Spasms are when a muscle in your body contracts, or activates, with out reason. If you have ever had diarrhea you know the feeling as your bowels start to contract when they do not need to-leading you to the bathroom. It is not just the colon that can have spasms. Muscles through the entire digestive system are likely to have these contractions as well as our skeletal muscles and respiratory tract.
Antispasmodic herbs mostly interact with the nervous system to reduce the nerve initiation of muscle contraction. This can also have a calmative effect on the physiological aspects of the nervous system and the herbal action is not on the central nervous system so there is not often a sedative effect. Many digestive antispasmodic herbs also have digestive stimulating effects, encouraging a more effective break down of food by stimulating digestive secretions. For the respiratory tract, expectorant herbs, to remove mucus, can have a localized effect for continuing the expectoration of mucus while calming the muscle spasm, often seen as a cough.
Fennel seed is a carminative herb, stimulating the digestive secretions. It can be added to a tea blend or taken in a bitter tincture to calm digestive spasms. For the digestive system, fennel also help relieve excessive gas and stimulates the appetite. This herb is one that is easily available in spice racks at your local grocery store.
Chamomile flower is also a carminative herb as well as an antiinflammatory herb. You have probably had chamomile tea before as it is very common. It helps calm digestive spasms while reducing stress and inflammation, a common factor leading to spasms. Chamomile is great for children with an upset stomach as it’s mild flavor and action is ideal for more sensitive bodies.
Skullcap is one of my favorite nervine herbs, a relaxing herb for the nervous system. This herb is great for when the system is exhausted and needs to be renewed with energy. You can think about how your stomach gets cramps when you have not eaten in a while (you should eat but skullcap is that kind of deficiency). Skullcap may also support relieving tension associated with premenstration stresses.
As it’s name implies, cramp bark is ideal for muscle tension and spasms. The muscles that cramp bark tends to be supportive fore are the voluntary skeletal muscles and the uterine muscles relieving most of the pain associated with menstruation. Cramp bark may be a good herb to consider using if you also experience excessive bleeding during menstruation as it also has astringent actions.
For more information on herbal actions such as antimicrobials, please consult the book “Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffmann. If you are interested in using these and other herbs on a daily basis, please consult with a professional herbalist.