Teas for Treating Constipation
A variety of teas can be used to help relieve the symptoms of constipation. However, too much of some teas can actually cause constipation or other undesirable reactions, so it’s good to know what to look for when shopping for teas for treating constipation.
Generally, any tea that contains caffeine and/or tannins can have a diuretic effect, which may contribute to or worsen constipation since it promotes the removal of fluid from the body. If you choose to drink a tea that has caffeine, limit your intake to less than 300 milligrams of caffeine, and lesser amounts are better.
Another agent found in some teas that has a diuretic impact is theophylline. One study appearing in the British Medical Journal reported that intake of more than 100 micromole of theophylline can lead to constipation because the theophylline reduces reabsorption and lubrication in the intestinal tract.
Black and green teas
Both black and green teas contain polyphenols and essential oils that help to stimulate gastric acids and aid digestion. However, drinking too much of either tea can have a diuretic and thus a constipating effect, as well as the possibility of indigestion and jitters (associated with caffeine).
This little-known Chinese tea is a variety of fermented and aged black tea (Camellia sinensis) found in the Yunnan province. It contains less caffeine than other teas and reportedly can be effective in helping with weight loss.
In a recent study, a team looked at the effects of pu-erh tea and bisacodyl (an organic compound used to treat constipation) on constipation in mice. The researchers found that use of pu-erh tea “has a similar preventive effect to bisacodyl and it may be used as a function food to prevent constipation.” Pu-erh tea can be ordered online and found in some health food stores.
Senna is an herb native to Egypt and the Sudan (Cassia acutifolia) and to the Middle East, India, and Somalia (C. angustifolia). Since ancient times it has been used mainly as a laxative. Today it has approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of constipation in the form of teas as well as tablets, powders, and liquids.
The pods and leaves of senna are used medicinally. The active ingredient in senna is sennoside B, and the suggested dose of senna tea is 0.6 to 2 grams per day, providing 20 to 30 milligrams of sennoside B. Higher doses and/or long term use may cause diarrhea, high blood potassium, abdominal cramping, wasting, and dependence on the laxative.
You should not use senna if you have ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, or intestinal obstruction. Its use during pregnancy is controversial. Restrict senna tea use to no longer than two weeks.
Licorice root tea
The root of the perennial licorice plant can be used as a tea to help with constipation. According to James F. Balch, MD, coauthor of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, licorice root promotes the movement of stool (peristalsis) through the large intestine.
Rhubarb root tea
This sour tasting tea is made from the roots of rhubarb, a perennial vegetable with tart stalks and poisonous leaves. Compounds called anthraquinones are found in the roots and promote peristalsis to relieve constipation. If you want to make your own rhubarb tea, combine 1 teaspoon of ground rhubarb root in 8 ounces of boiling water. You may need some honey!
Aloe vera tea
Most people think of aloe vera as a natural remedy for burns or as a digestive aid, but dried, ground aloe vera can also be used as a tea to help with constipation. In fact, aloe vera is in the same family as senna. Beware, however, that aloe vera tea is potent and may cause significant cramping. Therefore, it should be used only if you have severe constipation.
You will also find numerous combination teas on the market that contain the above ingredients, along with others, to help treat constipation. Before you try any tea for constipation, talk to your healthcare provider and use the products as directed.
Related articles: Treat constipation naturally, 12 ways
Constipation in children is a growing problem
Teas for diabetes management
Hojgaard L et al. Tea consumption: a cause of constipation? British Medical Journal 1981 Mar 14; 282(6267):864
Li G et al. Component analysis of pu-erh and its anti-constipation effects. Molecular Medicine Reports 2014 May; 9(5): 2003-9