Last Updated on September 16, 2020
Certain herbs have a lot to offer the digestive system.
When you are taking a herbal medication, I don’t suggesting you take a mix of ten to fifteen herbs. My favorite herbal teacher said to me, “It’s best to understand the essence of the herb, or the signature of the herb.” You’ll only do that by taking that herb on its own for a while to get a feel for it and understand it’s impact on your health.
Here are five herbs that can be of benefit to the digestive system:
1. Dandelion (taraxacum officinale). Dandelion has leaves with a jagged edge and one big yellow flower. This plant is fantastic for liver cleansing. It’s a cholagogue, meaning that it helps clean the liver out the stimulates the flow of bile. This herb is good for a sluggish bowel and for people who are mild drinkers. Thankfully, this plant won’t leave you feeling queasy. This plant is a mild enough remedy that it’s a good starting point if you have a very sick liver. Second-year dandelion roots can be used to make a coffee-like beverage. The roots can also be steamed like carrots. Dandelion leaves are high in vitamins K and C. Just make sure you don’t eat dandelion leaves that have been sprayed with chemicals. The leaves of dandelion have a diuretic effect, which can be beneficial if you have high blood pressure.
2. Ginger (zingiberaceae officinale). Ginger is fantastic when it comes to the gut, particularly the stomach. It can help with conditions like dyspepsia, nausea, Helicobacter pylori, motion sickness, and morning sickness. I’ve seen ginger used with success for abdominal spasms, bloating, gas, and incarcerated flatulence. Ginger is a stimulant that is also very good for the circulation. You can use ginger to soothe bad bruising if the skin’s not broken. Ginger is also a sialogogue, meaning it triggers the production of saliva and helps with dry mouth. It’s also a calminitive, meaning that it calms the gut. Ginger is warming and helps to loosen things up in the gut. It helps you sweat, but I’ve also seen it help reduce a fever.
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3. Clove artichoke (Cynara scolymus): Clove artichoke is beautiful to eat and very good for liver function. It stimulates bile flow and cleanses the liver. Clove artichoke is one of my favorite herbs to use for a sluggish bowel. It’s also been used for gallstones, biliary disease, liver impairment, and chronic constipation. Traditionally it was used for jaundice in young people. By stimulating bile, colonic function is improved, which reduces the risk of bacterial and yeast problems in the gut.
4. Slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva): Slippery elms are quite a tall tree, and it’s the pink inner bark that’s of interest. Slippery elm bark is the best demulcent herb for internal and external use. Demulcent means it’s soothing. Slippery elm soothes the elementary mucosas throughout the entire digestive tract. This herb is particularly good for infants up to about two or three years of age. I recommend slippery elm for ulcers and other conditions that trigger burning in the gut. It’s also good for bowel problems, whether that’s diarrhea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome. I’d also use it for GERD and Helicobacter. If you’re going to take slippery elm, make sure you get some with a pinky color but not overly red. The more pink the color, the higher the quality. A good test is to get a good pinch of the stuff and put it in water. Within a few minutes, it should turn into a jelly-like substance. That’s a good slippery elm powder. Externally, it’s nice to put on burns and cuts and abrasions. Slippery elm is also a fantastic prebiotic, particularly for bifidobacterium.
5. St. Mary’s thistle (Silybum marianum): This is probably one of the best liver herbs available. It’s hepato- restorative, it’s hepato-protective, and it’s a mild cholagogue. St. Mary’s thistle is one of the best herbs you can use for three to six weeks to facilitate a good detoxification. It’s an excellent treatment to use if you have a history of using a lot of pharmaceutical drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs. A garlic and St. Mary’s thistle combination is particularly suitable for detoxifying the liver from the effects of drugs.