Drinking herbal tea may soothe the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea or constipation. Caffeinated tea may aggravate IBS symptoms by stimulating bowel activity. However, non-caffeinated teas brewed with herbs such as chamomile, peppermint and fennel may act as muscle relaxants, easing bowel cramps. Although herbal teas may relax your digestive muscles, they are not a substitute for conventional medical treatment. Consult your health care provider about a comprehensive treatment plan to resolve your IBS symptoms.
Chamomile tea may help control the gas and abdominal pain of IBS by easing the bowel spasms associated with IBS, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. German chamomile, or Matricaria recutita, has been used for centuries to treat digestive disorders, the UMMC notes. Chamomile tea consists of the dried flowers of this herb. To brew chamomile tea, pour boiling water over 2 to 3 tbsp. of dried chamomile and allow the tea to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Drinking three to four cups of chamomile tea each day between meals may provide some relief from IBS symptoms.
The volatile oils in peppermint may ease gastrointestinal symptoms, especially in people with diarrhea-predominant IBS, according to Dr. Susan K. Hadley of Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. This herb, whose botanical name is Mentha piperita, has mild anesthetic and anti-spasmodic effects when taken for IBS, Hadley notes. Although peppermint oil supplements are the most common form of treatment, tea brewed from peppermint leaves may also alleviate symptoms. To brew peppermint tea, steep 1 tsp. of dried leaves for 10 minutes and then strain and cool the tea before drinking. Four to five cups of tea between meals may soothe cramps and relieve gas, notes UMMC. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, peppermint tea or other preparations may worsen your heartburn and indigestion.
Fennel, or Foeniculum vulgare, has been used to treat digestive complaints in ancient Greek, Chinese, Egyptian and Indian cultures. Fennel may relieve the bloating associated with IBS, Hadley notes. The seeds of this bulb-like herb may have a carminitive, or gas-reducing, effect and can be brewed to prepare an aromatic tea, according to Drugs.com. Hadley states that clinical evidence does not support the use of fennel or other herbal preparations to treat IBS.
Chamomile and peppermint tea produce few side effects in the recommended quantities. Chamomile tea may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to ragweed, asters or daisies, the UMMC notes, and large quantities of strong chamomile tea may induce vomiting. Peppermint tea may cause heartburn, indigestion or a burning sensation around your mouth. Fennel preparations may cause contact dermatitis or other allergic reactions, according to Drugs.com. Consult your health care provider for recommendations on the safe use of herbal teas to treat your IBS symptoms.
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- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- University of Maryland Medical Center: German Chamomile
- “American Family Physician”; Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Susan K. Hadley, M.D., and Stephen M. Gaarder, Ph.D.; December 15, 2005
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peppermint
- Drugs.com: Fennel Information