Digestion

One of the great things about herbs is that they directly contact our digestive tracts when we consume them, making it quite easy for herbs to affect this body system which is at root of good health. There are two kinds of herbs in particular that support digestion: carminatives and bitters.

And please keep in mind that things vary from person to person. Please seek medical advice if you are experiencing concerning GI symptoms. If you would like any guidance in using herbs to support digestion then please schedule an appointment with one of our herbalists.

And also please keep in mind some of these ideas for supporting good digestion in general:

  • Eat mindfully - smell, taste, chew slowly and savor your food without distractions from screens, etc.

  • Eat whole foods

  • Eat what matches your constitution and avoid foods that your body doesn't tolerate well

  • Seek out food that your ancestors ate

  • Eat with the seasons - what's in harvest right now?


Carminatives

Carminatives are a great kind of herb for digestion. They generally help because of the presence of volatile oils (also known as essential oils) which relax smooth muscle and relive pain.

Carminative herbs often have many benefits for digestion, but they are most well known for relieving gas and bloating, as well as feelings of fullness, distension or spasm.

A nice way to enjoy carminative herbs is as a warm cup of herbal tea taken after the meal which can help to better assimilate the food and relive discomfort.

Example carminative herbs include:

  • Fennel

  • Peppermint

  • Ginger

  • Cardamom

  • Catnip (yes, for humans too!)

  • Lemon balm

  • Chamomile


Bitter
The bitter flavor is one that has been largely removed from the modern U.S. diet, but it has a lot of beneficial effects!

Simply tasting the bitter flavor 10-15 minutes before a meal (such as with 5-10 drops of a bitters tincture) can stimulate the body to begin the digestive process. This means especially that digestive juices including saliva and stomach acid begin to flow.

With the stimulating of digestive secretions this may help the body to more completely break down the food, preventing digestive problems further down the line, as well as increase feelings of satiety earlier in the meal, and increase motility in the lower GI.

Example herbs include:

  • Dandelion

  • Burdock

  • Yellow dock

  • Orange peel (also carminative)

  • Ginger (also bitter)


Putting it together
Bitters are often combined with warming herbs or carminative herbs to balance their strongly cooling and drying qualities when taken in excess. Some herbs such as ginger carry several of these properties in the same herbs.

To round out a meal you could try a little bit of a bitters to stimulate things at the start, and a nice cup of carminative tea at the end to settle things down.

You could also try adding in bitter and carminative herbs INTO your food - kale, arugula, endive and other greens are bitter, and most of the common kitchen spices are carminative, especially if they are very aromatic (and especially those listed above).

So go ahead, give some of these herbs a try, and please reach out if you'd like an individual advice with a consultation. Enjoy!