Is laxative tea the right choice for you? It depends on why you’re looking into drinking it. While there are certain situations that laxative tea can help with, using it the wrong way can often do more harm than good.
To help you better understand the difference, our health experts will explain what laxative tea is, when you should use it, and other options you can use to manage many of the same symptoms.
What Is Laxative Tea?
While its ingredients may vary depending on the brand you choose, laxative tea is a blend of various herbs and other bowel stimulants designed to help speed up your gastrointestinal system.
It does this by addressing three factors that impact gut health — motility, frequency, and bulk.
Bowel motility is the contraction of the muscles inside the GI tract that both mix and propel its contents forward. When your bowel motility is impacted, it slows down the movement of the GI system and can even lead to a backup of stool (known as constipation).
Most laxative teas come in a premade tea bag that you can easily prepare in a cup of hot water. All you need to do to use the tea is drink it, and most teas work within six to 12 hours of ingestion.
One of the reasons that laxative tea is so popular is that it provides a viable alternative to other laxatives administered through less comfortable routes. Most people would prefer to drink a cup of tea instead of needing to self-administer an enema.
Laxative tea is also more user-friendly, especially if you’re unfamiliar with how to use enemas.
Laxative Tea Options
Although there are many laxative tea options, you must know the main ingredients and how they can work on your system.
One of the most popular ingredients, senna, is an herb that functions as a stimulant laxative. When consumed, it stimulates the intestines to continue to move their contents forward. While effective, senna is said to have a bitter taste, so it’s best when mixed with a sweetener like honey.
Another ingredient frequently found in laxative tea is cascara.
Cascara comes from the dried skin of the fruit that coffee comes from and it functions as a powerful laxative. Cascara can be so strong that it is only recommended in infrequent, small doses.
Other options for laxative teas include dandelion, peppermint, and green and black tea, all of which have a milder effect than senna and cascara.
When Should I Drink Laxative Tea?
The number one reason most people drink laxative tea is to help relieve constipation symptoms. This can be an excellent step to take before relying on a prescription laxative, which is often more potent.
In addition, as we’ll discuss, increasing the amount of water that you drink can naturally help reduce the risk of constipation. When you drink tea, it’s an easy way to add more water into your daily routine.
But how can you know if you may be dealing with constipation?
Symptoms of Constipation
Constipation symptoms aren’t always as obvious as just struggling to have a bowel movement. While that is the main symptom and usually the one that clues people in to the fact that they’re having an issue, there are other symptoms to look for as well. These include:
- Having to strain while having a bowel movement
- Harder than normal stools
- Feeling like you’re not emptying your bowels completely or that some of the stool is stuck
- Having less than three bowel movements in a week
What Causes Constipation?
If you’ve been noticing changes in your bowel health, and you believe you may be dealing with constipation, you’re probably wondering what may be causing the problem.
While everyone is different, there are three common triggers of constipation:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A low-fiber diet
People who use opioid medications regularly (like Norco or Vicodin, among others) are also more prone to constipation. This is because opioids can naturally slow down your bowel motility, slowing down peristalsis and triggering constipation.
Constipation can also be a symptom of a larger more serious medical problem in some situations. If you are experiencing constipation issues for the first time, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Can Laxative Tea Be Harmful?
If you don’t use laxative tea the “right” way, it can be harmful to your body. Never use laxative tea more than recommended, and if your constipation lasts for more than a few days, seek medical attention.
Relying on laxative tea too frequently to help you have a bowel movement can create dependence. Eventually, you may not be able to have a bowel movement without the assistance of laxatives (known as chronic constipation), which can be challenging to reverse.
Laxative teas are only meant for short-term use and should never be used on a long-term basis. In addition, long-term use of either senna or cascara can lead to potential liver damage.
Keep in mind that laxatives teas are not under the direct supervision of the Food and Drug Administration, so only purchase your tea from a trustworthy, reputable manufacturer. If you take any medications (prescription or over-the-counter), it’s essential to check with your medical provider to verify no potential interactions before using laxative tea.
Laxative tea should also only be used by adults and never by children unless under the supervision and recommendation of a medical professional. They are also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding people.
Are There Other Ways to Help Relieve These Issues?
Before relying on laxative tea to help you with your bowel issues, there are a few other ways that you can help improve your gastrointestinal function.
One of the best ways to keep your GI system functioning at its most optimal level is to focus on eating a healthy, well-rounded diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts help foods pass through the system smoothly and quickly, primarily due to their high fiber content.
Aim for between 25 and 31 grams of fiber a day.
In addition to the diet, you must drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Water helps to soften up the stool to pass through the system more efficiently while also being great for your body overall.
Exercise is another way to help with constipation naturally. Any exercise, especially when done regularly, helps to increase bowel motility. Even just taking a walk around the block once a day can help your GI system to function more efficiently.
You’ll also want to focus on your gut microbiome, the delicate balance of bacteria present in your GI system. Eating more organic foods, cutting out processed foods from the diet, and using an appropriate probiotic can help support this microflora.
Laxative tea has its place, but you should only use it to help with constipation on a short-term basis. Using laxative tea too frequently can lead to chronic constipation issues, a significant, long-term problem.
Keeping your GI system healthy by focusing on eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet, drinking plenty of water, supporting your gut microflora, and exercising on a regular basis, can be just as effective without the risk of creating additional problems.
Stick with Healthy Directions for more information on bowel health as well as ways to keep your health and wellness at its most optimal level.