If you have trouble going when you go to the bathroom, try turning to natural remedies at home. Tea has long been used to relieve constipation woes, and there are six types in particular that can help you poop more easily.
Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements in one week, and the stool can be hard, dry and sometimes painful to pass, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Almost everyone gets constipated sometimes, and it usually doesn't last long and isn't serious.
Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains — all high in fiber — is another way to help relieve your constipation, per the NLM. You should also aim to get enough exercise and take time to poop when you need to. And talk to your doctor if your bowel habits change: You should only use laxatives if your physician says you should, and your doctor will also be able to tell you if any of your current medications may be causing constipation.
And, of course, don't turn your back on teas. Sit back and sip up relief with these teas for constipation.
1. Rhubarb Tea
It may be unexpected, but your grandma's summer rhubarb tea may help relieve constipation.
"During the summer, I'll often tell constipated patients to get fresh rhubarb and consume that for its laxative properties," says William Chey, MD, a professor of gastroenterology and nutrition sciences at Michigan Medicine.
You can make your own rhubarb tea at home or find it in packaged tea bags. It's also an ingredient in Essiac tea.
While clinical evidence in humans is limited, rhubarb is considered to be a stimulant laxative and may also relieve gastrointestinal dysfunction in people with illness, per the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
2. Aloe Vera Tea
These benefits can be applied to tea: "The aloe that's contained in many teas seems to have stimulant laxative properties as well," Dr. Chey says.
One benefit that tea may have over juice is that it's warm: Starting the day with a warm beverage can help move stool along, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And in general, drinking plenty of fluids (including tea) helps to keep your stool soft, allowing for easier passage.
3. Senna Tea
Senna is a popular herbal laxative and is generally safe and well-tolerated. It belongs to a large genus of tropical, flowering plants, and its flowers and fruit have been used for centuries in folk medicine to relieve constipation, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
It's widely available in teas, especially those marketed to help relieve constipation. "Senna appears to have effects on the muscle in the colon to stimulate contractions that can be beneficial for relieving constipation," Dr. Chey says.
When your colon muscle is relaxed, it can lead to constipation. But when it's stimulated, that can help move materials out of your digestive system, Dr. Chey says.
In general, senna typically causes a bowel movement within 6 to 12 hours — so you might take it in the evening to encourage a BM the next morning, per the NLM.
Do not take senna for more than one week without discussing it with your doctor first.
Taking excessive doses of senna can cause mild to moderate liver injury, per the NIDDK — but liver injury from long-term senna use is rare and most cases are rapidly reversed upon stopping use.
4. Cascara Tea
Cascara is typically extracted from the dried, aged bark of Rhamnus purshiana, a type of buckthorn tree or shrub native to North America, and is a common over-the-counter therapy for constipation, per the NIDDK.
Like senna, it can cause liver damage when used excessively and is meant to be used for less than one week, per the NIDDK. Side effects might include abdominal cramps and electrolyte imbalance.
Along with senna, rhubarb and aloe, cascara helps the colon move material through your digestive system.
"All four of these teas stimulate the colon muscle to contract more regularly and vigorously, but the precise mechanism by which they do that is likely to be different and is not well-defined," Dr. Chey explains.
5. Black Tea or Green Tea
Caffeinated tea can also help you go, similar to how your morning coffee does.
Brewed black tea tends to be the tea highest in caffeine, with 47 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup, per the Mayo Clinic. In comparison, brewed coffee has 96 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup. Green tea is also caffeinated, but slightly less so, with 28 milligrams per 8-ounce cup.
"Caffeine serves as a stimulant for bowel contractions or motility," Dr. Chey says. "That's why a lot of people say that they move their bowels after having their cup of coffee or cup of tea in the morning."
Because black tea is caffeinated, you'll need to monitor your intake. However, you'll also benefit from its flavonoids that fight inflammation and support healthy immune function, per Penn Medicine.
Black tea and green tea both come from the Camellia sinensis plant. For black tea, the leaves are dried and fermented, giving it a richer flavor and darker color, according to Penn Medicine.
6. Fruit Teas
Certain teas flavored with fruit might also help to relieve constipation, though more research is needed.
"Stone fruits like peaches, cherries, plums and prunes contain a sugar called sorbitol, which is not well-absorbed and can actually trigger fluid secretion into the bowel," Dr. Chey says. "That can have a laxative effect."
He notes that it's unclear how this effect may apply to teas, but that several teas are flavored with those kinds of fruits. It may not hurt to try fruit tea if you love the flavor and are dealing with constipation — especially because the warm fluid may help in and of itself.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Constipation"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Senna"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Senna"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Rhubarb"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Aloe Vera"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Nutrition Tips for Relieving Constipation"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease: "Cascara"
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more"
- Penn Medicine: "The Hidden Health Benefits of Tea"