Kitchen Herbs for Indigestion

It’s always fascinating to me how some weeks, everyone that comes into the clinic has the same issue going on. This week, it’s all about indigestion, distention, and bloating. As the seasons change – sometimes quite rapidly – it can be difficult to know what to eat. The drawer full of salad greens, cucumbers, and melons that looked so enticing in the heat last week may well be too cooling for our bodies when it’s suddenly cool and rainy.

I made this mistake this weekend. I was staying at a friend-of-a-friend’s cabin, and didn’t bring much in the way of groceries. We were trying to get out the door early enough to beat the heat for a bike ride, so for breakfast, I opened the refrigerator door and scarfed down the last few bites of this cold sweet potato and avocado salad we’d savored the day before.

Bad idea. First thing in the morning, the digestive fire of the stomach is weak. Imagine a gas stove on low, trying to saute vegetables: nothing much happens. But when you turn the heat up to medium-high, food sizzles and transforms a lot faster. Cold leftovers eaten quickly put my stomach fire right out, and sat heavy in my belly for hours. I wasn’t hungry the whole rest of the day, until early evening when I felt weirdly spacey and short-tempered from lack of fuel.

My favorite kitchen herb for this kind of thing is fresh ginger. This warm, pungent herb helps kindle the digestive fire so that our stomachs can “cook” our food more easily. It activates the digestive system, or the “Spleen and Stomach qi” as we call it in Chinese Medicine and helps us better absorb our nutrients. When you know you need to eat but can’t figure out what you’re hungry for, fresh ginger tea can help burn off the dross that might be masking the body’s innate intelligence.

  • When you’re not sure what to eat
  • Excellent for nausea
  • Helps settle the stomach
  • It’s also great for when you have a “cold cold;” the kind of cold where your symptoms involve a drippy or stuffy nose, feeling chilled and tired, without a sore throat.

Steep a couple of slices the size of quarters in hot water (with a cover over it so you don’t lose the volatile oils) for 5-10 mins, then drink. Of course, if you like stronger tastes, you can grate the ginger and use a teaspoon or two.

Another favorite digestive tea is the trio of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Whereas ginger is my go-to herb for the stomach itself, cumin-coriander-fennel is fabulous for gas and bloating, intestinal cramping and spasms, abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and diarrhea.  ½ tsp of each of the seeds steeped covered in hot water for 5-10 mins is all you need.

Want some more tips on tending your digestive fire? Download Brodie’s easy-to-read tip sheet, Stoking Your Digestive Fire!

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