5 Herbs for Gut Health
Natural relief for heartburn, bloating and constipation
Considering its central role in overall health and well-being, prioritising your gut health is essential. Often referred to as the “second brain”, the gut houses trillions of microorganisms that influence digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and emotional well-being.
Poor gut health is linked to a myriad of health issues, ranging from digestive discomfort and nutrient deficiencies to immune system and mood imbalances. Herbal medicine is highly effective for addressing digestive issues as herbs contain specific compounds to promote optimal digestion, soothe discomfort and create a balanced gut microbiome.
Here are five remarkable herbs to tackle different digestive ailments.
5 Digestive Herbs
Marshmallow Root for Heartburn Relief
Marshmallow root, derived from the Althaea officinalis plant, acts as a soothing balm for heartburn. Packed with mucilage (a gel-like substance), the root coats the oesophagus and stomach lining, forming a protective barrier against stomach acid. This mucilaginous quality not only eases irritation but also promotes the healing of inflamed tissues. Marshmallow root also encourages the production of mucin, a natural compound that enhances the protective mucous lining within the digestive tract. As a gentle demulcent, it has been prized for centuries in traditional herbal medicine for its ability to alleviate heartburn discomfort without disrupting the delicate balance of the gut.
How to take Marshmallow root:
- Marshmallow root tea: Steep 1 teaspoon of dried marshmallow root in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Strain and drink the tea before or after meals.
- Marshmallow root powder can be added to smoothies, yoghurt or hot water.
- As a tincture or capsules: follow the recommended dosage on the supplement packaging or consult with a herbalist for a therapeutic dose.
Slippery Elm for Balancing Gut Microbiome
Derived from the inner bark of the Ulmus rubra tree, slippery elm is another fantastic mucilage herb that is a botanical powerhouse, renowned for its prebiotic properties. As it travels through the digestive tract, slippery elm forms a protective layer, creating an environment conducive to the flourishing of beneficial microbes. This mucilaginous quality not only supports the growth of probiotics but also helps soothe inflammation and improve overall digestive health.
How to take Slippery elm:
- Slippery elm powder can be mixed with water to create a soothing drink. Steep one teaspoon of powdered slippery elm bark in hot water for around 5 minutes. Start with a small amount and gradually increase as needed. Drink plenty of water after consuming the mixture. You can also add slippery elm powder to smoothies.
- In capsule form which is an easier way to take it for some people. Follow the dosage instruction indicated on the packaging.
Peppermint for Improving Digestion
With its invigorating aroma and soothing properties, peppermint is a digestive powerhouse renowned for its ability to alleviate various gastrointestinal issues. The active compound in peppermint is menthol which acts as a natural muscle relaxant, particularly in the digestive tract. This relaxant effect helps to ease the passage of food through the stomach and bile ducts, alleviating symptoms of indigestion and promoting smoother digestion. Peppermint also relieves muscle spasms and reduces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, making it particularly beneficial for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
How to take Peppermint:
- Peppermint tea: steep fresh or dried peppermint leaves in hot water for about 5 – 10 minutes. Strain the leaves and enjoy the tea. For optimal digestive benefits, aim to drink 1 – 2 cups daily in between meals.
- Peppermint oil capsules provide a concentrated dose for those seeking targeted relief. It’s advisable to consult with a herbalist before taking a concentrated form of peppermint, especially if you are taking any medication.
Dandelion Root for Combatting Constipation
Often considered a common weed, dandelion root is a gentle yet effective remedy for alleviating constipation. Rich in compounds like inulin, a soluble fibre that promotes regular bowel movements, dandelion root acts as a natural laxative. It stimulates the digestive system by enhancing the absorption of water in the intestines, thereby softening stools and easing their passing. Dandelion root supports overall digestive health by stimulating the production of bile which is essential for the breakdown of fats.
How to take Dandelion root:
- To make dandelion root tea, pour boiled water over dried dandelion root and let it steep for about 10 – 15 minutes before straining and drinking. Drink this tea once a day (preferably in the evening) to promote bowel regularity.
- Capsules and tinctures provide a more therapeutic dose of dandelion root. Consult with a herbalist who can advise on the most appropriate dose for your needs.
Fennel for Bloating Relief
Besides being a flavoursome herb to use in cooking, fennel is an excellent natural remedy for bloating and digestive discomfort. Packed with compounds like anethole, fennel contains anti-spasmodic properties that help relax the muscles in the digestive tract, particularly the ones responsible for gas and bloating. This alleviates bloating by reducing the formation of gas and promoting smoother digestion. Fennel seeds, in particular, are known for their carminative effects, aiding in the expulsion of gas from the digestive system.
How to take Fennel:
- Chew on fennel seeds after meals. Start with half a teaspoon of fennel seeds and chew them for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Prepare a soothing fennel tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of crushed or whole fennel seeds in hot water for 5 – 10 minutes. Sip on the tea after meals, up to three times a day.
- Add fresh fennel bulb to salads or cooked dishes.
Alleviate gut issues with herbs
Incorporating herbs into your wellness routine offers a natural and holistic approach to alleviate digestive complaints. Herbs like peppermint, fennel, slippery elm, marshmallow root and dandelion root boast properties that can soothe various digestive issues such as bloating, heartburn and constipation. Their effectiveness lies in their ability to address the root causes of discomfort, promoting digestive ease. Whether sipped as a comforting tea or chewed as seeds, these herbs provide a gentle and sustainable means to support gut health.