Tea is often used as a cold and flu remedy. And while certain types of tea do have medicinal and functional benefits, there are so many different types of tea that it can be hard for individuals who are sick to choose the right one.
But are any types of tea clinically shown to relieve congestion? What should consumers be aware of when purchasing these teas? And are they safe to drink?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we survey clinical studies to share our top three types of tea to relieve congestion.
We'll explain what we recommend consumers look out for when buying herbal tea, and discuss the relative safety of each tea type.
Option 1 — Black Tea
Hot black tea may be effective for relieving congestion with two separate mechanisms of action.
Hot beverages were shown to provide "immediate and sustained relief" for most common symptoms of cold and flu in a clinical trial published in the Rhinology journal.
This suggests that individuals suffering from congestion should make their tea hot, rather than cold, until their condition improves.
Hot black tea consumption was associated with reduced rates of nasal infection in a 2014 population study.
The study authors theorized that this association was due to a potential antibacterial effect of black tea.
Pique Breakfast Black Tea is our top black tea brand, because its only ingredient is organic black tea, it costs only $16 for a carton, and it comes in crystallized form in single-serve packet so you can just add hot water -- no tea pot or steeping is necessary.
Option 2 — Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is typically used to promote relaxation, because it's clinically shown to relieve anxiety symptoms as we documented in our review of U Relax.
However, chamomile tea may also support optimal nasal airflow.
A 2021 clinical trial found that chamomile extract improved congestion and quality of life in individuals with chronic rhinosinusitis.
This study used a nasal drop rather than an oral tea, and chamomile extract is more potent than chamomile tea, so this study doesn't necessarily prove that chamomile tea relieves congestion.
However, since chamomile tea is a whole food product with ancillary health and mood benefits, it may be worth a try.
FGO Organic Chamomile Tea is our top chamomile tea brand, because its only ingredient is organic chamomile, and it costs under $0.20 per serving.
How to Qualify Tea Brands
Before proceeding to the final tea for congestion recommendation, we want to explain to consumers how we recommend qualifying tea brands.
We recommend choosing brands where the only ingredient is organic tea, and there are no questionable additives like "natural flavors" or citric acid.
Many tea brands that we reviewed while researching this article contained added flavoring agents, and we prefer a clean formulation without these additives.
The organic distinction is less important than the clean formulation distinction, but organic food has lower pesticide levels and higher phytonutrient levels according to a 2020 medical review.
All three of the tea brands we recommend in this article meet these formulation criteria.
Option 3 — Benifuuki Green Tea
Benifuuki is a specific type of green tea native to Japan. It's rich in compounds called methylated catechins, which appear to be effective at fighting allergy in early research.
Nasal symptom score in individuals drinking Benifuuki green tea was significantly lower than those drinking a placebo green tea, according to a clinical trial published in the Allergology International journal.
Tea catechins were shown to prevent the flu and upper respiratory tract infections in a 2021 medical review, which furthers the theory that this type of tea may help relieve (or prevent) congestion.
Chado Tea House Organic Benifuuki Green Tea is our top Benifuuki green tea pick, because it has the organic certification and no unhealthy additives.
How to Make Tea for Colds at Home
A YouTube creator named Yovana Mendoza has a video with over 450,000 views that features a natural, at-home tea remedy for colds that can be made with ingredients sourced from a grocery store: