Sour stomach? Indigestion? Gas? Bloating? While these ailments frequently strike during the holidays (hello, Christmas dinner), they can happen at any point. Over the years, I’ve gathered a cache of tried and true herbs to help ease my gut back to full health.
Before we dive in, a quick definition. A carminative is an herbal action that relieves gas (think farting, burping, bloating, etc.) Peppermint, ginger, lemon balm, and chamomile are all carminatives, as are other herbs, like coriander, cumin, and fennel seed. Though we’re not going to do a deep dive into these final three, do know that CCF tea (coriander, cumin, and fennel seed) has been used for years in Ayurveda as an after dinner drink. It’s a wonderful addition to your digestive health regimen.
Now, on to my favorite carminatives!
Arguably the most well-known carminative, peppermint has been used to soothe upset stomachs and aid in indigestion. It’s antiseptic, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic and helps relax the stomach while easing intestinal cramping. It can also help with nausea and morning sickness.
I LOVE drinking peppermint tea after a meal, especially when it's heavy. If your dessert comes with fresh mint leaves, eat them first!
Consider these additional uses for peppermint, too:
- Place a few drops of the diluted essential oil onto your head when you have a headache (be sure to wash your hands after, and be careful not to rub your eyes)
- Do a steam inhalation with fresh mint for bronchitis, sinus congestion, or nausea.
Another top carminative, ginger is a traditional aid for nausea and upset stomach. It’s particularly useful after overindulging (I always try to have it on hand for the holidays). You can add ginger to your tea, or incorporate it into your cooking. I prefer to use the fresh root, not dried. It’s so potent.
Ginger’s flavor is pungent, spicy and warming. Antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal, ginger is also what we call a synergist or energizer, meaning it can boost the actions and efficiency of other herbs as it opens blood vessels/increases circulation and helps those other herbs be carried through the body. It’s also a good source of magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper and vitamin B6. Many pregnant women who experience morning sickness swear by it!
- Lemon Balm
Sometimes referred to as Sweet Melissa, lemon balm is a great choice for soothing stress and anxiety that presents itself in the upper GI tract or as a nervous stomach. It’s in the mint family and is easy to grow. I recommend as a potted plant because it is known to spread easily.
Lemon balm reduces intestinal cramping, bloating, and indigestion, and it also helps with brain fogginess, confusion, and/or indecisiveness. It’s particularly aromatic, as it has a high essential oil content. A cup of lemon balm tea after a meal is calming and soothing, particularly to the digestive tract. I find it’s more gentle on than peppermint or ginger.
Most people associate chamomile with aiding the nervous system, and they’d be right - it helps support anxiety and stress-related disorders. But did you know that chamomile also soothes and relaxes the stomach? Consider incorporating it into your tea after a meal or before bed.
Chamomile is an antispasmodic, meaning it reduces cramping - in this case, intestinal cramping, bloating, and indigestion. It’s an anti-inflammatory that soothes and calms heartburn, stomach acid, or ulcers. We use the flowers which have white petals and a yellow center. You can use fresh or dried flowers and make tea - steep the flowers for five to ten minutes in hot water.
I can’t close this out without a nod to apple cider vinegar. Though it doesn’t fall under the category of carminative, it’s a pantry staple for me and really aids digestion, heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux by balancing stomach acid. ACV has been used for thousands of years and modern science has backed many of its traditional uses.
A few notes about apple cider vinegar:
- We always use raw, unfiltered, organic ACV so that it contains the highest amount of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and enzymes.
- To incorporate it into your diet, you can add a tablespoon to a cup of tea to help balance the tanginess of the flavor. I personally love using it in salad dressings, or as a base for pickling vegetables.
- Apple Cider Vinegar is in almost all of our products. It’s the main ingredient in Nourishing Elixir and Fire Cider. It’s also in Victory Elixir, Elderberry Syrup and both our cough syrups
Which of these carminatives have you tried before? All of them? What are some others you like to use? I’d love to hear from you!