Home / Chemotherapy / 4 Herbal Teas That Can Help Chemo Side-Effects

4 Herbal Teas That Can Help Chemo Side-Effects

To tea or not to tea? That is the question.

I clearly remember walking on the dark-rich, dirt roads in my grandparents village where chamomile would grow wild along the sides. The smell was intense, calming, with bees everywhere happily going about their business. This plant grew in the most unlikely and challenging places but where it grew, things somehow seemed right.


So are even the most natural herbs OK to use?


Chemotherapy can be a really tough process to go through. You’ve not only had to deal with some difficult news, but you’ve also got to focus on medications, appointments and eating well to stay healthy. 

Chemo can alter the sense of smell. It can leave you tasting nothing but chemicals and metals. Losing the sense of smell can also ruin appetite and stop you from enjoying food and drinks. 


Teas boast multiple purposes and have been used for thousands of years across the globes' cultures. Unfortunately, research into the effectiveness of substances on people costs 10s of millions. It is rare that anyone would be willing to spend that magnitude of investment if there is no patent-protected product that can be sold at the end of the process. The studies done on teas and natural remedies in general are much less funded than their pharmaceutical cousins and therefore are rarely conclusive. Firm conclusions require dedicated focus on answering questions accurately which - in turn - require large sample sizes, large sample sizes cost a lot.


That being said, we looked for information that is the closest to being scientifically demonstrated. Nevertheless, most studies conclude by saying that results aren't black or white - are definitely grey and that more study is needed. 


Our recommendation is, if healthy or ill, check with your doctors and pharmacist first for contraindications. 

Second, if got OK, experiment slow and light and watch for effects.


Consuming a LOT of anything, out of the blue - even if the product is 100% safe and beneficial - can shock your system. Drinking too much water for example, can lead to some shockingly nasty side-effects. 


It's all about a new balance, introduced and experimented with, slowly and consistently. 


A food and drink journal is a great tool. If you feel abnormally bad, you may be able to trace the cause back by looking at your notes. There are apps which do just that, essentially taking a pic, time-stamping it and adding some notes. But that's another article.


That was a detour!

Back to Teas.

Chamomile Tea

A millennia-old-and-used herb which can help to provide some calm during the storm is Chamomile. 

My mom, grand mom and great-grand mom used it. If they would write reviews on Google back then, the reviews would be great. 

The ancient Egyptians called it "Herb of the sun". 


Looking through the shelves of supermarkets, you can find chamomile in products ranging from pills to soaps, from make-up to skin lotions, juices, flavouring and so on. Chamomile was definitely a staple in our home.


Chamomile is known for its soothing and calming effects. Sourced from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae herb family, the chamomile flowers are dried and infused in hot water to make a tea. 

With an earthy sweet taste, it’s a great alternative to traditional tea as it’s caffeine free and can help promote sleep. 

A study has found that people consuming 270 mg of chamomile twice a day over a month woke-up 33% less during the night. Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198755


Better quality sleep is crucial when going through the physical exhaustion of chemotherapy and reducing caffeine intake is always helpful. Chamomile has also been studied in helping mental well-being and reducing depression. One study concluded: "Chamomile tea may be recommended to postpartum women as a supplementary approach to alleviating depression and sleep quality problems."

Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26483209


Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to brain receptors which help promote calm and relaxation. Antioxidants have been widely recommended as a cancer fighting agent. Chamomile can also be useful as a mouthwash and can help control blood sugar. Most recommend it as a safe tool to experiment with.


Water Temp: 93C - 200F

Steep time: 3-5 min

# of infusions possible: 1-3

Quantity: 1tsp / 8Oz water

Green Tea

Green tea is known to contain polyphenols and catechins. In some laboratory studies it has been shown that green tea extracts can inhibit cancer cell growth because Catechins are known to be rich in antioxidants. Green tea contains epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) which is water soluble and is best infused in hot water for greatest benefit. 


Evidence suggest that green tea is helpful in ridding the body of toxins which is particularly helpful between chemotherapy sessions to restore your immune system. It has also been found to raise energy levels and general wellbeing. 


Interestingly, the very act of taking the time, making and drinking green tea, can be helpful in that the ritual can calm and sooth but also hydrate. It’s important to check with your medical doctor to ensure that consuming green tea will not have any adverse effects on your chemotherapy treatment as some research emerged recently indicating possible interference with some types of tea.


Note - Green teas do contain caffein. Sometimes more than coffee.


Water Temp: 85C 185F

Steep time: 2-3 min

# of infusions possible: 1-3

Quantity: 1 tsp / 8Oz water

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint has long been renowned for its calming properties for the digestive system. Chemotherapy can have a harsh effect on your digestion and make eating a challenge. Particularly if you are suffering from nausea which is often a side effect. 


Sipping any teas can help hold down more liquid if you are feeling sick. Peppermint tea can be made from fresh leaves and infused with hot water. It’s best to drink it when it is lukewarm rather than piping hot. It can help with hydration and its soothing effects can last hours helping to settle the stomach. It can also be used as a mouthwash to freshen your mouth and reduce 'metal-mouth'.


Oh, and mint is super easy to plant once and have it grow back every spring in most climates. It sort of takes over the garden if you let it and needs to be contained in it's own area, maybe a pot is best. But nothing beats fresh mint from your pot or garden.


Water Temp: 93C 200F

Steep time: 3-5 min

# of infusions possible: 1-3

Quantity: 1 tsp / 8Oz water

Ginger

Ginger tea (Zingiber officinale) can be made from fresh ginger root and has long been known to inhibit nausea due to it’s 5-HT3 active ingredient. 


Ginger can be used in crystallized, powdered or fresh root form and infused with hot water. It has been suggested that adding ginger to your diet can significantly reduce nausea. Taking ginger tea a few times per day in small doses can help greatly in reducing nausea effects. Studies suggest that taking ginger immediately after chemotherapy helped breast cancer patients.


Using ginger tea as a mouthwash can help remove aftertastes.


Source: breastcancer.org/research-news/20121108-2

Concluding remarks

Taken in moderation and experimenting in using these four teas can help manage the effects of chemotherapy and nausea on the body and particularly the digestive system. Using a variety of teas can help to restore your appetite and even relax, thereby enabling you to sleep better and rebuild your immune system.


We chose Organic Chamomile and Peppermint to include in our DIY baskets. We sourced bleach-free tea bags and chose tea that does not include anything but the tea with no added artificial flavouring. We recommend you do the same.