30 Digestive Herbs

Regulate digestion with these stomach-soothing digestive herbs.


| May/June 2002



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Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is a mucilaginous herb that soothes the gut wall and helps keep the stool moist.


As polite topics of conversation go, constipation, gas, diarrhea and irritable bowels definitely don’t top the list. But we won’t let that stop us. After all, digestive health is important: Your elimination system carries away the wastes of all of your cells, allowing each organ to function in a proper environment. And elimination troubles can put your daily routine out of whack. It’s your good fortune that some simple digestive herbs and effective natural remedies can put you back in balance—and we aren’t too embarrassed to share them with you.

Start at the Stomach

Although a small amount of starch is broken down in the mouth, thanks to amylases in your saliva, the stomach is where the first real action is—where powerful chemicals of digestion are mixed with the food mass. If these digestive juices, including hydrochloric acid, pancreatic juice and bile, are in short supply, the whole process gets off to a poor start.

Traditional herbalists all over the globe agree that herbs with a bitter taste tend to promote digestive secretions and speed up digestion. Gentian (Gentiana lutea) is the most popular digestive bitter in Western herbalism. Europeans often drink a bitter aperitif (an ounce or so of a bitter herbal beverage) before the first bite of a meal, to stimulate digestive secretions and keep food passing through rapidly. Bitter herbs reduce gas, bloating, symptoms of food allergies and indigestion. Other bitter digestants include barberry root (Berberis vulgaris), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and artichoke (Cynara scolymus).

Carminative herbs warm up the digestive tract, speed up and increase the thoroughness of digestion, and reduce gas. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), dill (Anethum graveolens), cumin (Cuminum cyminum), caraway (Carum carvi) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) are carminative.

Contractions move the digesting food slowly toward the large intestine. It normally takes about 90 to 120 minutes for the first part of a meal to reach the large intestine, although the last portion of the meal may not make it there for five hours.

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.

buseen1973
2/15/2015 9:24:57 AM

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joyce
2/17/2014 9:18:55 PM

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