, can slow down your intestinal transit time. That means food takes longer to make its way all through your digestive tract.
How to Make Green and Black Tea for Diarrhea
Steep either green or black tea for 15-20 minutes to release as many of the tannins as possible. Drink a cup at least 4 times a day. Don’t add milk to your tea as this can bind the tannins. It will be bitter – but hey, it’s medicine.
I strongly suggest using decaffeinated tea. The caffeine will not only keep you awake that night, but can actually stimulate your GI tract and make the diarrhea worse.
This is a short term remedy to help with diarrhea. If you need to keep using it, you probably want to find and treat the root cause of your diarrhea.
Why Green and Black Tea works for Diarrhea
Tannins deposit proteins on the wall of your gut, and these form a stable membrane that acts as a protective film. This can keep toxins and irritants away from the gut lining and normalize hyper-movement of your gut ( 9 ).
When to Avoid Green and Black Tea
Again, use decaffeinated tea, or you might end up with the opposite of what you want. Also use your common sense and consult a doctor if diarrhea persists for more than a few days, especially for a child.
Schulz V. Hansel R. Blumenthal M and Tyler V.E. Rational Phytotherapy A Reference Guide for Physicians and Pharmacists. 5th edition. Springer. 2004.
When to Use Pu-erh Tea
Are you trying to increase the diversity of your gut bacteria? The key is in eating a diet with a large variety of plant-based foods.. Most herbal teas provide food for your gut bacteria, however pu-erh tea is a probiotic that actually gives you more bacteria.
Pu-erh tea is made through microbial fermentation. This is different from regular black tea which gets its color through oxidation.
Pu-erh tea also undergoes aging. This can be anywhere from a few months to up to 50 years. Of course the longer it ages, the more rare and expensive it will be.
Both the fermentation and aging processes increase the amount of microbes in this tea.
How to Make Pu-erh Tea
The process to make pu-erh tea is slightly different from regular tea. You pour water over the leaves, and then immediately strain it off. This is called a rinse, and allows the tea leaves to open up so that you will get better flavor from your cup.
You might rinse your tea two times before your proper brew, where you can steep the tea for about 2 minutes.
Your tea will likely come with directions for how to brew it for the best results.
Why Pu-erh Tea works
A study that used DNA sequencing found over 900 different species of microbes in pu-erh tea. The aging process was as effective at increasing diversity as the ripening process – the longer the tea is aged, the more microbes can be found ( 10 ).
How does greater diversity in the microbiome help your digestion? Beneficial bacteria produce short chain fatty acids that feed the cells of your gut lining and keep them healthy. Bacteria prime the immune system in your gut and help it to recognize and keep out toxic threats.
Bacteria produce neurotransmitters that send signals to your brain and regulate mood, cognitive functions and the muscle movements in your digestive system.
Nearly all of your body systems are affected in a positive way by a rich and diverse group of microbes living in your gut.
When to Avoid Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh tea does contain caffeine. If you are sensitive you might want to limit your intake to what you can safely tolerate.
Wrapping it Up
A cup of tea is an easy and simple ritual that can have surprising benefits for your digestion. If you have a medical condition or take medications, make sure it is safe before using herbal tea.
Chamomile tea can help with cramping and spasms in your digestive tract, gas, colic, nausea and diarrhea. This tea is especially good if your symptoms are rooted in stress or anxiety.
When you have nausea or stomach pains with gas, bloating and a feeling of fullness that doesn’t seem to go away, give ginger tea a try. Ginger can gently increase the muscle movements to empty your stomach and move food through your small intestine.
Turmeric tea might help if you have digestive problems like gas, nausea or bloating, especially after you eat a high-fat meal. Turmeric is a cholagogue, meaning it can stimulate the flow of bile that helps to digest fats.
Try dandelion tea as a tonic for sluggish digestion, constipation, or difficulty digesting fats. Dandelion can also strengthen your detoxification pathways.
Marshmallow tea can help with heartburn, ulcer pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, or other symptoms of an irritated gut lining. It actually coats and protects the lining of your gut.
If you are suffering with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, like pain and cramping in your gut, diarrhea, or even spasms in the esophagus, try peppermint tea. Peppermint relaxes the smooth muscles of your digestive tract.
Fennel is a carminative, and fennel tea can alleviate gas, and the cramping and bloating that go along with it.
If you are suffering from a bout of diarrhea, the tannins in green or black tea can calm down and regulate the movement of your digestive tract.
Are you working to increase the diversity of your microbiome? This can have health benefits through all the systems of your body. Pu-erh tea is a probiotic tea that adds hundreds of different microbial strains to your diet.
Do you want to learn more simple ways to improve your digestion? My online program Simply Good Digestion covers many of the concepts I talked about here in greater detail. Just click on the link below to learn more and register for the next session.
Are you wondering Why Gut Health Matters in the first place? Read more about it here.