Photo of fennel seeds spilling out of a jar
Fennel seeds can help stimulate digestion and relieve wind [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Herbal relief: Improving digestion

30 July, 2014

Your digestion can be affected by all kinds of external and internal factors.

Careless eating habits, drugs, emotional upsets, and stress can all trigger a variety of symptoms, so keeping the digestive system in good working order is essential to our well-being and is the foundation of good health.

For persistent symptoms it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice, as they may mask a more serious underlying complaint. But for everyday relief this chart can help you identify the key herbs for maintaining digestive health.

Fennel (Foenicuium vulgare)

A gentle digestive stimulant suitable for delicate stomachs. Chew a few seeds or an infusion to dispel wind, griping pains, and colic.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

A versatile herb for the effective relief of a range of digestive complaints. Drink as an infusion for symptoms of indigestion, flatulence, travel sickness, colic, nausea, and vomiting. Essential oil capsules are used to treat IBS.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

A gentle herb that calms digestive problems. Drink an infusion or use the tincture to relieve indigestion, gastrointestinal spasm, and “nervous” tummy. This herb is a fan remedy for babies and children.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

A natural antacid that will relieve the symptoms of a range of gastrointestinal problems associated with flatulence or hyperacidity. Drink an infusion to treat wind, peptic ill reflux, mild diarrhoea, and gastritis.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

A wonderfully soothing and gentle herb for an overwrought digestive system in both adults and children. Drink an infusion to relieve colic, flatulence, stomach cramps, and any stress-related digestive symptoms.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Soothing to the digestive tract and mildly laxative. Combine with chamomile and meadowsweet and take as an infusion for symptoms of indigestion, acidity, and gas or combine with senna to relieve constipation.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Soothes inflammation of the entire digestive tract. Combine with chamomile and drink] as an infusion to relieve symptoms of acidity or discomfort or irritation of the mouth, stomach, or duodenum.

Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)

Adds a protective and healing coating to the digestive tract. Mix the herb with a Little water and drink the resulting paste to relieve symptoms of acidity, reflux, gastritis, gastroenteritis, and diarrhoea.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Acts as an antispasmodic and anti-emetic: use to relieve symptoms of flatulence, nausea, irritable bowel, hiccups, and vomiting. It is also anti-inflammatory and antiseptic so is beneficial for gastrointestinal infections.

Senna (Senna alexandrina)

A stimulant laxative that will relieve occasional constipation. Make an infusion to bedtime that will stimulate a bowel motion the following morning. Adding a little lie or ginger powder will help prevent any griping pain.