Herbs have been used for millennia to treat all manner of ailments, and the discomfort of indigestion seems to be one that is well-suited to natural remedies.

Common causes for indigestion include fatty or greasy foods, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, overeating, eating too quickly, stress and emotional trauma.


Peppermint  –  Mentha piperita

Peppermint is both antispasmodic and carminative on the digestive tract.  It can help ease the griping pains of colic (adult and infant) by expelling gas from the intestines.  Its antispasmodic effect relieves both muscle spasms and cramps in the stomach and gut therefore helping to prevent gas and bloating after a heavy meal. Peppermint is also sedative and soothing to the stomach, relieving nausea, sea sickness and morning sickness.  It is often combined with fennel to help indigestion. Those with irritable bowel syndrome can find relief with enteric coated capsules of peppermint. 1

Dr Varro Tyler, Dean and Professor Emeritus of pharmacognosy at Purdue University, notes that most of the carminative oils in peppermint (and other mints) are relatively insoluble in water. As a result, mint tea contains little of the plant’s digestive-soothing constituents. It does contain enough to make it effective, but a peppermint tincture is much more effective. 

Peppermint is also effective for the treatment of colitis, diarrhoea, dysentery and poor digestion.


Ginger  –  Zingiber officinale

Ginger contains chemicals that not only soothe the gut but also aid digestion by increasing peristalsis (the wavelike muscle contractions that move food through the intestine). This encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes, removing stagnating food in the gastrointestinal tract, thus assisting in the release of accumulated toxins. This, in turn, increases general health and enhances immunity.

Ginger relieves nausea and vomiting, settles the stomach and sooths digestion.  The pain relieving effects in the digestive tract relieve colic and spasms via muscle relaxation

Ginger can be used safely to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal health problems, and combines well with many herbs, improving taste and potency.  In fact, Ginger speeds up the delivery of healthy plant chemicals into the bloodstream for faster absorption. 

Ginger is also a blood thinner, helping to increase blood flow, therefore relieving abdominal cramps

Caution:  Ginger is not recommended for people with gastric or peptic ulcers, gallstones or those on blood thinning medication.


Chamomile  –   Matricaria chamomilla

The bitter principles of Chamomile make it an excellent tonic for the liver, gallbladder and digestive system. Its bittersweet flavour stimulates the gastric juices, helping to settle the stomach. Chamomile tea is effective when used as part of a treatment program for irritable bowel syndrome because of its antispasmodic properties. It has been approved for use by the Commission E for spasms and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

It is used for the digestive tract to relieve tension and spasms, gastritis, dyspepsia, colic, abdominal pain, flatulence and bloating. By its regulatory effect on peristalsis in the bowel it can assist in the treatment of both constipation and diarrhoea. The bitters in the herb also stimulate the flow of bile and the gastric juices, therefore enhancing the appetite and improving a sluggish digestion.

Chamomile tea is gentle enough to be safe and effective for children and infants.


Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel has a long historical use in both food and medicine. Traditionally it has been used as a carminative, which means that it helps the body expel gas and sooth indigestion. Fennel is also a common ingredient in “gripe water,” a traditional preparation used for treating infant colic. 

Fennel contains volatile oils, which stimulate the secretion of digestive and gastric juices, reduces inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and facilitates the proper absorption of nutrients. This is why it is common practice in many Indian families to chew fennel seeds after meals.

Fennel seeds are also an effective laxative as they contain fibre. This helps in clearing the bowels of accumulated wastes and toxins.  It is also a particularly lovely herb to aid indigestion, and help ease the pain of colic in infants.  Fennel is extensively used in antacid preparations, and prevents bad breath.


Meadowsweet  –  Filipendula ulmaria

Meadowsweet is one of the best digestive remedies, particularly for conditions associated with excess acidity and inflammation.  It soothes and coats the lining of the digestive tract therefore relieving the pain and inflammation of acid reflux, heartburn, gastritis, ulcers, hiatus hernia and digestive disorders.

This herb is effective in curing indigestion owing to its ability to down regulate excessive production of acids in the stomach.   In addition, meadowsweet helps in relieving intestinal wind and distension in the stomach or bowels. The tannins in meadowsweet function as an astringents in the bowel.  These tannins line the mucous membranes of the digestive tract alleviating problems such as enteritis and diarrhoea. Their gentle anti-bacterial function helps to counter infections, while the tannins’ properties to relax muscles, helps in relieving stomach pains and colic disorders

Caution:  Avoid in pregnancy or when breastfeeding.


DIY  –  Stomach Soother

  • 1 teaspoons peppermint  leaf
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (crushed)
  • Pinch of dried ginger (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons chamomile flowers
  • ½ teaspoon meadowsweet leaves
  • Honey to taste

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over it, steep covered for 5 minutes, strain and sip 2-3 cups per day

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