One Hundred Trillion Bacteria!
When the digestive system is out of balance, it causes a myriad of symptoms and knock-on effects in other areas of the body from our immune system to the chemicals that control our moods. Not to mention the one hundred trillion bacteria that live there!
Almost all societies have traditionally used herbs for their amazing nutritional benefits as well as their medicinal powers. So which herbs can help us with our digestive system once any medical reasons for discomfort have been discounted?
Bitter herbs can help to promote digestive secretions and speed up digestion. Gentian is a good example of an everyday bitter that reduces bloating, gas, symptoms of food allergies and indigestion. Other bitter herbs include Barberry Bark, Dandelion Root and Artichoke.
These herbs may help prevent as well as reduce flatulence and bloating. They can be beneficial in addressing colic, decreasing muscle spasms and intestinal cramping. Some of these herbs increase bile flow, therefore aiding in the digestion of fats. A few notable ones include Fennel, Chamomile, Dill, Peppermint, Angelica and Ginger.
Pre Biotic Herbs (Fibre Herbs)
These herbs need to be powdered in order to benefit from their soluble fibre. Fibre keeps the cells in the digestive tract healthy and the digestive tract flowing with soft formed and regular bowel movements. The pre biotics also fertilize the pro biotics, the substances that feed our healthy bacteria. These include Dandelion Root, Burdock Root, Chicory Root, Elecampane and Plaintain.
This group of herbs creates a healing slime that coats and soothes the gut wall providing lubrication that enables an easier and softer bowel motion. These herbs include Marshmallow, Slippery Elm Bark, and Mullein Leaf.
Anti Inflammatory Herbs
Reducing inflammation is vital to gut health and helps reduce the symptoms seen in IBS, IBD, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and many other gut-related conditions. Useful herbs include Chamomile, Liquorice Root, Frankincense and Turmeric.
Anthroquinine Herbs – Stimulating Laxatives
Chronic constipation is debilitating for thousands of people in the UK, but herbal laxatives should be used with caution. Gentle bulk-forming laxatives include Linseed and Psyllium Husk. They absorb water and provide fibre to the digestive tract. Mild laxatives include Dandelion and Chickweed.
Purgative or cathartic laxatives cause the bowel to evacuate everything in them and the stool is runny. They are very powerful and should only be used with professional advice. These include Senna, Cascara and Rhubarb.
By CNM trained Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist Angela MacRitchie
Some herbs should not be used when pregnant, breast-feeding or on certain medications. Do go and see your herbalist for advice. He or she can formulate a mix of herbs consisting of powders, tinctures and teas tailored especially for your particular digestive health and concerns.
A herbalist who has also been trained as a naturopath can help you to identify triggers and causes specific to you, so you can get to the root of your everyday digestive issues. They can then tailor-make a naturopathic plan for you that not only includes herbal medicine, but also dietary and lifestyle advice so that you get maximum support for your health goals.