Herbal Healing for the Digestive System
Problems with the digestive system are pretty common in modern society. Junk food and fast food are full of preservatives, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, various chemicals, and pesticide residues that can make for an unhappy belly.
In general, digestion can be greatly improved by eating fresh, organic foods. Buying in-season and locally-grown foods is the best bet. Although following a natural diet is ideal, it does take effort. Ours is a fast-paced culture of convenience food, so taking the time to shop at a farmer’s market, grow a garden, or cook healthy meals can be difficult. Even under the best circumstances, it is inevitable that we will occasionally eat something that gives us a belly-ache. Keeping a few key herbs in your cupboard can provide comfort when you need it the most.
Dandelion is a common bitter plant that can be found almost everywhere. Eating the steamed greens or taking the root as a tincture or decoction is great way to jump-start the digestion. Dandelion improves the appetite, stimulates the production of bile, and promotes regular bowel movements. Plus, the added benefit of healthy skin is another gift that Dandelion gives.
The tradition of the after-dinner mint candy has a basis in herbal medicine. Many mints have a carminative effect, relieving gas and indigestion that can come after dinner. Peppermint has the strongest effect in this case, and can be drunk as a yummy tea that children will enjoy. It will also freshen the breath and relieve nausea and even hiccups.
Many people suffer from heartburn, which is an inflammation of the stomach and esophagus caused by over-acidity. As an anti-inflammatory, Meadowsweet is ideal for heartburn as well as stomach ulcers, having an antacid effect on these conditions. Think of it as herbal Tums! This plant soothes the mucosa of the stomach lining and has a pain-relieving effect due to its aspirin-like compounds.
Marshmallow is an easy-to-grow herb with soothing effects on the digestive tract. All parts of the plant can be used, but the root is especially mucilaginous, meaning that it feels slippery with a mucous-like substance. This is not as gross as it may sound; in fact, Marshmallow greatly aids the stomach mucosa and can be used to protect irritated or damaged tissue. This is useful in cases of digestive inflammation, such as acid indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome.
Aloe Vera gel or juice has a gentle laxative effect, but make sure to buy from a reputable company that does not use artificial preservatives, or grow your own.
Another system-cleanser is the traditional Indian supplement Triphala. A combination of three bitter fruits, Triphala is best taken as a spoonful of powder mixed with a little water each night before bed.
– Coach P