No one likes to talk about it, but if you don’t have regular bowel movements (if you don’t poop right), then your health is in jeopardy. Our digestive tracts are about 25 feet long, and they are in charge of assimilating nutrients and ridding the body of toxins. With such a long stretch of muscle to do the job of digestion, it can use some help sometimes. Fortunately, there are numerous herbs which help the body to digest food and absorb nutrients.
The large intestine, or colon, is about five feet long and three inches wide. The small intestine is approximately 20 feet long and about one inch wide. They work together to make certain that our food is digested properly. If our food can’t be digested properly, then health problems will arise.
Here are some issues you may suffer from when intestines and digestion don’t work properly:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Colon polylps
- Traveler’s disease
- Rectal Prolapse
- . . . and more
Herbs for Digestion
When our digestive health is in peak condition, we can enjoy more energy, boosted immunity, the appearance of being younger than we truly are, and of course, the absence of disease. Here are 20 herbs that help with the process of digestion:
- 1. Senna Leaf (Senna Alexandrina) – A short-term curative for constipation.
- 2. Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus Purshiana) – Short term curative for constipation.
- 3. Aloe Leaf (Aloe vera) – A super-healing plant to help ease digestion in general, and a good treatment for constipation.
- 4. Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are anti-inflammatory and rich in both Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber (important for proper bowel movements).
- 5. Psyllium seed – This seeds adds fiber to the diet and aids in intestinal peristalsis. The mucilage in Psyllium creates a soothing effect, which may help relieve cramping too.
- 6. Fruit – Consuming fruit is important for overall health, though the fiber in fruit will help greatly with digestion specifically. Plus, they are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants.
- 7. Oat Bran – Oat bran enters the digestive tract as an in-tact fiber, so it helps to sweep unwanted matter from the nooks and crannies of your intestines. It can aid in the prevention of diabetes and heart disease as well.
- 8. Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) – This herb helps to keep the intestinal contents moist so that they can easily be expelled.
- 9. Slippery Elm Bark – Used in North America as a digestive curative for centuries, Ulmus fulva, or slippery elm, contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. In addition to containing antioxidants that help relieve inflammatory bowel conditions, slippery elm coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines.
- 10. Mullein Leaf (Verbascum sp.) – Also known as ‘cowboy toilet paper,’ this anti-bacterial leaf has been used for many ailments, including diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, and bladder infections. It is also sometimes used to get rid of intestinal worms.
- 11. Barberry Root (Berberis vulgaris) – Varieties include Nepalese Barberry (Berberis aristata), Indian Barberry (Berberis asiatica), and Mountain Grape Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium). This herb is full of isoquinoline alkaloids. A bitter herb stomach tonic, it also promotes evacuation of the bowels as it is a mild laxative.
- 12. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Dandelion stimulates appetite and aids in digestion. While many people see dandelions as weeds, they are actually full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. In Chinese medicine, dandelion is used to treat all sorts of digestive ailments. Check out other dandelion benefits here.
- 13. Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) – Artichokes are “useful in treating specific liver/gallbladder conditions with elevated blood fat values by promoting bile flow in the body, increasing fat digestion and protecting the intestinal mucosa. Bile acids stimulate intestinal peristalsis resulting in better digestion. Bile moves toxins that are ingested through food, water and the air from the liver on to the intestine for further elimination, making it a powerful detoxer.” You can also consume artichoke leaf extract to aid with digestion.
- 14. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Fennel is a carminative herb that helps to reduce gas, warm up the digestive tract, and speed up the digestive process.
- 15. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) – If you’ve ever dined on a good Indian Garam Masala, you’ve eaten cardamom. This is a stomach and intestinal healing herb like few others. Part of the ginger family, it is also anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and is great for soothing gas and heartburn.
- 16. Dill (Anethum graveolens) – Dill comes from the Old Norse word, ‘dilla.’ It means to soothe, to lull, or to calm – perhaps in apt reference to the plant’s ability to put a colicky baby to sleep. It also helps an upset stomach and greatly aids in digestion.
- 17. Caraway (Carum carvi) – Caraway is often used for loss of appetite and for digestive disorders.
- 18. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) – Another carminative herb, cumin has the ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity, and treat piles, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils, and cancer.
- 19. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – Lemon balm is a mild sedative which can help to reduce gas and bloating. It also calms the nervous system. This is a great herb to use if your digestion is poor due to stress.
- 20. Water – Though not an herb, water is one of the most important things your body needs to digest food properly. Not drinking enough water slows your digestion and can make your stool hard, and difficult to pass. Staying hydrated is one of key elements to good digestion.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.