There's a wide range of 'digestive herbs' and they all work in a number of interesting ways. From restoring the microbiome, to healing the lining, to secretion of digestive juices to repair digestion related organs like the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and stomach, to boosting our serotonin.
The digestive system is dedicated to breaking down food and allowing its nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream, from where they are then carried to every part of the body. Unless you regularly incorporate herbs for digestion into your diet, this system is subject to a variety of problems and it is important that it is functioning well for the health of the whole body.
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 liver is an amazing chemical factory performing more than five hundred major tasks, using thousands of different enzymes. The liver plays a vital role as a filtering system for the blood.
There are a number of digestive herbs that can help improve the function of the digestive system, and each has a unique purpose in digestive health and detoxification support.
1. ARTICHOKE (Cynara scolymus)
Nature’s Liver & Digestion Tonic
Legend has it that the mighty god Zeus was rejected by the object of his desire, the beautiful Cynara, so he turned her into a thistle and thus created the artichoke plant!
The artichoke has been used medicinally as a digestive herb since the time of the Roman Empire. Belonging to the daisy family, artichoke can grow up to six feet high. The medicinal qualities of this plant are well recognized, and the first mention of artichoke’s health benefits was documented by pupils of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Used as a liver tonic, artichoke’s restorative power improves liver health. As one of the strongest herbs for digestion, it stimulates bile flow, thus leading to better digestion and helping the body break down food and alcohol more effectively. This digestive herb also strengthens liver and kidney function.
Artichoke’s active properties have many benefits, but its main ingredient is cynarin. High concentrations of cynarin are found in the leaves, and they can be used to improve appetite and digestion. Their bitterness has a stimulating effect on the liver and also a cooling action. As one of the top herbs for digestion, artichoke appears to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, improving nausea, bloating, constipation, and pain from gas. Research has shown that, taken to help maintain a healthy digestive system, digestive herbs like artichoke may also help maintain cholesterol at normal levels. Artichoke extracts are available in tablets and tinctures from health stores.
2. DANDELION LEAF + ROOT
Digestive Bitter Herb
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.
Today this herb is used for its diuretic properties, which have now been confirmed scientifically. Dandelion restores potassium rather than depleting it like conventional diuretics do, and it promotes healthy digestive functioning, ranking it as one of the best herbs for digestion. A large part of the immune system is connected to the digestive system, and both are intricately woven, so if one is imbalanced the other is affected. Many people see an improved immune response after using digestive herbs.
3. GINGER (Zingiber officinale)
Warming Digestif and Yang Herb
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. Chinese herbalists have used ginger root for 2,000 years, and the ancient Greeks prized it as an aid to digestion, mixing powdered ginger into bread.
Growing wild in Asia, ginger’s unique properties and therapeutic benefits as one of the herbs for digestion are now being rediscovered and confirmed scientifically. Today it is used therapeutically to alleviate nausea and upset stomach, due to its anti-emetic properties, and it is also used to alleviate stomach cramps. Gingerols and zingerones are the active anti-inflammatory constituents of this pungent spice. It is a natural remedy for heartburn, as well as nausea caused by motion sickness, so it is helpful for travelers. As a digestive tonic herb, ginger helps normalize the digestive process. Before eating anything, the wise sage Confucius would ginger up his food by sprinkling a little of this yang, digestive herb spice onto his meal. He knew that some ginger would promote appetite, prevent nausea, and help expel gases from the stomach and intestinal tract.
Ginger root can be bought in any supermarket or taken in capsule form for a more potent effect. The root of this digestive herb can be grated and made into a warming ginger tea that is helpful for soothing nausea.
You can find ginger and dandelion root in our high potency Digestive Bitters tonic.
4. SLIPPERY ELM (Ulmus fulva)
Gut Soother & Digestive Tract Healer
Native Americans used the powdered inner bark of the elm tree to make poultices to soothe damaged skin and to draw out poisons from boils and abscesses. European settlers used it, among other herbs for digestion, to calm the terrible digestive problems of typhoid sufferers. Today this digestive herb is a popular remedy for digestive discomfort, such as acid dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, or for the type of problems associated with eating a food that disagrees with you.
Soothing, nutritive, and demulcent in action, slippery elm bark has calming properties. Its moisturizing action eases an upset digestion, protects the stomach and eases diarrhea and intestinal cramps. It neutralizes acidity, coating the mucous membrane lining of the gastrointestinal tract. A gentle form of non-digestible carbohydrate, this herb for digestion makes its way through the gut, flushing out toxic wastes as it transits through the digestive system.
Slippery elm also works as an expectorant by increasing bronchial secretions, loosening up thick and stubborn throat mucus, decreasing the stickiness of troublesome phlegm, and helping the body to remove it.
Slippery elm bark comes in powder form and it can be used to make a soothing tea for irritation of the digestive tract. The powder from this digestive herb can be sprinkled on muesli or oatmeal, helpful in healing the lining of the gut in leaky gut syndrome, which makes this one of the very best herbs for digestion.
You can find ethically crafted slippery elm in our Qi formula
5. MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum)
Liver Reviver & Digestive Bitter Herb
Another one of the herbs for digestion, milk thistle, is a flowering plant of the daisy family, and it has been used for hundreds of years as a digestive herb and a liver strengthener and to treat various liver disorders due to its significant liver-protective actions.
Strange powers were attributed to the milk thistle in medieval times, possibly because it was found growing in graveyards and cloister gardens.
The liver has to work hard to detoxify the body, and this digestive herb’s active property, a flavonoid known as silymarin, has been shown to maintain the health of liver cells and to neutralize the effect of toxins. It has a digestive “bitter tonic” action, helping promote the flow of bile in liver disorders. A popular herbal remedy today, this herb for digestion is used to help maintain a healthy liver and for the relief of an upset stomach or indigestion.
You can find Milk Thistle in our Liver Vitality Superpowder, and in our high potency Viridem Elixir.
6. PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)
Yes, sweet ole' mint is a powerful plant! 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.
Today this herb for digestion is sold to relieve indigestion, soothe stomach-ache, and relieve colicky diarrhea. Studied extensively, peppermint oil has been accepted as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, as the volatile oils help to ease bloating, cramps, and spasms.
Peppermint can be taken in hot infusions (dried herb in boiling water) or used to make a peppermint tea (using commercially made tea bags). It is usually available as enteric coated capsules for the relief of IBS, available in health stores.
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A creamy, relaxing and digestive healing potion that takes about 3minutes to make. It can be taken in the AM or in the evening. The base ingredients of turmeric, and a wonderful carrier to combine any of the medicines that might be calling to you.
1tsp Turmeric Powder
1tsp Grated Ginger
1/2tsp Viridem Elixir or Digestive Bitters
Sprinkle of Black Pepper
Sprinkle of Cardamom Powder (or seed pods)
1/2tsp Coconut Oil or 1tsp Coconut Cream Powder
Honey, Maple or sweetener of choice (optional)
Directions: Steep all ingredients (except for your tonic or elixir) in hot water for about 5 minutes. Add your tonics, optional sweetener and optional coconut oil or coconut creamer, and enjoy!
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20% OFF SELECT LIVER
+ GALLBLADDER TONICS
mentioned throughout the article
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Viridem Elixir - Mineralizer +
If I’m growing artichokes in my garden, how can I use the leaves or blooms in order to begin to create and utilize my own digestive healing home medicine?
Thanks so much!