When it comes to promoting digestive health, the soothing power of herbal tea is a well-known remedy that spans cultures and centuries. From calming an upset stomach to alleviating bloating and indigestion, certain teas offer a natural and effective way to support your gut. In this article, we'll explore the 10 best teas for digestion, delving into the benefits for digestion and gut health.
I've got to admit, I love herbal and medicinal teas.
I grew up in the UK where it's so cold, I'd just love to put the kettle on for another warming drink. As an doctor I discovered the health benefits of herbs and tea is such a gentle way to include herbs into your day.
There are a number of herbs that have medicinal effects on the gut. You can enjoy the following herbal teas alone or in combination to aid digestion and support digestive health. Drinking tea as herbal medicine can be used daily to provide ongoing support for digestive issues.
1. Peppermint Tea (Mentha x piperita)
Origin: Native to Europe and Asia, now cultivated worldwide.
Active Ingredient: Menthol
Effects: Peppermint tea relaxes gastrointestinal muscles, aiding digestion and reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Studies show the efficacy of peppermint oil capsules in reducing abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. It is a great tea for every day digestive health.
Peppermint is rich in menthol, a smooth muscle relaxant that is proposed to reduce the amount of stomach cramps and pain with IBS. However, mint-based teas can exaccerbate reflux or GORD/GERD.
2. Ginger Tea (Zingiber officinale)
Origin: Native to Southeast Asia.
Active Ingredients: Gingerol, Shogaol
Effects: Ginger tea stimulates digestive enzymes and improves muscle tone in the digestive tract. It's known to alleviate nausea, indigestion, and motion sickness.
From an ayurvedic perspective ginger supports digestion and stimulates agni (digestive fire).
Avoid large quantiites of ginger tea if you have GERD or reflux as it could contribute to reflux of stomach acid in the esophagus.
3. Chamomile Tea (Matricaria chamomilla)
Origin: Native to Europe and Western Asia.
Active Ingredients: Apigenin, Bisabolol
Effects: Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory properties, soothing the digestive tract and reducing symptoms of indigestion. It's associated with relieving cramps and promoting relaxation. It's also a good tea to drink when feeling stressed. Read about stress and digestion.
4. Fennel Tea (Foeniculum vulgare)
Origin: Native to the Mediterranean region.
Active Ingredients: Anethole, Fenchone
Effects: Fennel tea is often made from fennel seeds. The phytonutrients in fennel act as a natural carminatives, easing gas and bloating.
It relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract and may help alleviate symptoms of colic to support healthy digestion, especially when under times of stress.
5. Dandelion Root Tea (Taraxacum officinale)
Origin: Native to Europe, Asia, and North America.
Active Ingredients: Taraxasterol, Inulin
Effects: Dandelion root tea supports liver function, aiding digestion and promoting bile production. It may improve overall gut health by supporting detoxification.
6. Licorice Root Tea (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Origin: Native to Europe and Asia.
Active Ingredients: Glycyrrhizin, Flavonoids
Effects: Licorice root tea has anti-inflammatory and gastroprotective properties. It can help soothe inflammation in the digestive tract and support overall gut health. Licorice tea is especially supportive for reducing reflux.
Licorice tea should be avoided in people with high blood pressure.
Related: Menopause and Inflammation
7. Lemon Balm Tea (Melissa officinalis)
Origin: Native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia.
Active Ingredients: Rosmarinic Acid, Eugenol
Effects: Lemon balm tea's calming effects extend to the digestive system, reducing symptoms of indigestion and bloating. It may also alleviate nervous stomach. It is also used to increase mood. Read more about mood and food.
8. Kawakawa (Piper excelsum, formerly Macropiper excelsum)
Origin: Kawakawa is a traditional medicinal plant native to New Zealand, where it has been used by the indigenous Māori people for centuries due to its numerous health benefits.
Active Ingredients: Kawakawa contains various bioactive compounds, with the most notable being lignans, phenylpropanoids and terpenoids (Butts 2019). These compounds contribute to the plant's therapeutic properties.
