February 24, 2024

Certain teas may help to relieve constipation by stimulating the digestive system or adding bulk to stools. Some examples include senna, slippery elm, and rhubarb teas.

Constipation is when someone has fewer than three bowel movements in a week. However, some people may feel constipated if they do not have a bowel movement every day. The stool may be hard, dry, and difficult to pass.

Herbal teas are a popular home remedy but are not as precise as medications. People should check if an herbal tea is safe for them before trying it.

This article discusses how different teas may help get the bowels moving and their potential risks.

Certain teas may aid constipation in several ways. For example, drinking more fluids may help a person stay hydrated. Since dehydration is a common cause of constipation, this may help soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Some of the herbs in herbal teas can also have additional properties that may stimulate the digestive system. For example, senna has a laxative effect.

However, it is important that people check with a doctor before using teas with medicinal properties, particularly if they are pregnant, have other health conditions, or take any medications.

Finally, some individuals may find drinking warm tea relaxing. Stress can contribute to frequent constipation, so taking time to pause and relieve stress may benefit digestive health.

The following teas may help with constipation in various ways.

1. Senna

Senna is among the most well-known laxative ingredients in teas. It contains the dried leaves and pods of the Senna alexandrina shrub, which contains compounds known as glycosides. These compounds stimulate the movement of the digestive system, resulting in a laxative effect.

A 2021 review of over-the-counter (OTC) constipation remedies notes that senna has strong evidence supporting its effectiveness. However, senna tea may have a weaker concentration than senna pills. People can speak with a pharmacist about other options if senna tea does not work.

2. Rhubarb

Some cultures believe that rhubarb has laxative properties, and there is evidence to suggest it may. A 2022 study of mostly female adults found that rhubarb extract supplementation for 30 days improved the stool consistency and alleviated constipation, possibly by altering the participants’ gut flora.

Rhubarb tea may not have the same effect, but people can add liquid rhubarb extract to drinks.

3. Slippery elm

Slippery elm is another traditional remedy for constipation. It contains fiber and a gum-like substance known as mucilage, which helps add bulk to the stool.

A 2021 review of previous research notes that slippery elm also stimulates the production of mucin, which is part of the mucous layer in the digestive tract. This adds lubrication to the intestines. However, the review focused on children and slippery elm supplements rather than teas.

4. Dandelion root

Dandelion root contains inulin, which is a type of soluble fiber. According to the 2021 review, this soluble fiber can act as a bulking agent in children, making stool easier to pass. Again, this research focused on supplement use and not tea, so dandelion root tea may not have the same effect.

However, dandelion can also act as a diuretic, meaning it increases fluid loss through urination. This could potentially worsen constipation, so it is important to stay well-hydrated if a person tries this option.

5. Fennel

Fennel is a traditional folk remedy for digestive symptoms, including gas, bloating, and constipation. A small 2022 study of 50 older adults found that those who drank tea containing fennel and rose had improved constipation symptoms after 4 weeks.

The results were similar to the effects of polyethylene glycol, which is a medication doctors sometimes use to treat constipation. This suggests fennel and rose could have similar potency to this drug.

However, as this was a small study, it is difficult to tell whether fennel tea would be effective in a larger population or younger adults.

6. Ginger

Many people use ginger tea to ease gas, bloating, and nausea. There is also some limited evidence that ginger root may help with constipation.

A 2023 study focusing on people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that causes the immune system to attack the protective sheath around nerves, found that ginger supplements improved constipation over 3 weeks.

However, these results may not apply to ginger tea or adults who do not have MS. More research is necessary.

7. Elderberry

Elderberry has a long history of use as an herbal medicine for colds, flu, and constipation. A 2014 report by the European Medicines Agency notes that numerous textbooks from previous centuries list elderberry tea and elderberry syrup as a constipation treatment.

However, no recent research has thoroughly tested the effects of elderberry tea for constipation, and scientists do not know how it works.

8. Black tea

Black tea contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can speed up bodily functions. Some people anecdotally report that drinking caffeinated beverages helps stimulate bowel movements. However, little scientific research has shown how well black tea works as a constipation remedy.

Depending on a person’s sensitivity, it is also worth noting that caffeine can cause:

Caffeine can also increase urination, which may worsen dehydration. This, in turn, could contribute to constipation.

Some herbs contain potent substances, so it is important to understand their risks.

Are herbal teas safe for children?

Some herbal teas may not be safe for children. Additionally, as it is difficult to precisely manage the concentration of tea, it may be challenging to brew tea that provides a child-safe dose.

Instead, caregivers can ask a doctor or pharmacist about the best way to treat constipation in children.

Are herbal teas regulated?

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates herbal teas as food products. This means it does not test their effectiveness or their purity as medication. The potency of ingredients may vary significantly from one tea brand to another.

Do herbal teas have side effects?

As with OTC laxatives, herbal teas can cause side effects. For example, too much senna tea may result in diarrhea, while caffeine can cause heart palpitations and anxiety. Before taking a herbal tea to relieve constipation, individuals can ask a doctor or pharmacist whether the ingredients will be suitable.

Can you use herbal teas long term?

Herbal teas may help with occasional constipation, but they are not a long-term solution. If a person finds they are reliant on laxative teas, they should contact a doctor to diagnose the cause of their constipation.

Is cascara tea good for constipation?

Similarly to senna, dried cascara bark is a stimulant laxative that contains glycosides, which stimulate muscle contractions in the bowel. It is available in tea form and typically works in 8–12 hours.

However, there are risks to using cascara for constipation in the long term. The fresh bark is also poisonous. For these reasons, the FDA no longer considers it to be safe.

In addition to herbal teas, people can try:

If fiber appears to be worsening constipation, it is important to speak with a doctor.

Learn more ways to relieve constipation naturally.

Some teas that may help constipation include slippery elm, dandelion root, and rhubarb. However, the herb with the strongest evidence supporting its use for constipation is senna, which is also available OTC in pill form.

The potency and quality of herbal teas may vary between products and may not be safe for everyone. As a result, they may not always work. If constipation persists or occurs regularly, people should contact a doctor.

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