Herbal laxative teas are rarely recommended as the first option for treating constipation. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a combination of other natural treatments, including fiber and increased fluids, as a primary defense against this common but uncomfortable condition. However, when low-risk treatment options have failed, some health care providers may recommend herbal laxatives as a natural therapy.
Consult a qualified practitioner before using any medicinal herb to self-treat constipation.
The seed pods of the medicinal herb senna contain large quantities of natural stimulant-laxatives. When brewed as a tea, senna pods create a relatively safe concoction for speeding activity in the digestive tract. According to the US National Institutes of Health, senna pods work by irritating the lining of the bowels and stimulating contractions of the colon. Common side effects of senna tea include abdominal cramping and diarrhea; drink plenty of liquids to compensate for the loss of fluid.
Cascara sagrada, a powerful stimulant laxative, may be used as a component of herbal teas. Like senna, cascara sagrada works by irritating the bowel lining. Although it works quickly in most cases, the NIH notes that some stimulant laxatives require up to 24 hours before the full effects arise. All stimulant laxatives may trigger episodes of diarrhea and cramping. To minimise this side effect, do not take cascara sagrada alongside any other stimulant laxative. Additionally, the NIH advises patients to avoid using any stimulant laxative for more than one week; daily use can cause dependence.
The Maryland University Medical Center acknowledges aloe vera's efficacy as an herbal laxative but the organization warns against the routine use of the strong juices and gels used in conventional herbal medicine. According to the UMMC, the active laxative compounds in aloe can cause intense, painful cramping in the abdomen. Teas made from aloe contain lower doses of the active compound aloin and may provide relief from constipation with fewer side effects than aloe products that are not diluted with water.
Commonly promoted as a "detox" laxative, rhubarb is a component of herbal cleansing formulas including Essiac tea and Flor-Essence. The active laxative compounds in rhubarb tea include oxalic acid and anthraquinones, which may be toxic in extremely high doses. Proponents of rhubarb laxatives claim that the plant can flush unwanted toxins and debris from the body. The US National Institutes of Health warns that the routine use of rhubarb tea can cause laxative dependence. Avoid using rhubarb over an extended period unless otherwise directed by your licensed health care provider.