A principle in herbalism is that most chronic disease begins with poor digestion. If you can’t transform your food into the nutrients your body needs, then how can you have good health? In fact, many culinary herbs have been in use for thousands of years not only because they taste good but also because they help with digestion. Sadly, all too often, people have had poor digestion for so long that they assume it’s a natural part of life. Did you know? Although it’s about 30 feet long, the digestive tract needs smaller helpers, too: acids, enzymes and bacteria all help break down food.
Herbal medicine helps keep digestion perking along. In one study, 24 patients received a mixture containing dandelion root, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), lemon balm, calendula (Calendula officinalis) and fennel.
Ninety-five percent had relief of colitis symptoms in 15 days. Digestive herbs work in a number of interesting ways from healing the lining of the gut to increasing the secretion of digestive juices to repairing digestion related organs like the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and stomach.
Stomach pain due to ulcers and indigestion from over-eating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and diarrhea are just some of the problems that can plague this sensitive area, but there are also herbs for digestion that can help with each of these. The liver, which is part of digestion, gets special attention in this article and its function can be enhanced with digestive herbs.
The following are clues to poor digestion:
Here are my three favorite herbs for better digestion:
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) In addition to being one of the best digestive herbs, this amazing warming spice also impacts the circulatory system. This root was introduced into Europe during the Roman Empire, and it has held an honored place as one of the herbs for digestion in traditional medicine for a very long time.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) The name of this flower is derived from the French “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth. This name was supposedly given to this plant by a 15th century surgeon, due to the dandelion’s jagged shaped leaves. Folk healers have long prescribed the root of this cleansing digestive herb for liver and digestive problems.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)The Greek doctor, Dioscorides, is reputed to have regularly worn a sprig of peppermint to lift his spirits. Its antispasmodic actions were recognized by physicians of the ancient world, and peppermint was popular with our more modern ancestors who saw it as a healing herb for digestion and the relief of digestive colic, sluggish digestion, flatulence, and bloating. Used for centuries as a gastrointestinal aid, peppermint is a digestive herb that helps relax the muscles of the digestive tract and stimulates bile flow.
Houghton, Marlene. Herbs Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need. Hampton Roads Publishing.
De La Forêt, Rosalee. Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal. Hay House, Inc.