12 Best Herbs for Digestive Health

Boosting your digestion is crucial for overall health, especially given the stresses of daily life, sedentary habits, and poor eating choices. When our digestion falters due to these factors, it can lead to discomforts like gas, bloating, indigestion, and abdominal pain.

When your digestion is in top shape, you’ll notice benefits like increased energy, better immunity, clearer thinking, improved mood, and more. To achieve this, aim for a balanced diet, stay hydrated, stay active, and incorporate herbal remedies into your daily health regimen.

To enhance your digestion, consider incorporating these 12 herbs into your routine, whether through brewing decoctions or adding them to your meals.

1. Oregano

Oregano packs a punch against inflammation thanks to its high levels of the antioxidant carvacrol. It’s been used for ages as a natural antimicrobial and anti-fungal remedy for conditions like Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and candida overgrowth.

How to use it: Sprinkle fresh or dried oregano on chicken, lamb, or Italian dishes like pizza and pasta. You can also find oregano in liquid supplement form, which can be mixed with water and taken before or after meals. Be cautious with oregano essential oil, often used as a “natural antibiotic,” as it can harm your mouth and throat if applied directly.

2. Ginger

Ginger has been hailed for its anti-inflammatory effects and gut health benefits since ancient times, and modern science backs up its effectiveness.

Several clinical studies have shown that ginger can halt the production of certain proinflammatory cytokines linked to inflammatory diseases. It also reduces the expression of certain inflammatory proteins, potentially lowering the risk of associated diseases.

Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a go-to remedy for soothing stomach issues, speeding up stomach emptying, relieving nausea, stimulating stomach acid production, and easing heartburn and acid reflux.

How to use it: Grate fresh ginger or use powdered ginger spice in various recipes, particularly in Asian dishes like stir-fries or curries. You can also make gut-soothing ginger tea by slicing fresh ginger root and steeping it, or add it to homemade bone broth for an extra healing boost.

3. Licorice

Licorice root has a rich history dating back to ancient cultures like the Assyrians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians. Although it’s mostly known as a flavoring agent, licorice root has also been used medicinally for various conditions.

Today, it’s popular for supporting digestion and soothing the stomach. Licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that may promote a healthy inflammatory response and help maintain stomach acidity for comfort. So, those grandmas who always had licorice on hand for digestive issues were onto something.

How to use: Be aware that most store-bought “licorice” candies don’t actually contain licorice but anise oil for its similar taste. For medicinal purposes, look for pure licorice root in teas, powders, or supplements.

4. Rosemary

Rosemary isn’t just a fragrant herb used in Italian cuisine; it offers more than just a pleasant aroma. Its leaves contain beneficial oils that support a healthy inflammatory response and regular gastrointestinal function. This herb grows abundantly in Italy and has been used in traditional medicine throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond.

How to use: Enjoy rosemary steeped in tea, infused into olive oil, taken as an herbal supplement, or used in cooking.

5. Cumin

Cumin is a spice derived from a seed in the parsley family. It’s gaining attention for its impressive anti-inflammatory properties, particularly its ability to reduce inflammatory pathways like IL-6 while inhibiting the pro-inflammatory NF-κB pathway. Cumin extract offers various gut benefits, including easing indigestion, treating H. pylori infections, and reducing intestinal inflammation. It may also alleviate symptoms of both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

How to use it: Cumin adds a flavorful punch to Mexican-inspired dishes like tacos. It’s a versatile spice that can enhance the taste of many dishes. You can also find it in liquid extract or supplement form.

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon contains two potent anti-inflammatory compounds: trans-cinnamaldehyde and p-cymene. Animal studies suggest that cinnamon extract improves gut barrier function, activates anti-inflammatory pathways like NF-κB, and reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines in the gut. It also promotes a healthier balance of gut microbiota.

In cases of inflamed colon (colitis), cinnamon shows promise in reducing inflammation and preventing fibrosis.

How to use it: Cinnamon is a versatile spice suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. Use it in baking, sprinkle it on top of desserts like apple crumble or oatmeal, or add it to savory dishes like roasted sweet potatoes, stews, and sauces for a rich and flavorful taste.

7. Psyllium

Psyllium is one of the top herbs for digestion, thanks to its high fiber content. Adding psyllium fiber to your daily routine is an easy way to boost your fiber intake, which is essential for gut health, regular bowel movements, and healthy elimination.

This plant, part of the plantain family, has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Indian and Chinese Medicine. In Ayurveda, psyllium is valued for its cleansing and detoxifying effects on the large intestines. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, psyllium may help the intestines absorb liquid, aiding in waste elimination.

How to use: Psyllium is available in supplement and powder form. You can add psyllium powder to smoothies, juice, oatmeal, or incorporate it into baked goods like pancakes.

8. Trikatu

Trikatu is a blend of three medicinal spices—ginger, long pepper, and black pepper—known for their digestive benefits. In Ayurveda, Trikatu is used to stimulate agni, or digestive fire. Ginger protects the gastrointestinal system, black pepper aids in nutrient absorption and digestion, and long pepper has balancing and detoxifying properties. Together, they help break down food in the stomach and intestines. Trikatu, meaning “three pungents,” refers to its intense flavor that invigorates the body.

How to use: Trikatu is typically taken as a capsule but can also be found in powder form, which can be mixed with warm water and honey.

9. Triphala

Triphala is a well-known herbal blend consisting of three fruits—amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki—each supporting the gastrointestinal tract and digestive system. Haritaki promotes healthy bowel movements and gut health, bibhitaki acts as a gentle laxative, and amla is rich in nutrients that replenish the body.

How to use: Triphala is available in capsule or fruit powder form, which can be added to water, smoothies, or other beverages.

10. Bael Leaf

If you’re looking for a gentle herbal laxative that’s safe for daily or long-term use as needed, Bael Leaf is a great option. It helps to soften stool, acting as a mild laxative to prevent occasional constipation and support regularity and healthy elimination.

Unlike senna, another herb used as a laxative, Bael Leaf doesn’t come with unwanted side effects like stomach discomfort or extreme laxative action. Senna can also be addictive and isn’t safe for daily use. Bael leaf is the preferred choice in Ayurveda for promoting smooth digestion and bowel movements.

How to use: Bael Leaf is most conveniently consumed in supplement form, especially when combined with other digestive-supporting herbs like psyllium and garden cress.

11. Turmeric

Turmeric has been celebrated in herbal medicine for thousands of years, earning the title of a “pharmacy in one herb.” It has been a staple in Indian Vedic culture since ancient times.

While turmeric offers a wide range of health benefits, it’s particularly known for its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response and promote gastrointestinal health. Modern research confirms its positive effects on digestion, respiratory function, liver and pancreatic health, joint health, and more.

How to use: Turmeric, with its vibrant yellow color, is commonly found in powdered form for use in curries. You can also add the powder to smoothies, lattes, and baked goods. For a therapeutic dose, herbal supplements are recommended, especially when combined with Trikatu for enhanced absorption.

12. Fennel

Fennel seeds, native to the southern Mediterranean region, have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes throughout history. In ancient times, Roman soldiers consumed fennel because they believed it made them stronger.

In Ayurvedic and Traditional Iranian medicine, fennel was valued for its ability to support healthy digestion. Modern research suggests that fennel’s gastrointestinal benefits may be due to its phytochemical content, which aids in breaking down food for digestion and metabolism.

How to use: Fennel seeds can be taken as a supplement, brewed into hot water as a tea, or added to hot dishes. Alternatively, chewing fennel seeds after meals can help stimulate digestion and freshen the mouth, a popular practice in India and Italy.

Best herbs for Digestive Health

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