How can Herbs Help with Digestion?
There are so many different ways! Some herbs may calm an anxious stomach and relieve nervous tension; some may warm up a cold, slow or sluggish digestion; some help to relieve gas and bloating; some stimulate our appetite so our stomach can more easily digest foods once we start eating; and some cool down an overactive or firety digestion. When we get to know what herbs can help with our individual digestive needs, we can rely on these herb hero’s anytime we need a little extra digestive help from meal to meal or season to season.
Top 4 Herbs to Balance Digestion
1) Ginger - ginger is a slightly sweet, warm and pungent rhizome (also known as rootstalk) that brings warmth and movement to our entire body - especially our digestion! Ginger encourages quite a bit of movement in the body, and you can notice this almost immediately upon your first sip of ginger tea. Our blood will get moving, our digestion and inner core will feel warm, and even our fingers and toes may warm up from the zest of ginger. Thus, if we’re feeling a cold, sluggish, or have a low appetite, ginger is an excellent digestive remedy.
The best time to take ginger: Before or after a meal to either stimulate our digestion prior to eating, or encourage our digestion to get moving if things feel slow and stagnant after a meal. GInger can be enjoyed in your foods using the fresh herb in stir fries, adding it to smoothies, or any dish you want to add a bit of warmth to.
2) Chamomile - a gentle, calming and “neutral” digestive remedy, chamomile is neither warming or cooling, but balancing to most digestive discomforts for each dosha. Known to soothe an anxious stomach and relax spastic or tight digestive conditions, these sweet and slightly bitter daisy like flowers can be used for relaxing our digestion and balancing inflammation in the digestive tract.
The best time to take chamomile: As a tea, chamomile can be enjoyed anytime of day or night, but especially prior to a meal if you’re feeling nervous or anxious to encourage gentle digestion.
3) Mint - spearmint in particular is an excellent remedy to cool, calm and tame an overactive or firety digestion. If you’re feeling like your digestion is quite quick, reactive, or too fiery in your stomach, spearmint is a lovely calming and cooling remedy to balance any excess heat, especially in the warm summer months or if we consume too many spicy foods.
The best time to take mint: After a meal if you’re feeling like your digestion is overactive and needs to calm down a bit.
4) Fennel seed - these sweet, aromatic and carminative little seeds help to ease gas and bloating, and have been traditionally used in our foods to naturally support digestion for centuries! The essential oils within fennel help to relax smooth muscle in the intestines thus relieving discomfort from bloating. Fennel seeds are delicious to add to your meals, dressings or marinades, or to enjoy as part of a digestive tea.
The best time to take fennel: As a tea, fennel is best taken after a meal if you are experiencing gas, bloating or lower digestive discomfort. As a fresh culinary seed, add it to your meals and recipes for a sweet and aromatic flavor to encourage healthy digestion.
Digestive Herbs to Balance Each Dosha
Three Ginger for Vata dosha - When vata is out of balance, they may lose weight, experience piercing pains or digestive spasms, dry skin, dehydration, excessive bloating, and erratic bowel movements. Vata dosha tends to be cold easily, and adding warmth and extra hydration into their daily diet is very helpful to relieve these digestive symptoms and encourage healthy digestion. Enjoy Three ginger tea two or three times per day (and especially when traveling!) to keep the vata digestion warm and balanced.
Three Mint for Pitta dosha - When pitta is out of balance they have an aversion to hot foods, a sour or bitter taste in the mouth and may experience “hot '' digestive issues such as heartburn or diarrhea. To balance the excessive heat in pitta’s, cooling foods and herbs will support overall digestion and calm excess heat.
Detox Tea for Kapha dosha - Kapha types tend to have a slow but steady appetite and can struggle with weight gain, as they love food (especially the sweet tastes) but have slower digestion. When kapha is out of balance they may experience sluggish metabolism, followed by a feeling of heaviness aor bloating. This can happen with overindulgence in sweet food and comfort eating. Fennel is a favored herb for Kaphas to ease this digestive stagnation and stimulate movement within a sluggish or over-taxed digestive trac
Author: Lindsay Kluge
Herbal Educator, Pukka Herbs US
Lindsay is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist with a passion for bringing plants and people together. Through her work as a teacher and practitioner, she is passionate about helping people feel empowered in their health through community organic gardening, health education, and connection with nature. She has worked in clinical practiced with naturopathic doctors and MD’s alike, bridging the gap between alternative and conventional medicine to bring comprehensive, research based botanical medicine to her local communities. With an undergraduate degree in horticulture and a Masters in herbal medicine, plants are Lindsay's love language. She currently serves as the herbal educator for Pukka Herbs in the US, and teaches clinical nutrition at her alma mater, the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is a guest lecturer at herbal medicine schools and conferences throughout the US.
MS Herbal Medicine
Years of Experience:
10+ years as a clinical herbalist and nutritionist practitioner