Published March 27, 2012
Our digestive system is a big, long pipe that starts at the mouth, ends at the anus, and involves a lot of complex processes in between. Many people experience indigestion, and symptoms can include a feeling of being too full, sluggish, gassy, acidic stomach and queasiness, to name a few.
Odds are good you have experienced some of this yourself.
Are your antacids not working as well as they could? Do you wish you had a better alternative to slamming down drugs every day? You do. Herbalists have known for centuries that certain plants, especially those that are bitter or aromatic, can help to aid digestion, reduce digestive discomfort, and actually improve the daily function of that big, long pipe that travels from north to south in your body. And modern, pharmaceutical science backs this up.
Among the safe and effective time-tested botanicals that aid digestion is a category known generally as “bitters.” You’ve probably seen a product like Angostura Bitters in bars. Bitters are sometimes added to cocktails for flavor, but they do a lot more than help to make a good Manhattan.
At a trade show of natural products, I came across a splendid bitters product called “Urban Moonshine Organic Bitters.” Of course I like the name, but this is no back woods elixir from a hillbilly still. This thoughtfully conceived digestive is made in Vermont, and contains several herbs known since antiquity for their digestion-enhancing properties. The herbs in this good-tasting formula are all certified organic, so you don’t have to worry about consuming agri-poisons in your health product. Let me give you a rundown.
Dandelion root and leaf
A traditional remedy for liver and spleen disorders, dandelion contains compounds called sesquiterpene lactones that stimulate appetite, improve digestion, and act as mild laxative agents.
Used since antiquity in Asia to detoxify the liver, kidneys and gallbladder, burdock is a staple herb in diuretic and laxative formulas. The root contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, all powerful antioxidants.
Click here to see my Fox News Health piece on burdock with Wild Man Steve Brill.
Used primarily as a remedy for heartburn, orange peel contains a number of aromatic oils plus the alkaloids synephrine and N –methyltyramine that improve appetite and increase the secretion of natural digestive juices.
Rich in aromatic essential oils, fennel seed enjoys a long tradition of use in Asia for indigestion, flatulence and colic. This herb has a pleasant aroma and flavor, and helps to relieve gas and intestinal cramps.
Yellow dock root
Employed as a general health tonic in traditional herbalism, Yellow dock contains anthraquinone glycosides, which stimulate bile production and act as mild laxatives. The herb is used to improve overall digestion and liver function.
An ingredient in virtually all bitters formulas, gentian stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, and enhances gall bladder function. These effects appear due to the compounds gentiopicroside and amarogentin.
If you’ve seen my segments or read my articles, you know that I am a big ginger fan. Rich in beneficial compounds including gingerols, shaogals and essential oils, this spicy root enhances digestion, relieves nausea, and is a first-rate remedy for motion sickness.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com