Digestive Teas to Survive the Holidays
With holiday feasts fast approaching, we wanted to remind you (so you can remind your patients!) that digestive teas are a great way to:
1) Help assist the digestive process and relieve indigestion
2) Relieve uncomfortable distention, bloating and gas
Ginger tea has a warming and stimulating effect throughout the body, increasing blood flow and circulation, which helps improve digestion. Dyspepsia is a type of digestive problem occurring in the stomach causing bloating and discomfort because digestion is too slow. But ginger tea helps stimulate stomach contractions and increase gastric emptying time, so food is not just sitting in your stomach. (1) It is particularly useful for those without enough stomach acid, which tends to slow down digestion. Ginger supports and enhances the digestive process all throughout the digestive tract which helps prevent the formation of gas in the intestinal tract.
Peppermint tea helps stimulate the flow of bile, and is particularly helpful for aiding in the digestion of fats. (2) Fat in our meals slows down digestion, and a little is good, but too much fat can slow things down too much and lead to bloating and discomfort. Peppermint is the perfect tea to have after a high fat meal, or an ice cream sundae!
Chamomile and licorice root are both very soothing to the digestive tract. The truth is, we digest our food better when we are calm and relaxed. Ever notice that when you are stressed out or eating on the run you may end up with an upset stomach? Chamomile works to soothe an upset stomach by relaxing overactive muscle contractions in the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and has been used traditionally to treat a variety of digestive issues, including stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. Since it can help alleviate stomach aches due to cramping, or “nervous stomach”, children especially benefit from chamomile tea, which is calming, and can help soothe tummy aches of all kinds. (3) Licorice root soothes irritation and inflammation in both the upper and lower digestive tract and has been used to decrease symptoms of heartburn, indigestion and GI irritation. It too, acts as a relaxant. (4) By helping to calm and relax the digestive system, these herbs work to help normalize and optimize digestive processes.
Carminatives are herbs which help prevent, relieve or dispel gas, bloating and the related discomfort. High fiber foods like kale or beans, or anything that has not been thoroughly digested feeds our intestinal bacteria and gas and bloating can occur in the intestinal tract. Many carminative herbs are used in cooking such as fennel and anise seed, caraway seeds, coriander, cumin, oregano, thyme and sage to aid in digestion. All of these herbs have volatile oils which are active on the tissues of the intestinal system and modulate the activity of the bacteria in our gut. Fennel seed is probably the most well-known and one of the best tasting carminatives, used in many digestive teas, in addition to peppermint and spearmint which also have carminative action.
Chai is the traditional tea of India, made using ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper – ginger to improve the gastric phase of digestion, cinnamon and cardamom, both carminatives for the intestinal phase and pepper to enhance absorption of all nutrients. It’s both delicious and effective! Chai is made with the above spices added to black tea with milk. You can also enjoy chai herbs brewed alone with water for a delicious after meal digestive aid, enhancing all phases of digestion.
The most popular digestive teas are blends which may include any combination of peppermint, fennel seed, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, anise seed, chamomile and licorice root. There are so many to choose from you are sure to find something you can enjoy, which will provide digestive aid and soothing comfort!
Here’s a selection of some of our favorites, you can order directly from us!
By Lisa Murray RDN, LD. In addition to being a licensed dietitian, Lisa is an Herbalist with over 25 years of training, education and experience in traditional herbalism and botanical medicine.
1) Wu K et al. Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e3282f4b224.
2) University of Maryland Medical Center, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. Peppermint. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/peppermint
3) Srivastava J. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901.
4) Sato Y1 et al. Isoliquiritigenin, one of the antispasmodic principles of Glycyrrhiza ularensis roots, acts in the lower part of intestine. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007 Jan;30(1):1459.