Herbs For Health Series- Part 2 | Best Herbs To Support Digestion
This is Part 2 of the Herbs for Health Series. If you need to get caught up on Part 1, you can read about the basics of using herbs to benefit your health here.
The material in this post is for informational/educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see a qualified health professional for specific health concerns. Herbal remedies are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
Some of my favorites herbs to use (and the ones I think taste the best) are all-stars when it comes to digestion. Which is great because most of us will deal with some kind of digestive complaint- or already do.
Using herbs as a natural way to support and help our digestion means we don’t have to rely on drugs that are made in a lab and may or may not be good for us long-term.
I’ve dealt with digestive problems for years, and ginger was one of the first herbs I found that really helped me. Chamomile and peppermint are also highly beneficial for digestion.
Here’s an overview of each of the three herbs and how to add them to your daily routine to give your digestion the most support!
Ginger: Warming and Anti-Inflammatory
I’ve probably said this before, but ginger is one of my favorite herbs. In fact, I’ve been known to go overboard with the ginger. I’m so used to its spicy taste that I don’t always realize other people might not appreciate the same amount of ginger I do.
Ginger root is native to Asia and loved for its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. It’s been used for many, many years to help with nausea and motion sickness (and even morning sickness). It can also improve circulation (specifically in the pelvis), which makes it a useful remedy for menstrual cramps.
Ginger is a warming herb (not to mention a bit spicy), so it’s especially good for those with cold-type constitutions (like me!). Ginger may also help with sluggish digestions if taken before a meal.
Ways to use ginger:
- If used to help with nausea, ginger should be taken when the nausea occurs. Or if you want to try it for motion sickness, you can take it before the plane ride, boat ride, etc. begins. Ginger tea is very soothing and can help nausea, but crystallized ginger is probably the best choice if you need it on the go. I get mine at Nuts.com.
- Ginger tea can be made a few ways depending on how strong you want it to be. One method is to bring water to a boil, peel and slice about a 2 inch piece of ginger root, add it to the water, and steep for 10-15 minutes. I like mine to be stronger, so I usually simmer the ginger in the water for 10-15 minutes. Try adding some lemon juice and honey for flavor and added benefits!
- A great way to help your digestion is to regularly use ginger in your food. Ginger is used in many Asian recipes and is great in soups. I often add powdered ginger to apple sauce, smoothies, and other random foods. Any way you can add it in will benefit your digestion!
Final notes: Ginger doesn’t have any known side effects. There is always the slight possibility of an allergy, but that’s about it.
Chamomile: The Gentle Herb
Chamomile is fairly well known for its calming effects, but did you know that it can be a digestive aid as well?
Being one of the gentlest herbs doesn’t make chamomile any less powerful. It has anti-inflammatory properties, like ginger, and also contains compounds that are anti-spasmodic. This means that it can help settle the stomach and calm the digestive tract (along with the rest of the body).
Because of its mildness and pleasant taste, chamomile is often one the best herbs to help children with digestive issues.
Ways to use:
- Chamomile is most popularly used as a tea, which is a good way to get it into the digestive tract. There are many different companies that offer pre-made chamomile tea. I prefer to buy dried chamomile in bulk and make my own tea. It’s much stronger and tastes much better than any pre-made tea I’ve bought. I get my chamomile (and peppermint leaf) from the Bulk Herb Store.
- Chamomile can also be used fresh and is fairly easy to grow from seed (though having a green thumb helps).
Final notes: Chamomile is a very benevolent herb but it is a flower, and some people are allergic to it. If you’ve never had chamomile, start slowly and see how you react, especially if you get seasonal allergies.
Peppermint: Cooling & Energizing
Peppermint is another one of my favorite herbs. (Although, I don’t think I’ve met an herb yet that I didn’t like.) It’s a great all-around herb and is considered to be refreshing and energizing.
Peppermint is another good one when it comes to digestion. It’s anti-spasmodic, like chamomile, and has a cooling effect- as opposed to the warming effect of ginger. Menthol, a compound found in peppermint, can help to relax the muscles in the digestive tract.
Peppermint has traditionally been used for many different digestive symptoms, including indigestion and nausea.
Ways to use:
- Peppermint tea is a popular way to ease indigestion or help an upset stomach. Like with chamomile, I prefer to buy peppermint leaves in bulk and make my own tea by steeping the leaves in hot water. If you want to try it fresh, mint is one of the easiest things to grow. Just make sure it doesn’t take over the whole garden!
- Peppermint oil is another option and may especially be beneficial for those with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). One study found that 75% of patients with IBS who were given peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had their symptoms improve. I keep enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules at home and take them about 30 minutes before a meal if I’m not feeling well.
Final notes: Peppermint is also a very safe herb. Just be sure to pay attention to how your body reacts.
Combine for More Benefits
Ginger, chamomile, and peppermint are all great herbs that will help support your digestion.
- Ginger is a warming herb that especially helps with nausea
- Chamomile is a gentle herb that helps calm the digestive tract
- Peppermint gives a cooling sensation and can help with IBS
Don’t be afraid to combine these herbs together for greater benefits. Peppermint and ginger are combined in many herbal tea mixes I use. And using equal parts chamomile and peppermint in a tea is a great remedy for indigestion.
However you do it, be sure to try some of these herbs. Your digestive tract will thank you! (Also, check out the next post in this series: Supportive Herbs For Women’s Health).
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Sources: Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar. Storey Publishing. Copyright 2012.