Accessible, Anti-inflammatory Teas for Gut Health
It’s All About the Polyphenols
Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidant compounds found in plants. They are most abundant in colourful whole foods, which is where it’s recommended you obtain them. But, tea is one of the richest sources of polyphenols ever discovered. Per serving, black tea contains 197 mg of polyphenols and green tea contains 173 mg. Comparatively, a serving of broccoli contains 33 mg of polyphenols and an apple contains 143 mg. So, if you’re looking to increase your consumption of polyphenols and support your digestion, tea is the most potent form.
Even more, tea is also one of the most potent probiotics around, especially black and green teas. Pre-biotics are essentially plant fibers that are indigestible by the body but feed gut bacteria as they pass through the digestive tract. One study even found that a diet high in polyphenols increased the numbers of beneficial gut bacteria that prevent leaky gut.
Tea as a source of pre-biotics is also much gentler on the system, especially for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or leaky gut, as whole food sources of pre-biotics can cause indigestion, bloating, and gas amongst other discomforts.
If you’re not sensitive to caffeine, black tea is the best source of polyphenols and thus source of pre-biotics for gut health. The reason why black tea tops the list is because the molecules in black tea are larger than those in other teas, such as green tea and the ever popular version of matcha. This means that, in effect, they’ll stay in your intestinal tract instead of being immediately absorbed. As a result of residing in the gut for longer, the black tea molecules induce the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice helps soothe damaged gut lining. The glycyrrhetic acidic licorice has been isolated and shown to kill bacteria, especially Gram-negative and those resistant to antibiotics, as well as some viruses and yeasts. This is critical since many people experience digestive imbalances due to infections, which can go asymptomatic. Another chemical in licorice, hispaglabridin, was also found to be potent against bacteria.
Note Please beware and consult your primary care provider before imbibing licorice if you have any issues with blood sugar regulation, diabetes, or blood pressure.
Peppermint tea can reduce inflammation and has been shown to help those struggling with IBS. We recommend brewing fresh leaves, which can be purchased at any grocery store and planted even in a pot by a kitchen window—no garden necessary—for continuous source. Otherwise, clic below for our preferred brand. We like to serve it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
This type of elm tree is a known demulcent, meaning that it is able to reduce inflammation in the gut by way of lubricating the digestive tract. It’s touted to ease symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, IBS, and other digestive problems. It’s also a great gentle option for relieving occasional or mild constipation.
No, unfortunately this is not the kind that you’d add to your s’mores. This root is similar to slippery elm in that it is a lubricant for the gut lining and can help heal leaky gut syndrome. It is able to relieve symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn by coating the stomach.
Elderberry & Hibiscus
Both of these berries are high in the aforementioned polyphenols without the caffeine that black or green teas have. Elderberry and Hibiscus also both have immune-boosting properties, acting both as an offensive agent by promoting good bacteria and defensive agent by staving off pathogens.
Dandelion tea may help with mild digestive symptoms, such as bloating or occasional constipation. This is because it can stimulate the liver to produce bile, which can indirectly help with constipation. Dandelion tea can also act as a diuretic in the body, adding more water to the digestive system and the stools. This can help to relieve mild constipation.
Lemongrass has been used especially in Ayurvedic and Chinese Traditional Medicine. Lemongrass leaves and oil extract are touted to gently treat stomachaches, abdominal pain, nausea, digestive tract spasms, and other health issues.
It can also act as a mild astringent and kills germs and bacteria. It can even be found in pharmacies sell this product for its antibacterial, antiseptic, and antiviral properties.
Cumin, Coriander, & Fennel (CCF) Tea Recipe
Enjoy CCF tea right before mealtime to kindle your agni (digestive fire) or sip throughout the day for a gentle daily digestive support.
1/2 teaspoon whole dried fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole dried coriander seeds
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon whole dried cumin seeds
3 cups of water
Place the powder along with the water in a small saucepan on high. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
Let cool to warm and add raw honey if you’d like, to taste.
Strain through a fine mesh metal strainer and drink immediately or pour over ice for a cool drink. Can also be made in big batches, cooled and kept in the refrigerator until ready to consume.
You may use already-ground spices however all original sources recommend using whole dried spices and making each batch fresh.
Some sources recommend letting the spices soak in the water for up to an hour before simmering, but I find this isn’t necessary if and when I don’t have the time.
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.