HERBAL REMEDIES FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH PART 2: HERBAL CARMINATIVES
In part two of this three-part series we’ll delve into the world of carminative herbs which relieve gas, bloating, and occasional indigestion. In part one we looked at herbal bitters that stimulate digestive function, increasing the secretion of digestive juices and promoting the motility of the digestive tract. Part three examines herbal demulcents. While herbal bitters are helpful to restore healthy function to your digestive tract, and demulcents soothe irritation and inflammation, carminatives help ease the gas and bloating caused by weak or sluggish digestion.
Let’s take a closer look at herbal carminatives and how they might be used alone or in conjunction with herbal bitters.
Remember when restaurants used to serve after dinner mints? That’s because peppermint is a carminative herb. Carminatives help to reduce and prevent the formation of gas in the digestive tract and relieve bloating. Most carminative herbs are also antispasmodics that help relieve digestive cramps. Carminative herbs can also help relieve nausea and vomiting caused by a stomach flu and in pregnancy. They will also help relieve nausea associated with motion sickness, especially when taken in advance.
Carminative herbs are most often used for occasional indigestion with gas and bloating. You might experience occasional indigestion if you’ve eaten too fast or too much, combined certain foods, or if you were eating on the run or when you were feeling upset or angry. Being mindful of when, where, what, and how much you eat is so important to healthy digestion and can make a big difference in how often you suffer from indigestion. If despite mindful attention to your meals, you still experience a lot of gas and bloating, feelings of fullness, constipation or diarrhea, your digestive system may be weak and sluggish. Sluggish digestion benefits from a combination of herbal bitters (discussed in Part 1 [link]) to stimulate function, and carminative herbs to relieve gas and bloating.
You’ll be pleased to know that most carminative herbs taste really good!Many of them are even culinary spices. There are many herbs to choose from in this category, but my favorites include Cardamom, Chamomile, Fennel, Ginger, and Peppermint.
You may even be able to create a quick and delicious carminative tea from culinary spices you already have in your kitchen cupboard. This Kitchen Remedy Tea is just one such combination made with herbs and spices you probably have on hand.
Essential oils, properly diluted and applied topically, are also an effective way to make use of carminative herbs for gas, bloating, and cramps. Add one to five drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of unscented lotion or carrier oil and massage on your belly in a clockwise direction. Relief is typically rapid. My favorite essential oils for this purpose include Peppermint, Cardamom, Fennel, and Ginger.
Cardamom | Elettaria cardamomum
You might be more familiar with this rich aromatic spice from its appearance in baked goods or in Indian Chai tea. Its subtle, complex flavor makes it one of my favorite carminatives to add depth and complexity to any tea blend. In addition to its ability to ease digestive discomfort, Cardamom is a gently warming and mildly stimulating stomachic, meaning it promotes healthy stomach function. It is also used for bad breath, heart burn, and nausea. To prepare a tea with Cardamom, steep one teaspoon of the seeds in one cup of hot water for about 15 minutes.
As an essential oil it has a pleasing spicy aroma that can be easily overshadowed by other oils. However, I like it for its subtle aroma. Whereas Peppermint essential oil is bold and overpowering, Cardamon essential oil, diluted and rubbed on the belly or just below the sternum doesn’t announce it presence to everyone in the room. This exotic spice is also considered an aphrodisiac and the essential oil can be used as a gentle stimulant to uplift and comfort the heart and mind.
Chamomile | Matricaria recutita
This charming little flower is a rich source of plant medicine. Often referred to as German Chamomile, its botanical name is Matricaria recutita. When it comes to digestion, it’s not only a carminative herb used to ease gas and bloating, its also a mild bitter that gently stimulates digestive function, an anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Chamomile, is perhaps better known for its relaxing effects helping to relieve nervous tension and promote a good night’s sleep; it’s also often used topically for inflammation and sore muscles. But, used for digestive health, its relaxing action coupled with its effects on the digestive system make Chamomile a shining choice for people who experience digestive discomfort when they’re nervous or stressed. This herb works best for digestion when prepared as lovely and fragrant tea even little ones can enjoy. Steep 1 heaping teaspoon in one cup hot water for about 15 minutes.
Fennel | Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel seeds are sweet and aromatic. They have a more robust flavor than the bulbous Fennel root you may have enjoyed as a vegetable. The botanical name for this pleasing carminative is Foeniculum vulgare. The seeds can be chewed after a meal to promote digestion and freshen the breathe. Consider keeping a small container of Fennel seeds in your bag or pocket in lieu of mints or other sugary breathe fresheners. To ease indigestion or gas, steep up to one tablespoon of crushed seeds in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes and sip.
Nursing mothers may find Fennel seeds help increase breast milk and soothe babies with colic or indigestion.. Fennel essential oil, properly diluted can also be used as a carminative to promote circulation, relieve edema, reduce cellulitis, and for menopausal problems.
Ginger | Zingiber officinalis
This spicy, aromatic root is a warming carminative. The botanical name for Ginger is Zingiber officinalis. In addition to relief for gas and bloating, Ginger is especially helpful for nausea and vomiting. It can be used for nausea or vomiting caused by flu or in pregnancy. Sipping on a cup of Ginger tea can also quell nausea and vomiting, and help you stay hydrated during a bout with the flu. In addition, Ginger’s diaphoretic (induces sweating), antipyretic (reduces fever), anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties offer welcome relief for the fever, body aches, and headaches that often accompany the flu.
Dried Ginger Root is considered hotter and somewhat more stimulating than the fresh root, though overall the plant is gentle and appropriate for both children and the elderly. Prepare a tea with the dried root by steeping one teaspoon in one cup of water for at least 15 minutes. If you’re making tea with the fresh root, chop up a piece about ¾-1½ inches in length and steep for at least 15 minutes. When you don’t feel up to making tea, the liquid extract of Ginger is a quick and easy alternative.
Peppermint | Mentha piperta
Peppermint is perhaps the most well-known carminative. Though it is easily recognizable from its bright fragrance, its botanical name is Mentha piperta. Whether as a tea or a diluted essential oil, Peppermint relieves indigestion, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. It is considered a specific remedy for irritable bowel syndrome. It is gently stimulating and makes a nice afternoon pick-me-up.
A healthy digestive system doesn’t just promote your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and get rid of waste, it plays a key role in vitality, immunity, brain health, and emotional health. I’d love to hear about your experiences using herbs, including these carminatives for digestion health. Drop me a comment below to share.
To your health,