Digestion is important to overall health, and many doctors believe poor digestion is at the root of many illnesses. When a person suffers poor digestion long enough, experts believe a person’s body may not absorb needed nutrients, resulting in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
One way to help improve digestion is through the use of culinary spices and herbs. They have many appetite-stimulating, carminative, and digestion-aiding qualities. Besides solving digestion problems, herbs and spices can relieve coldness, spasms, and nervousness. Here are some of the best herbs and spices, and many can be added directly to cereals, casseroles, stir-fries, soups, or desserts.
- Anise. Anise is a stimulant. It can increase metabolism and circulation, warm the body, and help the body properly assimilate nutrients. Besides adding it to dishes, anise can be used as a tea to treat flatulence and cramping.
- Basil. This herb is popular in many Italian dishes, but it helps digestion by reducing and preventing indigestion.
- Bay Leaves. Adding bay leaves to beans or soups not only helps improve flavor but also prevents indigestion and reduces gas.
- Caraway. Caraway is probably one of the best digestive aids. People often take it for gas, bloating, and indigestion, and you can easily make an infusion by using 1 ounce of caraway seeds to 1 pint of water. Then steep the seeds for twenty minutes. Usual dosage is 1 to 2 tablespoons every half hour until symptoms disappear.
- Cardamom. Cardamom has a strong aromatic scent and is often used in Chai tea. It has stimulating, carminative, and warming properties. It is used in India, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan to treat stomach aches, cramping, constipation, and other digestive disorders, as well as tuberculosis, gums problems, and headaches.
- Cayenne. Most people think of cayenne for hot and spicy dishes, and they cannot imagine how it can benefit digestion. Fortunately, it does because it has carminative and stimulant properties. It also helps normalize blood pressure and as a vasodilator improves circulation by warming hands and feet.
- Chamomile. This herb has long been known for its medicinal properties. In fact, many people use it as tea to relax, and it is often used to relieve colic in children. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, and a few tincture drops improve digestion.
- Cloves. Cloves can increase circulation, warm the body, and improve digestion. In addition, its carminative properties help treat flatulence and nausea.
- Cumin. This Syrian spice is probably one of the best to relieve and prevent gas. You can make a tea from it by adding 1 teaspoon of crushed seeds to 1 cup of boiling water and then steep for ten to twenty minutes.
- Dill. This herb has a great reputation for its gas-relieving properties. You can combine 1 ounce of dill seeds to 1 pint of water, and steep twenty minutes.
- Fennel. Fennel is a highly aromatic and prominent herb used in Italian dishes. Medicinally it is used as an antacid and has antispasmodic, carminative, and purgative effects. Fennel tea can ease bloating, relax the intestines, and reduce flatulence. For those reasons it is often used in laxative products.
- Fenugreek. This bitter herb can soothe irritated stomach membranes, and when a woman’s nursing, it enriches her milk flow. It has also antidiabetic effects associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and can lower triglycerides and cholesterol.
- Gentian. This herb has long been an ingredient in the famous Angostura bitters founded by the German doctor and scientist Johann G.B. Siegert. It stimulates the production of saliva, bile, and gastric juices and offers a tonifying effect on the gastrointestinal system. However, it is not recommended for anyone who suffers from ulcers or stomach irritation.
- Ginger. Ginger is a great stimulant and known for its ability to control morning sickness and motion sickness symptoms. It’s also great for indigestion, nausea, and cramps, and you should always add it to meat dishes as it helps the intestines detoxify meat. To make a ginger tea, add twelve pieces that have been peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices, to 4 cups of water. Boil it until there is about 3 cups. One half cup of ginger tea can be taken a half hour before each meal to prevent digestive problems.
- Lemon Balm. Lemon balm has calming effects and is excellent for stomach distress because it works as an antispasmodic. You can easily make a tea by adding 1 ounce of lemon balm to 1 quart water. You can also honey to it to alleviate and reduce stress.
- Marsh Mallow Root. This mucilaginous root treats diarrhea and constipation. It can be prepared as a tea similar to lemon balm and taken in small doses five to six times a day.
- Milk Thistle. You may think milk thistle is a pesky weed, and it is, but it is also a powerful antioxidant and wild-food enthusiasts take it to protect the liver against toxins. It also helps the gallbladder and the kidneys. Seeds can be ground up and the resultant powder added to teas, cereals, or soups.
- Nutmeg. Nutmeg is a great spice to add to cookies, baked fruits, and desserts because it improves digestion.
- Peppermint. Leaves from this plant can be used to make a tea. Peppermint helps because it alleviates nausea and cramping.
- Senna. This is probably the most common laxative worldwide and is regularly used in Ayurvedic medicine. Anthraquinone, which is found in the leaves, stimulates lower gastrointestinal contractions, but it can weaken bowel action if used too long or too frequently.
- Slippery Elm. The bark from the slippery elm is often used with other herbs or spices, such as fennel. However, because Dutch elm has killed so many elm trees, you should never harvest it from live trees.
- Thyme. Thyme supports digestion in several ways. It can rid the system of intestinal worms, and it has antispasmodic and carminative properties. In addition, it is frequently used to treat chronic gastritis or diarrhea.
- Yarrow. The yarrow root is one of the best herbs for the entire digestive system. Its an anti-inflammatory, as well as a stimulant, and its salicylic acid can reduce pain. It relaxes smooth muscle tissue in the digestive tract and intensifies the action of other herbs. It also eliminates toxins from the body; however, it’s bitter tasting, so its best added to tastier herbs if you want to drink it in a tea.
People sometimes have allergic or adverse reactions to spices and