Best teas to combat
chemo side-effects

Published: 11 Dec 2019

The 15th of December is International Tea Day. The history of tea drinking goes back more than 5000 years. Originating in China in the 3rd century AD, it is believed to have been used as a medicinal drink before it was popularized as a recreational drink. It wasn’t until the 17th century that tea was introduced to North America and Europe.

Nowadays tea is popular everywhere …. after water it’s is said to be the most widely consumed drink in the world. Most of us like tea of some sort – whether we drink it hot or cold, flavor ice creams and cooking, or even freeze it to enjoy as ice popsicles. Apart from enjoying the flavor, it has many health benefits too.

Traditional tea

When someone asks you, “would you like a cup of tea?”, most of us think of traditional caffeinated teas brewed from the leaves of a Camellia sinensis plant.   There are many variations of this tea; black, green, white, oolong – to name a few.  Each with its own distinctive taste and medicinal properties, dependant on the type of tea leaves picked and the level of oxidation. 

Camellia teas contain phytochemicals, which have anti-microbial properties that help boost your immune system. Green Tea, is particularly good, helping to improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system and, according to a study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, may have anti-cancer properties.  Matcha tea, which is powdered green or white tea, has several times the amount of antioxidant polyphenols per cup than regular leaf tea.

Flavored teas are created by adding flowers, herbs and fruits to black, green or white teas, such as Earl Grey and Jasmine. These days, with our understanding of teas antioxidant properties, there are hundreds of fusions to choose from, lemon, tropical fruits, berries, coconut, herbs and spices with green and white teas – the choice is endless.

One thing to mention is that these mixes do contain caffeine unless stated otherwise, so if you don’t want caffeine, always check the label. If you are looking for caffeine-free varieties its best to stick to 'herbal or fruit teas', which aren’t made from Camellia sinensis leaves.  Although not a traditional 'tea', we have come to know them as tea because of the process of drying and brewing with water.

The Best ‘Tea’ for Cancer and Chemo Patients

For many people, tea is a comforter.  The delicate infusion of leaves and hot water is the perfect antidote when you're feeling low or anxious.  Chemotherapy is highly effective at killing cancer cells, but it can cause nausea, vomiting and insomnia, and tea can help with some of these nasty side-effects. 

Experts advise cancer patients to avoid teas that are caffeinated as they can increase anxiety and insomnia. They also suggest you ask your medical team about drinking green tea during active chemotherapy and radiation, as some studies indicate that it may make certain cancer cells less sensitive to chemotherapy.

We’ve searched the internet for ‘teas’ with health benefits that can help combat some of the nastier side effects of chemo:


The calming effect of chamomile tea is thanks to an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds to certain receptors in your brain that help decrease anxiety and initiate sleep. Some studies also suggest that chamomile tea may target cancer cells, or even prevent those cells from developing in the first place. However, research so far is inconclusive, and scientists say more work is needed to prove chamomile's anti-cancer claims.

Ginger Root

Not only does ginger help fend off nausea and vomiting, it can also help to stimulate your appetite, which is important for cancer patients. 

You can make your own ginger tea easily enough by adding boiling water to slices of ginger root and allowing it to steep and adding a little lemon and honey to taste. Or you can buy ginger tea bags, but be cautious when selecting a ginger tea, as many brands combine ginger with caffeinated black or green tea leaves.

Licorice Root

Licorice root has a reputation for boosting the immune system, but it is important to discuss this tea with your medical team before you begin drinking it, as some studies show that it can cause muscle weakness and suppress the production of anti-stress hormones. If you get the okay from your doctor, you can drink it with the knowledge that it is an effective liver stimulant that will help flush chemotherapeutic drugs out of your system once they are no longer needed.

Milk Thistle

Whilst you wouldn’t drink milk thistle tea for the taste, it is known to be a powerful stimulant for the liver, which is the organ responsible for cleaning out toxins and waste from our blood, which means that it will help clear chemotherapy drugs out of our systems once they are no longer needed. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory. A note of warning – there are certain cancers for which milk thistle tea is specifically prohibited, so check with your medical team.


Mint is a well-known remedy for nausea. People who are suffering stomach discomfort can get benefit both from drinking it and from inhaling its soothing aroma. In addition to providing relief from stomach issues, mint is also an immune system booster and is known to help patients suffering from memory and focus problems, which are also common among chemotherapy patients.


Rosehips are naturally packed full of vitamin C, which has strong antioxidant properties that may help fight dangerous free radicals throughout your body and protect you against chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Vitamin C also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system, stimulating the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which protect your body against infection.

Valerian Root Tea

There are many excellent health benefits of valerian root tea, including regulating sleep, reducing anxiety, eliminating headaches, soothing heart palpitations, easing digestion and stimulating the mind. Valerian is a known stress reliever that has long been recommended as a treatment for insomnia.

Cannabis Tea

Cannabis tea that is high in CBD can help with stress and anxiety, as well as acting as a relaxant and sleep aid if you’re struggling to nod off at night. CBD has been shown in a number of studies to be beneficial for a variety of common conditions such as inflammation, pain relief and even helping enhance memory and cognitive function. The element of cannabis that’s illegal, depending on where you live, is THC, which provides the mind-altering high.

Please be aware of allergies as well as any ingredients that could potentially conflict with your meds – ask your medical team for advice before trying anything new.

If you have any favorite teas that you’d recommend to others with cancer please join and share within the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group - over 6,000 members worldwide.

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