Normal digestive functioning can get thrown off pretty easily when our routines change or during the transition of seasonal cycles. We might find ourselves less active and relying on hot cooked meals during the fall and winter, and then energized by sunlight when our summer gardens grow a bounty of fresh fruit and veggies.
Along with dietary flux, energy shifts throughout the year can also have an impact. Whether traveling away from the comforts of home, eating lots of rich food we aren’t used to, or stressing about mounting obligations, herbs can help us keep digestion strong if we pay close attention to our own unique rhythms.
Three important herbal properties that can be helpful when our digestive system is off balance include bitters, aromatics, and demulcents. Let's take a closer look...
Not everyone's favorite flavor and often snubbed in American diets, the bitter taste is actually a very important piece of the flavor spectrum for overall health and wellbeing. Bitter herbs help stimulate appetite and digestion by getting gastric juices flowing and your peristalsis moving. Just a drop of this flavor on the tongue is effective at activating the production of beneficial digestive secretions including saliva, gastric acid, and bile. This is helpful for promoting normal elimination, easing gas related cramping, stimulating sluggish movement, and to support a healthy appetite after an illness or while traveling. I like to keep a bottle of these bitters on-hand to take by the drop or to make a super easy bitter soda!
Dandy Bitter Soda
- 1 part organic dried orange peel
- 1 part organic dried dandelion root
- 1 part organic cacao nibs
- ¼ part organic gentian root
Fill 1/3 of a 4oz jar with the herb mix. Pour unflavored vodka over the herbs until the jar is filled. Allow to extract for 2 weeks and strain. Use several droppers in a pint of bubbly water with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice, or take a few drops straight on the tongue.
Aromatic herbs have been used in cuisines around the world to add bursts of flavor to a meal, and also to help stimulate healthy digestion. These plants have volatile essential oils that present strong aromas like fennel, peppermint, dill, coriander, and ginger to name a few. Many aromatic herbs are warming to the digestive tract and carminative, meaning they help expel gas. This action can ease an uncomfortable feeling of fullness especially after a meal by making flatulence more productive and less stagnant.
After-Dinner Digestif Lozenges
- 4 parts organic maple or coconut sugar
- 2 parts organic cardamom powder
- 1 part organic ginger root powder
- 1 part organic licorice root powder
- 1 part organic acacia powder
- distilled water or organic fennel tincture
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a glass dropper to add one dropperful of liquid at a time to the bowl. Keep adding one dropper of liquid until the mixture holds together in a clump, similar to the consistency of cookie dough. Be careful not to add too much liquid. Form into small lozenges about the size of a pencil eraser. They will be strong! Coat the outsides with additional licorice root powder if desired. Allow to dry on a screen or plate for a few days. Store in a glass jar or tin.
Some herbs are mucilaginous and produce slime that coats, soothes, and protects mucus membranes. These plants also help to ease dry conditions. The slime action triggers a reflex that promotes natural moistening secretions within the body systems such as respiratory, digestive, renal, and reproductive. Best extracted as an infusion in water rather than in alcohol tincture form, they can be helpful for hot and dried out conditions.
Soothing Marshmallow Rose Tea
- 3 parts organic marshmallow root
- 2 parts organic rose buds
- 1 part organic cinnamon chips or ½ part powder or 1 stick
Fill 1/3 of a pint jar with herb mix (you can also bundle the herbs in cheesecloth) and cover completely with cool water. Refrigerate overnight and strain. Add honey to taste if you’d like a little more sweetness. Drink and enjoy!
Ready to research a few more? Here are some other herbs that can be used to support normal digestive functioning. These herbs offer a variety of actions from astringent, calming, and bulking fiber, to strongly cathartic. Some of them make nice teas, others tinctures, or capsules. Check out our selection of herbalism books for further reading and always do your research before using a new herb!
More resources on the blog...
DISCLAIMER: For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.