Can Tea Help Calm an Upset Stomach?

A cup of tea
Image Credit: zirconicusso/iStock/Getty Images

Having an upset stomach can be a mild, temporary distraction or a very painful experience, depending on the severity of the symptoms. While some teas, such as those containing caffeine, can cause or exacerbate the symptoms, many herbal teas can offer relief. Many teas are available in commercial form or can be made from fresh ingredients. Before taking any tea for medicinal purposes, consult with a qualified health practitioner, particularly if you are taking other medications or supplements.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs in the world, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, despite the lack of studies on humans for its medicinal benefits. It works to soothe an upset stomach by relaxing muscle contractions in the smooth muscle of the digestive tract. Chamomile has been used traditionally to treat a variety of digestive issues, including stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and gas. A tea can be made by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 2 to 4 grams of dried chamomile flowers and steeping for 10 to 15 minutes. One thing to be aware of is that there are two main types of chamomile plants, German and Roman. Although they are used for similar medicinal purposes, more research has been performed on German chamomile.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint, called Bo He in traditional Chinese medicine, is another herb used for digestive issues. Peppermint works by both calming the muscles of the stomach and improving the flow of bile. Bile comes from the gallbladder and helps to digest fats, which means peppermint tea may help if you have an upset stomach due to overeating fatty foods. To make a cup of peppermint tea, use 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup of boiling water and steep for approximately 10 minutes. Although peppermint is considered safe, even in large quantities, it can cause problems with certain digestive issues, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and hiatal hernias.

Ginger Tea

Ginger is found in a variety of drinks, foods and even soaps and perfumes, but it can also be made into a tea. Used as a medicinal herb in China for at least 2,000 years, the herb can be found in many herbal formulas to help with digestion. The volatile oils and phenol compounds, such as gingerol, are what's thought to be the active ingredients. Ginger tea may help ease an upset stomach as well as motion sickness and nausea. To make ginger tea, Judy Barrett -- author of "What Can I Do With My Herbs? How to Grow, Use and Enjoy These Versatile Plants" -- suggests peeling and slicing a 2-inch root of ginger and placing it in a pan with 4 quarts of boiling water. Cover the pan and lower the heat, letting it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and serve the decoction, adding water if it is too strong. Be aware, however, that ginger in any form should not be given to children 2 years old or younger, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Adults should limit consumption of fresh ginger to 4 grams a day.

Safety Measures

Chamomile, ginger and peppermint tea are all considered relatively safe, but if you are taking other medications or have any health issues, particularly digestive diseases, consult with your doctor before taking them in any form. In some cases, particularly with chamomile, you may experience an allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction can include bloating, swollen lips, wheezing, a swollen mouth and constriction of your throat. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use of the tea and contact your medical provider. In general, it's best to avoid teas with caffeine, such as green tea or black tea, and added sugar, as those ingredients can exacerbate an upset stomach.