Herbal Treatments for Digestion Problems

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Digestive Fire Formula
Free & Easy Formula

My clients complain about digestive problems
more than any other ailment.

For example, Ellen and Fred, a recently married couple, came to
see me because of their digestive woes. They were stressed from
trying to adjust to each other’s eating habits: Fred likes junk
food, while Ellen prefers organic food and was eating mostly raw
vegetables and fruit. After a few months of culinary conflict, they
agreed on a middle ground. Ellen prepared and ate more cooked food,
and Fred made the salads and whole grains. The relationship was
preserved, but their digestive upsets began.

Fred’s pulse was as taut as a wire, which according to
Traditional Chinese Medicine means his liver was acting up. His
tongue was bright red with a thick yellow coating toward the back,
indicating that he had heat and dampness in his bowels, which in
Western terms means liver stress combined with an excessively fast
metabolism. Ellen, on the other hand, had a soft, weak pulse and a
puffy, pale tongue with a bright red tip. I diagnosed her as having
nervous system hyperactivity with digestive coldness and weakness,
meaning weak digestion with water retention caused by too much
mental activity.

Easing Ellen’s Woes, Finding Relief for Fred

Years of raw foods had contributed to Ellen’s damp, cold and
weak digestive organs. We needed to warm her digestive fire so that
she could completely digest her food. I recommended that she eat
more protein such as fish, well-cooked beans, and nutritional
yeast. She also agreed to eat less fruit and sweet foods, which can
weaken a deficient digestive system, and to eat more whole grains
and lightly steamed vegetables. I also suggested that she take my
Digestive Fire Formula, which contains herbs that help
improve digestion and enzyme output.

I also felt tightness around the center of Ellen’s belly, but
her colon was fine. This is common for people who have very active
minds and nervous systems. A lot of mental activity discourages
small intestine activity and digestive power. To help ease this, I
told her to place a hot ginger compress over her navel for twenty
minutes at least five nights a week for a few weeks, and Fred
agreed to massage her belly for five or ten minutes in the

I focused on liver-relaxing herbs and a formula to clear heat
and damp from Fred’s intestines. His belly was tight over his
liver, but felt normal around his navel. Because the liver is known
as the “free and easy wanderer” in Chinese medicine, I called
Fred’s formula “Free and Easy”, one cup of which he
took three times a day at mealtimes. For clearing the heat and
dampness, I added yellow dock and gentian root. These herbs are
quite bitter, so I added licorice root to the formula to improve
its taste.

I also told him to avoid coffee, alcohol and all spicy foods
for a month because they could irritate his liver and stimulate his

When I saw Fred and Ellen several months later, they said that
they had faithfully followed my suggestions and taken their herbs,
and they were digesting much better–less gas and rumbling and
almost no discomfort. Ellen was even ready for a big Christmas with
Fred’s family, which promised to include meals laden with extremely
rich food.

Christopher Hobbs, a fourth-generation botanist and herbalist,
is an Herbs for Health Editorial Advisory Board member and licensed
acupuncturist. He is the author of St. John’s wort: The Mood
Enhancing Herb, (Botanica, 1997), Stress and Natural Healing,
(Botanica, 1997), and many other books.

“Case studies from an herbalist’s notebook” are not intended to
replace the advice of your health-care provider.

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