Ugh, bloating! It’s one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints. A variety of things could be causing this GI distress, some of them diet-related.
The more common culprits include food allergies or intolerances, such as gluten; high-fiber foods, such as beans and grains; and drinking carbonated beverages. Meanwhile, intestinal conditions (including irritable bowel syndrome and constipation), pregnancy and menstruation can also lead to bloat, says Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Atlanta.
While there’s no quick anti-bloat fix, sipping a warm (or cold!) mug of tea may offer relief. Some teas, most of them herbal, can relax the intestinal tract, thereby easing bloating, Al Bochi says.
Brew up a tea for bloating the next time your stomach feels tight and swollen. Keep in mind that these teas shouldn’t replace medical treatment for chronic health conditions. But drinking them may help you feel better when the dreaded bloat monster bites.
How to prepare medicinal teas
A note about tea prep time: Herbal teas are distinct from black, green and oolong teas for several reasons. The latter group of teas, which contain caffeine, are all derived from the same plant; most people steep them for 3-5 minutes. If you over-steep those teas, you’ll extract more tannins, making for an astringent brew.
On the other hand, herbal teas can steep at least twice as long—the flavor might get stronger but it won’t get bitter. There’s even potential benefit to longer steep times: You could extract more of the medicinal properties. All of the teas listed below, except matcha, are herbal; steep them for 10 minutes the first time you prepare them. (You can adjust subsequent brews, letting them steep for more or less time, according to taste.)
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbal tea choices in the world, according to a 2010 review in Molecular Medicine Reports. Understandably so: Dried chamomile flowers have a natural sweetness, plus it’s packed with good-for-you plant compounds like flavonoids. According to Al Bochi, the flavonoids in chamomile can help relax intestinal muscles and reduce bloating.
If you’re feeling bloated, this might help to shed any extra water you’re storing. For years, people have used natural solutions like dandelion (that’s right, the flower) to stimulate urination. Now, research suggests this folk remedy may have some basis: People who took 8 ounces of dandelion extract in one day not only peed more often, but also peed in greater amounts. Their bathroom habits went back to normal the day following the experiment.We don’t know for sure if you’ll see the same effects by drinking dandelion root tea, but the warm, roasted flavor is worth a try.
A plant with longstanding usage in Europe, fennel looks a bit like celery. The entire fennel plant is edible, from the greens to the bulb to the seeds. Fennel tea is made from the seeds (which also contribute to the spice profile in some Indian and Chinese cooking). Fennel has a mild licorice flavor, with subtle sweet notes. As documented by Germany’s Commission E (a scientific advisory board that evaluates the safety and efficacy of herbs used in folk medicine), fennel tea combats “gastrointestinal afflictions,” including “fullness and flatulence.”
Known for its distinctively strong and spicy flavor, ginger tea offers a potential solution for a range of GI issues, including nausea, indigestion, diarrhea and— of course—bloating, according to a 2019 review in Food Science & Nutrition. “Ginger contains compounds called gingerols that can help speed up stomach emptying and reduce bloating and gas,” Al Bochi says.
Case in point: A group of 24 healthy volunteers who took 1,200 milligrams of ginger capsules one hour before eating soup saw their stomachs empty twice as fast as when they took a placebo, according to a European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology study.We need more research to see if taking ginger in the form of tea has the same effect, but if you enjoy the flavor of ginger tea, why not test the anti-bloating effects for yourself?
Lemon balm tea has a light, citrusy flavor (a curiosity, because it’s part of the mint family). Europeans have traditionally turned to lemon balm to relieve mild GI issues like bloating and gas, according to a 2013 report from the European Medicines Agency. More research is lacking, but again, if you like it, there’s no harm in sipping.
Here comes the one “true” tea on this list: Matcha is a powder made from green tea. This full-bodied tea packs an earthy flavor, a deeper green color and, of course, caffeine (but less than in black tea). Among the many benefits of matcha: It’s full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and it increases metabolism, which makes it useful for weight loss. On the bloating front, studies point to a number of ways that green tea supports gastrointestinal health, including better food absorption and gas reduction.
Because it’s in powder form, matcha is prepared differently from most teas. To make matcha: Scoop the powder into your mug, pour in water just off the boil, and whisk vigorously to eliminate any small lumps. There’s nothing to strain out; you get the entire tea leaf, which has been ground into powder. Many people add milk to their matcha, so you can enjoy it latte style or add a small amount of sweetener to taste.
Peppermint tea has a bold, refreshing flavor that not only fights bad breath but also soothes digestive issues. The key to this tea’s bloat-lowering success is likely thanks to a cooling compound found in the peppermint leaves: menthol. Menthol—the compound that gives peppermint its characteristic cool flavor—can help relax the intestinal tract and relieve bloating, Al Bochi says.
Turmeric is a bold yellow spice with a pungent, bitter flavor. It’s also been found to have potent inflammation-fighting and gas-relieving properties and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat abdominal pain and bloating, according to a 2016 review in Electron Physician.
We have some research to shore up these claims: Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who took 72 to 144 milligrams of turmeric supplements for eight weeks saw significant improvements in their symptoms, including up to a 25% drop in abdominal discomfort.
After turmeric root has acted as the gateway spice into the world of bitter teas, say hello to wormwood! This bitter herb is commonly taken in tea form to treat indigestion. In fact, it’s one of the most popular digestion-promoting bitters in Europe, according to a 2015 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Wormwood has a bad rap thanks to thujone, one of its main active compounds, which is the primary active ingredient in absinthe (or, Malört, Chicago’s famed spirit). But you’d need to drink between two and 20 cups of wormwood tea in a day in order to reach the acceptable daily limit of thujone, according to a 2010 article in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. When in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider.