Digestive issues are complex. As such, they can require a complex blend of the right ingredients for reliable relief. In this Terry Talks Nutrition®, we’ll explore the botanicals that effectively counter your symptoms and can be used safely every day.
Peppermint – Relieve Gas, Bloating
Peppermint has been a favorite herb for digestive relief for generations. The compounds in this amazing plant relieve gas, pain, bloating, discomfort, and relax the smooth muscles in the intestines to stop painful cramping.
Not only is peppermint long recognized for everyday gastric relief (think about after dinner mints, or the tradition of mint served with lamb for easier post-meal digestion), but it is also being researched as an herbal bacteria fighter. If you travel frequently, eat unfamiliar foods at odd times, or deal with a lot of stress, peppermint oil is a must.
Peppermint has often been studied in conjunction with other herbal oils, including caraway oil, for its ability to normalize the transit time of foods through the intestinal tract, ensuring it doesn’t move too quickly or too slowly in your system. In other words, it can help keep your digestion more predictable so you don’t experience constipation or diarrhea.
Peppermint oil is a source of l-menthol, which relieves gas, reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, and stops harmful bacteria. It is so powerful that one meta-analysis of over 120 trials found that peppermint oil was more effective than prescription drugs for treating IBS.
One of the many reasons that peppermint works so well for both short term and chronic digestive relief is that it relaxes smooth muscle tissue in the gut, which in turn reduces cramping, and acts immediately to stop symptoms.
Another review examined sixteen placebo-controlled trials of enteric-coated peppermint oil and found that it relieved symptoms at about twice the rate of a placebo. In fact, the researchers concluded that peppermint oil could be considered a first choice for those with IBS. And that was just one oil – imagine the synergistic strength of four botanical ingredients all working together.
A British study measured the antibacterial power of peppermint and other plant essential oils. They cited numerous examples of oils separately and in combination, and concluded that even on its own, peppermint oil is an excellent candidate to treat IBS, because it actually kills the bacteria responsible for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), rather than just slowing it down. Of course, although peppermint oil is incredibly powerful, having it on a team of other essential oil ingredients provides a broader spectrum of digestive relief.
Coriander – Stop Bacteria
Coriander provides strong protection from intestinal pathogens (including E. coli) and stops harmful bacteria to help prevent SIBO that leads to IBS symptoms. The same British study I mentioned earlier regarding peppermint also examined coriander, and mentioned that coriander (as well as other botanicals) have an advantage over conventional antibiotics, because they have several antibacterial compounds working along several pathways, so bacteria have a harder time becoming resistant.
A clinical study testing a combination of ingredients, which included mint and coriander, found that it significantly reduced bloating and abdominal pain and discomfort, and could work with either a fiber supplement addition or a prescription anti-diarrhea medication, depending on the types of symptoms.
Caraway – Relieves Indigestion
In studies, caraway is often blended with peppermint. Like peppermint, caraway can help relax the smooth muscles of the intestines, and relieve bloating, gas, or other symptoms of indigestion. In fact, it appears to inhibit the digestive system’s initial reaction to gastric irritants, so it is perfect for anyone with chronic conditions who occasionally (or accidentally) eats triggering foods.
Caraway oil (in conjunction with peppermint oil) also stimulates gall bladder activity, and normalizes digestive transit time, helping the foods we eat travel through the intestines more predictably.
Aside from digestive support, research shows that oils from caraway may help stop the development of colon cancer.
Cardamom – Intestinal Protection
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is like all of the other ingredients I’ve outlined here in that it has traditionally been used as a spice for food and as a medicine. Cardamom is in the same family as ginger, and not surprisingly, plays multiple roles in keeping your digestive system healthy.
Scientific research of a variety of cardamom extracts (including essential oil) shows that it protects the gastric lining, and may be especially helpful for anyone with digestive tract damage due to aspirin use.
Cardamom’s active components read like a “who’s who” list of beneficial natural compounds, and include d-limonene, alpha-pinene, and eucalyptol. This means that not only is it capable of relieving IBS symptoms (or other digestive issues), but it can actually protect the gastrointestinal system against pathogenic bacteria that can potentially cause disease.
You Can Improve Your Digestion
The botanical essential oils I’ve outlined here can definitely get your digestion on track. They will relieve gas, bloating, cramps, and unpredictability that can happen anytime – or even all of the time. While peppermint oil has long been recommended for digestive relief, it works astoundingly well in combination with the other herbal ingredients I’ve outlined here. The synergistic actions and preventive qualities of coriander, caraway, and cardamom elevate and assist peppermint’s own strong natural abilities. I urge anyone with digestive upsets, regardless of their cause, to include this full complement of botanicals. You will notice a dramatic difference.
Aside from that, I would encourage you to change your diet. Avoid wheat (and other grains), refined sugar, and dairy products. They can cause many of the digestive disruptions, including IBS, that you may experience. You can learn more by reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gottschall and Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D.
Changing habits can be very difficult, but I believe you have it within you to do this. Each day will be better than the last, and your overall health will improve dramatically.
If you are looking to stop gas and bloating, relieve diarrhea and urgency, or prevent intestinal cramping and discomfort, I recommend taking a combination of peppermint, caraway, cardamom, and coriander oils 2-3 times daily.