If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), drinking herbal teas can help ease some of your symptoms. The soothing act of drinking tea is often associated with relaxation. On a mental level, it can help you relieve stress and anxiety. On a physical level, these teas can help relax abdominal muscles and relieve cramps (1).
Drinking tea also increases your fluid intake, which can help your digestion. It’s thought that hot beverages can help digestion, as well.
You can experiment to see how your body responds to each tea used to treat IBS. If your symptoms increase, discontinue that tea. You may want to change them up from time to time. You can also mix them together to create your own blend.
Peppermint is an herb often used to relieve digestive issues, including IBS. Drinking peppermint tea soothes the intestines, relieves abdominal pain, and reduces bloating.
Some research has shown the effectiveness of peppermint oil in treating IBS (2). One study found that peppermint also relaxed gastrointestinal tissue in animal models (3). However, more studies are needed in humans.
To use peppermint in tea:
You can add a drop of pure peppermint essential oil into a cup of herbal tea or a cup of hot water. You can also make tea using bagged or loose peppermint tea.
Anise has been used in traditional medicine to treat diseases and other health concerns. Anise tea is a digestive aid that helps settle the stomach and regulate digestion.
A review from 2012 reported that animal studies have shown anise essential oil extracts to be effective muscle relaxants (4). The same review showed the potential of anise in treating constipation, which can be a symptom of IBS. Researchers combined anise with other plants to produce a laxative effect. However, the small study involved just 20 participants.
Anise also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2016 study found that people who took anise oil capsules significantly improved their IBS symptoms after four weeks (5). Further studies are needed to find out exactly how anise oil works to treat IBS.
To use anise in tea:
Use a pestle and mortar to grind 1 tablespoon of anise seeds. Add the crushed seeds to 2 cups of boiling water. Simmer for 5 minutes or to taste.
Fennel can be used to relieve gas, bloating, and intestinal spasms. It’s thought to relax the intestinal muscles and relieve constipation (6).
A study from 2016 combined fennel and curcumin essential oils to treat IBS with positive results (7). After 30 days, most people experienced symptom relief and had less abdominal pain. Overall quality of life was also enhanced.
Another study reported that fennel combined with caraway seeds, peppermint, and wormwood is an effective treatment for IBS (7). This combination helped relieve upper abdominal issues.
To use fennel in tea:
Use a pestle and mortar to crush 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds. Put the crushed seeds into a mug and pour hot water over them. Steep for about 10 minutes or to taste. You can also brew fennel tea bags.
The therapeutic effects of chamomile make it a popular herbal remedy for many health conditions. A medical review from 2010 reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile can help relieve muscle spasms associated with intestinal disorders and relax the stomach muscles (8). Chamomile was also shown to soothe the stomach, eliminate gas, and relieve intestinal irritation. It is low in FODMAP (small molecule carbohydrates that are known to irritate the bowel). A 2015 study found symptoms of IBS were significantly reduced, and the effects lasted for a couple of weeks after the chamomile was discontinued (9).
To use chamomile in tea:
Use loose-leaf or bagged chamomile to make tea.
Turmeric is prized for its digestive healing properties. A 2004 study found that people who took turmeric in capsule form had significantly reduced IBS symptoms (10). They had less abdominal pain and discomfort after taking the extract for eight weeks. Self-reported bowel patterns also showed improvement.
To use turmeric in tea:
You can use fresh or powdered turmeric to make a tea. Using turmeric in cooking as a spice is effective as well.
Scientific evidence is lacking for certain teas that are often recommended by wellness experts. Only anecdotal evidence supports their use for IBS. These teas are:
- dandelion tea
- licorice tea
- ginger tea
- nettle tea
- lavender tea
Experiment with these teas to find relief. You might find a few that work for you.
Make it a ritual to take time for yourself and focus on relaxing and healing. Drink the tea slowly and allow yourself to unwind. Always pay special attention to how your body and symptoms react to each tea. If symptoms get worse, stop using that tea for a week before introducing a new tea. Track your symptoms on paper.
You may wish to consult your healthcare provider before using teas to treat IBS. Also, you should stop using them if any side effects occur.