Effects: Kawakawa has been traditionally used to soothe the stomach and aid digestion, reduce discomfort and inflammation. It also has antispasmodic properties. This makes Kawakawa helpful in easing stomach cramps, bloating, and gas, providing relief from digestive discomfort.
9. Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Origin: Native to East Asia.
Active Ingredients: Catechins, Theanine
Effects: Green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. It has numerous polyphenols with antioxidant properties that have been linked to improved gut health. It supports diverse beneficial gut bacteria and may reduce the risk of digestive disorders (Pérez-Burillo 2021).
Additionally use of green tea prior to a colonoscopy can reduce nausea and abdominal pain (Hao 2020)
From an ayurvedic perspective green tea promotes agni (digestive fire) important for good gut health, to promote digestion and metabolism.
10. Marshmallow Root Tea (Althaea officinalis)
Origin: Marshmallow is native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa.
Active Ingredients: Flavonoids, Polysaccharides
Effects: Marshmallow root tea helps soothe digestive inflammation and reduce symptoms of ulcers. It contains mucilage which coats the digestive tract and protects it from irritation caused by acid reflux. It's known to be a natural remedy for heartburn and has antibacterial properties.
Herbal teas are generally considered safe and contain low doses of herbs. It's always best to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any new remedies or supplementing.
Herbal Tea Blends
My favourite recommended herbal blends for digestive health are:
Ōku: Digest/Kūnatu tea
Ōku Digest/Kūnatu tea blend is grounded in Maori rongoā tradition. It is made of a combination of wild harvested kawakawa, hoheria, as well as peppermint and ginger. It's great for digestive support and is anti-inflammatory. It comes as a loose leaf tea or in teabags.
KoruKai: Digestive Aid tea
Korukai Digestive Aid tea is a loose leaf tea and comes on compostable packaging. All the herbs are grown on the KoruKai Herb Farm Banks Peninsula, New Zealand. The blend contains peppermint, catnip, kawakawa, dandelion leaves and fennel seeds to support your digestion.
Mindful Tea Drinking
Don't forget the mind-body connection (psychoneuroimuno connection) that is so important when considering how to ease digestive discomfort and improve digestion.
Mind-body medicine recognises the emotional and stress connections to digestive health. Practices and therapies that calm the nervous system have incredible digestive benefits, reducing the fight and flight mode that inhibits adequate digestion, and supports 'rest and digest' mode.
Taking the time to drink a mindful cup of herbal tea, solo or with a friend combines the medicial properties of herbs with mind-body benefits of mindfulness.
The Takeaways: Best herbal digestive teas
Incorporating these herbal teas into your routine can provide a soothing and natural way to support your digestive health. From peppermint's muscle-relaxing properties to chamomile's anti-inflammatory effects, each tea offers unique benefits backed by scientific evidence.
As you explore these teas, remember that individual responses may vary, and it's essential to choose teas that align with your preferences and any specific health considerations. Whether you're seeking relief from occasional discomfort or aiming to promote long-term gut health, these herbal teas can be a delightful addition to your wellness journey.
Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.
Hope you found this informaton helpful, we'd love to support you further.
Dr Deb Brunt is a specialist GP and menopause doctor in Dunedin, New Zealand and also provides menopause health coaching internationally to support optimal health habits for aging well so you can live your best life.
Hao Z, Gong L, Shen Q, et al. Effectiveness of concomitant use of green tea and polyethylene glycol in bowel preparation for colonoscopy: a randomized controlled study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2020 May 13;20(1):150.
Butts CA, van Klink JW, Joyce NI, et al. Composition and safety evaluation of tea from New Zealand kawakawa (Piper excelsum). J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Mar 25;232:110-118.
Pérez-Burillo S, Navajas-Porras B, López-Maldonado A, et al. Green Tea and Its Relation to Human Gut Microbiome. Molecules. 2021 Jun 26;26(13):3907.