Try as we might to eat properly, there are those occasions when we overindulge. That’s when digestive herbs called “carminatives” can come to the rescue. These herbs have a long history of use for relieving gas, bloating, and indigestion. They include the following:
Black pepper. Pepper increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which helps prevent heartburn. It also helps prevent flatulence by hampering the bacteria that are responsible for formation of gas.
Caraway. Best known as the crunchy seed that adorns rye bread, caraway is also one of the best carminative herbs for preventing gas and bloating. Caraway has also been used successfully in combination with peppermint oil for treating IBS symptoms.
Cardamom. This sweet, pungent herb is a potent antispasmodic, which makes it handy for relieving stomach cramps caused by indigestion or IBS. Cardamom is often added to digestive bitters formulas.
Cumin. A key compound in cumin, thymol, helps relieve gas, bloating, and other gastric problems by stimulating the production of stomach acid and bile.
Fennel. This licorice-scented herb is prized for its ability to alleviate intestinal gas. It’s often used in Italian and Indian cooking, not only for its unique flavor but also for its ability to promote healthy digestion.
Ginger. The gingerols in ginger stimulate the production of digestive juices and help neutralize stomach acid. Research shows that ginger can also help quell nausea due to pregnancy and chemotherapy. A 2008 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology found that when healthy volunteers took ginger capsules along with a bowl of soup, their stomachs emptied more quickly.
Peppermint. A number of studies show that enterically coated peppermint oil capsules can help relieve IBS symptoms, including abdominal cramping and pain. This is attributed to peppermint’s ability to relax the smooth muscles. However, if you’re prone to heartburn, it’s best to avoid peppermint. Those same relaxed muscles can allow more stomach acid to move up through the esophagus.
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