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Herbs for Digestion

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Herbs have long been used as remedies for all types of digestive problems, including indigestion, vomiting, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. In the form of herbal teas (more correctly known as tisanes, herbal infusions or decoctions), herbs can be potent and effective treatments for digestive problems. Learn to use 26 different herbs to make herbal teas for digestion with this comprehensive listing.

Ajwain Seeds

Also known as carom seeds, ajwain seeds are a bitter digestive herb used to treat indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery. Along with fennel seed, they are often given as an after-meal breath freshener in India and served along with meals in the Middle East to aid in digestion. Although the seeds may be eaten in their candied form, mixed with honey or sugar and chewed, or used as a flavoring in cooking, they also make a bitter-but-enjoyable herbal tea. Here's how to prepare ajwain tea at home:

Ingredients:
1 to 2 cups water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ajwain seeds
(Optional) 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
(Optional) Honey or sugar, to taste

Preparation:
Bring one cup of water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the seeds and steep for 10 minutes. Strain out the seeds.

(Alternately, for a strong decoction, you can start with two cups of boiling water, add the seeds, boil until the mixture is only one cup of liquid, and then strain out the seeds.)

Add honey or sugar to taste, if desired. Drink after meals (especially big meals).

Anise

Also known as "aniseed", anise is a seed traditionally brewed for stomachaches, gas, bloating, constipation and indigestion. Today, it is also used for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, though it is not recommended for those with diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D).

Anise tea has a licorice-like flavor that is wonderful with dark honey. You can make it at home with this anise tea recipe from About.com Middle Eastern Food.

Basil

An image of Green Tulsi herbal "tea" from The Tao of Tea.
Lindsey Goodwin
Basil is a member of the mint family. Like mint, basil (and tulsi / holy basil) may help relieve bloating, gas and indigestion. However, for some, basil and mint may cause acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux after consuming basil, try a different herb from this list instead.

You can prepare basil tea and holy basil tea as you would prepare fresh or dried mint tea. Here's a basic guide to making holy basil tea:

Boil one cup of filtered water and pour it over one teaspoon of fresh tulsi leaves, one-half teaspoon of dried tulsi leaves or one-third teaspoon of tulsi powder. Cover the water in a pot or mug and let it steep for five to 20 minutes (or longer, if you want to maximize the health benefits). Then, strain out the leaves and add honey if desired. Drink it hot, especially after a big meal, heavy meal or meal with hard-to-digest foods.

Calendula

Although calendula is an allergen for some few people, it is generally a very mild and safe herb to use for digestive issues. It is often used to treat heartburn and to treat children with upset stomaches. To make calendula tea, use the following guidelines:

Ingredients:
1 to 2 cups water
1 to 2 teaspoons dried calendula flowers

Preparation:
Bring the water to a full boil. Remove from heat and add flowers. Steep ten minutes, then strain out the flowers. Add sweetener if desired. Drink hot.

Cardamom

An image of a Spicy Cardamom Tisane in a double-walled glass mug
Lindsey Goodwin
Due to its sweet, toothsome flavor and efficacy, cardamom tea is a popular remedy for stomach cramps, IBS, morning sickness during pregnancy and general nausea. As a bonus, cardamom tea also helps kill bad-breath bacteria. Here's how to make cardamom tea at home"

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods
1 cup water

Preparation:
As you bring the water to a boil, lightly crush the cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle. Then, remove the outer pods and grind the seeds into a powder. When the water reaches a boil, add the cardamom powder and remove the water from the heat source. Steep for five minutes or longer. Add honey to taste if desired.

Cardamom also blends well with many other spices, particularly masala chai spices such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper relieves gas, fights harmful internal bacteria and aids digestive enzymes. It is rarely drunk on its own, but can easily be added to other herbal infusions for digestion, or mixed with hot water, lemon juice and honey or molasses for a digestive aid. (Some recommend adding it to lemon-ginger tea for a delicious and potent brew.)

Use 1/8th teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper per cup hot water or hot herbal tea.

Chamomile

An image of chamomile blossoms and chamomile-infused vodka.
Marko Goodwin
Chamomile has been a favorite herb for centuries. To the ancient Egyptians, chamomile tea was a panacea, and the ancient Greeks called it "ground apple" because of its low-growing flowers and its apple-like aroma and flavor.

Chamomile is known for its ability to soothe the nerves, but it can also work wonders with soothing the stomach. It is known to help reduce intestinal cramps, soothe gastrointestinal distress and reduce nausea. Interestingly enough, it doesn't just work on humans -- it is also known to soothe the digestive problems of anxious cats and dogs.

To make chamomile tea at home, add three teaspoons fresh chamomile flowers of one teaspoon dried chamomile flowers to one cup freshly boiled water. For a light infusion witha sweet flavor, steep three to four minutes. For a bitter infusion with strong medicinal properties, steep for 25 to 30 minutes.

Chamomile tea can be flavored with honey or lemon, or steeped along with peppermint or ginger, for extra flavor and benefits.

Coriander Seeds

An image of less common masala chai spices, including poppy seeds, nutmeg, coriander, mace, allspice
Lindsey Goodwin
Also known as cilantro, coriander is a leafy herb from the parsley family. Coriander been used since ancient times to treat a range of ailments. Today, coriander tea is used to treat gas, bloating, loss of appetite, intestinal discomfort and overall digestion.

You can make a basic coriander tea by steeping one teaspoon crushed coriander seeds in boiled water for five to ten minutes. However, a slightly more elaborate preparation will give you a much tastier and more effective tea:

Ingredients:
1.5 cups water
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
(Optional) 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed or caraway seed
(Optional) Pinch dried, powdered ginger root
(Optional) Rock sugar, to taste
(Optional) Milk, to taste

Preparation:
While bringing the water to a boil, dry roast the coriander seeds (and the ginger, fennel and / or caraway, if using) in a small pan over medium heat. Once the seeds are warm and aromatic, remove them immediately. se a mortar and pestle to grind the coriander seeds coarsely. Add the spices to the boiling water and boil for up to five minutes before removing the pan from heat. While the mixture boils, crush the rock sugar and warm the milk (if using). Then, strain the tea and add milk and sugar (if desired).

Fennel Seeds

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an herb that has long been used as a remedy for flatulence, upset stomach and intestinal cramps in Ayurveda, Mediterranean medicine and other healing traditions. Fennel promotes gastrointestinal motility, thus relieving gas buildup in the intestines. Although fennel tea is generally recognized as safe, it is not recommended that you drink fennel tea while pregnant.

You can prepare fennel tea at home with this easy recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

Preparation:
Bring the water to a boil. Add the fennel seeds and boil for several minutes or steep for up to 15 minutes. Add sweetener and / or lemon to taste if desired.

Fennel is also delicious and healthful with other herbs. If interested, try this Fennel, Peppermint and Lemon Balm Tea Recipe or steep it with equal parts caraway and anise.

Gentian Root

Gentian is a bitter herb used to aid digestion, calm an upset stomach, strengthen the intestines, promote the flow of bile and reduce flatulence. Due to the strength of gentian, it is recommended that you consult an herbalist or holistic healthcare practitioner before using it. Once you've done so, try the gentian tea recipe below:

Boil 1/2 teaspoon coarsely powdered gentian root in 1/2 cup of water for five minutes. Strain the mixture and drink it hot, preferably 30 to 60 minutes before meals, up to four times daily. If the tea is too strong and bitter for your tastes, reduce the quantity to 1/4 teaspoon per 1/2 cup water.

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