If you remember a few weeks back we had a post on bitter herbs. Carminative herbs like to hang out with the bitters to support the digestive system. They work to relieve gas through a variety of different methods. Much of this action is thought to be from the terpene molecules, the volatile oil components. The small quantities that are found in teas and food products can be antiinflammatory and antispasmodic to the digestive tract.
You probably best know dill for it’s use in pickles. Pickles, traditionally being a fermented food, can offer their own support for the digestive system by building up beneficial gut bacteria. Most pickles you find today in grocery stores are not fermented but rather made with vinegar. Vinegar containing foods can also help to stimulate the digestion through their flavor but the dill that is added can be the real support to relieve flatulence after a meal. Now can you understand why pickles are often served with dishes high in meat such as roast beef sandwiches?
Fennel is an excellent digestive herb for stimulating the appetite and relieving flatulence. Its antispasmodic effects may also extend to the lungs, making it useful for coughs. Fennel can also be used to encourage milk flow in nursing women as well as relieving muscular pains and relieving inflammation of the eyelids when applied topically from a tea. This herb can be added to many foods as it is an excellent flavor, sometimes even used as a flavoring for cough syrups.
Chamomile is a very common carminative herb. Its use as an antiinflammatory for the digestive system is well known. It is most commonly thought of as a nervine by a lay person but you can also think of this action as occurring in the digestive system as well, to calm the spasmodic, nervous reaction of the stomach. This is also an excellent remedy for young children experiecing any kind of digestive upset. It is ideal to make chamomile into a tea and for children, freezing it into ice cube trays. They can then take 1-2 cubes, melted as needed.
Of all of lemon balm’s actions, its use as a carminative is best noted. Its calming effects on our mental activity begins in the digestive tract. The sedative actions of lemon balm in our digestive systems helps to relieve tension and stress through our whole body. This calming effect may also be associated with lemon balm’s effects at balancing thyroid stimulating hormone, reducing some of the effects of hyperthyroidism.
For more information on herbal actions such as carminative herbs, 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.