Treating irritable bowel syndrome can include changing diet, reducing stress, and taking medication. Can certain herbs and herbal teas also help relieve symptoms?
Tea for IBS symptoms
There are many types of tea that may be beneficial for easing the symptoms of IBS. These include:
One review found that peppermint reduced the severity of pain for people with IBS compared to a placebo.
Peppermint is not recommended for use by people with hiatal hernias, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or gallbladder problems. Heartburn is not an uncommon side effect.
Peppermint essential oil has also been studied as a treatment for IBS. Essential oils are meant to be inhaled through a diffuser or applied to the skin only after being diluted by carrier oil.
People should always speak to a doctor or aromatherapist before considering taking an essential oil by mouth. An article in American Family Physician reports that very high doses of peppermint oil can be extremely dangerous and even result in death.
Turmeric is another herb that has been studied in people with IBS.
In a study published in 2005, researchers examined the effect of turmeric extract tablets on IBS symptoms in adults. Participants took either 1 or 2 tablets each day for 8 weeks.
At the end of the study, researchers found that the turmeric extract decreased abdominal pain. Overall, about two-thirds of those who received the turmeric extract had an improvement in their symptoms.
Since then, there has been more research on the effect of turmeric on inflammation in bowel diseases. While not yet tested on humans, this research produced positive results for IBS symptoms.
Eating turmeric has relatively little risk and is known to decrease inflammation and act as an anti-oxidant, both of which are health benefits for someone with IBS.
Turmeric tea is sold in pre-packaged tea bags or can be made at home using ground turmeric or a piece of turmeric root.
Turmeric can also be mixed with lemongrass and cinnamon to make a flavorful mixture, as in the recipe given here.
Some scientists report that curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric, could have an impact on blood sugar levels, so it is especially important for people with diabetes to discuss this with a doctor.
People with gallbladder problems should also speak with a doctor before consuming turmeric. The spice has the potential to worsen acid reflux and cause stomach discomfort. Another concern is turmeric’s impact on blood clotting.
People frequently consume ginger for symptoms associated with an upset digestive system, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. It is also commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Scientific studies on the effectiveness of ginger for IBS are lacking, however. It is believed that the extract may help decrease inflammation, make the stomach lining stronger, and promote movement in the intestines.
Fennel may be helpful for people with IBS since it can help relax the intestinal muscle and relieve gas. It has a sweet flavor similar to aniseed.
Scientists studied the combined impact of curcumin and fennel essential oil on IBS symptoms in 121 people. After 30 days, those who took the curcumin and fennel combination had reduced symptom severity and a significantly higher score on a quality-of-life measurement than those who received a placebo.
More research is needed to know if fennel tea can also help relieve symptoms. Fennel tea can be purchased in pre-packaged tea bags or brewed at home using the recipe given here.
Researchers report that fennel may not be recommended for pregnant women and that it may interact with certain medications.
Chamomile tea is a popular type of herbal tea. Some people believe it is helpful for relaxation but not many studies have confirmed this.
Some people choose chamomile tea for relieving an upset stomach. It could offer benefits for people with IBS since digestive symptoms can be related to stress.
IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system. It involves miscommunication between the brain and the gut. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or alternating types of bowel movements.
IBS is classified into three types:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
- IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M)
Between 7 and 21 percent of people are affected by IBS. The condition is more common in women and younger people than in other groups.
IBS can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Some teas may help manage certain symptoms, but more research is needed on the extent of their efficacy. Treatment for IBS often includes multiple approaches so some tea types may contribute to the easing of a person’s symptoms.
It is also important to remember that many studies are done on different ways of using the same herb. The herb, the tea, and the essential oil all have different potencies.
Tea preparations of herbs will likely have fewer side effects than extracts or supplements, and they are often a good addition to a healthful diet.
A doctor or registered dietitian can help a person develop an individualized plan to manage their IBS symptoms.
All herbal products should be discussed with a doctor prior to use, as they are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There may be concerns about quality, purity, and strength, and some herbs may react with other medications.