In herbal medicine, we use two categories of herbs to help with digestive issues: carminatives and bitters. They all have a long history of use for relieving bloating, stomachaches, nausea, heartburn, promoting nutrients absorption, and so on. Let’s learn more about them.
Many aromatic herbs have been long used in cooking not only for their taste but also because they help you digest food. They do so by relaxing the stomach muscles, supporting the movement of food through the digestive system, improving bowel movements, and relieving distention due to gas.
Some herbs with carminative properties are: Aniseed, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chamomile, Coriander, Fennel, Ginger, Sage, Peppermint, and Thyme.
As the name suggests, these herbs have in common an intensely bitter taste. It is precisely this bitterness that aids digestion by triggering a series of responses in the body to prepare our digestive system for the food we are about to eat. How? The bitter taste, via the taste buds, prompts the brain to release gastrin (a digestive hormone) which stimulates the pancreas and the liver, increases the release of digestive enzymes, regulates and supports the flow of bile and the secretion of pancreatic hormones, activates the stomach muscles and the intestinal walls.
Obviously, not only the bitterness of herbs help your digestion, but also bitter foods are amazing allies of your digestive system. It’s not exactly surprising then that today in a world where more pleasurable flavors such as sweet and salty are the norm, and where we dramatically lack the flavor of bitterness in our daily diets, digestive problems are all too common.
Being the taste the most important feature of bitter herbs, it’s essential to know that if they are taken in capsule form, bypassing the tasting stage, their digestive properties do not come into play.
Some of these herbs are: Artichoke leaves, Barberry, Gentian root, Dandelion root, Goldenseal, Milk Thistle, Mugwort, Wormwood.
Remember that all herbs might have contraindications and interactions.
I am available for consultations where I can assess what are the best herbal remedies for you. Contact me if you have any questions!