We’re excited to share with you this guest post Jill Cohen, our friend and certified herbalist. Jill lives in Boulder, CO where she teaches herbal and earth-based education to youth and adults.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are good you’re personally familiar with food intolerances and digestive discomfort. Chances are also good that you’re conscientious about choosing foods that nourish your body and avoiding ones that don’t – at least for the most part!
In addition to making informed food choices, another way to support digestive and overall health is to incorporate medicinal plants into your diet.
Did you know that plants are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds? Some even contain powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties that can actually heal the lining of the digestive tract. Amazing, right?
There are many great ways to include herbal medicine into your dietary regimen, ranging from liquid extracts to cooking with culinary herbs and spices. But one of the simplest and most effective methods is drinking herbal tea.
Herbal tea, technically known as an infusion, is a preparation that combines hot water and dried or fresh herbs. The hot water extracts the plants’ healing properties while gently hydrating and nourishing your internal tissues. Inhaling the tea’s aromatic oils is therapeutic for your respiratory, nervous, and immune systems. Perhaps most importantly, taking time out of your day to pause and treat yourself to a cup of tea offers innumerable benefits for body and mind.
Below are six fabulous herbs for healthy digestion. Use them alone or combine them to make an infusion that supports your health!
- Chamomile: A beautiful and delicious flower known for easing the mind and calming the belly, chamomile is a gentle yet potent herb safe for kids and the elderly. You may be familiar with chamomile as a relaxing after-dinner drink, but did you also know that chamomile is anti-inflammatory, heals wounds, relieves pain, and helps quell spasms in the gut? It also expels gas and gently stimulates the liver to help your body detoxify.Use chamomile when you have digestive pain, cramps, or gas caused by nervous tension or anxiety. Since much of your nervous system resides in your gut, taking calming and nourishing herbs is a fantastic way to relax and promote healthy digestion. And with notes of pineapple and hints of apple, chamomile provides a delicious treat for your taste buds too!
- Calendula: Also known as marigold, calendula is a wonderfully healing plant for both body and spirit. This gorgeous and uplifting flower makes a cheerful addition to herbal tea blends, broths, and soups.Medicinally, calendula packs a punch with its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, wound healing, anti-microbial and detoxifying effects. Calendula is especially good for inflammation in the GI tract, diarrhea, ulcers, cramps, indigestion, and low levels of infection. The herb has an affinity for anything that is hot, inflamed, burning or just plain ol’ irritated. And because it acts on the liver and detoxification pathways, calendula also promotes beautiful and radiant skin.
- Plantain Leaf: If you grew up with a backyard or playing in the woods, there’s a good chance that you’ve met plantain leaf. With a mild, slightly bitter taste, this common plant is a miraculous healer for both external and internal body tissues. What makes plantain so special is that it is both hydrating and astringent. This means it’s a great treatment for diarrhea since it simultaneously hydrates and tightens the tissue in your digestive tract to help stop the flow. A powerful wound healer, plantain helps repair the gut lining while also quelling inflammation and irritation.
- Marshmallow Root: Gentle and soothing marshmallow root is a fabulous plant to add to your herbal medicine chest. Highly mucilaginous (think: sticky and viscous), marshmallow’s hydrating, cooling nature is an excellent antidote for hot and inflamed tissue. It also promotes healthy bowel movements by bringing necessary moisture to keep things moving.Many herbs can dry you out, so incorporating a moistening element into your tea blend will keep your herbal formulas well-balanced. If you’re prone to constipation, dryness, or irritation and inflammation, marshmallow is a wonderful ally.
- Ginger: Ahh, ginger! Such a lovely, warming, and spicy root. Used in many parts of the world to add flavor to food, ginger offers a wide array of medicinal properties: it is highly anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, and it relieves nausea, motion sickness, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. This virtuosic root also helps fight infection and preserves food!Use ginger for stomach discomfort and to relieve gas. Strong, warming, and stimulating to the circulatory system, ginger is a delicious addition to foods or tea blends. Just remember: a little goes a long way!
- Peppermint: Refreshing and delicious peppermint helps expel gas, calm spasms, and relaxes the muscles of the digestive system. It contains powerful volatile oils that act as an anesthetic to the stomach lining, thereby quelling nausea and the urge to vomit. A common treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), peppermint is cooling and soothing to the digestive tract. It also works to decrease flatulence and can help with headaches caused by indigestion.
Follow these steps to prepare your own herbal infusion:
Mason jar or tea pot
Tablespoon or Large Spoon
Choice of herbs
1. Choose your herbs
2. Put hot water on to boil
3. Place herbs in jar or teapot. Use 1 T of herb: 1 Cup of hot water (e.g. a Mason jar is 4 cups so you would use 4 T of herb)
4. Pour hot water onto herbs and cover completely. Cover with a lid.**
5. Steep for 15 minutes or longer**
7. Compost the herbs or use them again to make another infusion
8. Drink 1-4 cups a day to support your health and well-being
9. A tea will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.
** An infusion will have medicinal benefits after just 15 minutes of steeping, but you can steep up to 8 hours to continue extracting the medicinal constituents.