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Natural Awakenings Boston

Using Herbs to Heal the Gut

Sep 28, 2012 09:27PM ● By By Ryn Midura

People who suffer from such gastrointestinal disorders as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's disease and celiac often experience relief when they eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing grains from their diet. When poorly tolerated, these foods can initiate destructive processes in the body, irritating the stomach lining, compromising the intestinal wall, and disrupting the balance of microorganisms in the colon. Removing them is an essential step in recovering healthy digestion.

Sometimes the elimination of these foods isn't enough to completely resolve serious health problems. Leaky gut syndrome, for instance, can persist long after all known food allergens have been removed from the diet. Fortunately, there are a number of readily available herbs that can speed the process of recovery. These plants can help to soothe inflammation, repair damaged tissues, and improve digestive function. 

The following herbs, which are normally dispensed in bulk, can be used together to make a gut-healing tea:

  • calendula (Calendula officinale) flower
  • plantain (Plantago major) leaf
  • peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaf
  • chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flower
  • licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root
  • ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome
  • fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seed

Using equal parts of each herb, blend them together and store the mixture in an airtight container.  For each mug of tea, use two tablespoons of the blend, placing the herbs in a strainer and pouring boiling water over them. Cover and steep the brew for ten to fifteen minutes, and drink. This formula can heal wounds, warm digestion, protect the liver and aid with the dispersing of gas.

This soothing blend can be altered to suit taste, and other herbs can be added or substituted for one of the ingredients. For example, someone with hypertension (high blood pressure) should substitute marshmallow root (Althaea officinale) for the licorice. For those who are not taking any pharmaceutical medications, St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) can be added for its beneficial effects on the liver. A clinical herbalist can provide more information on the actions of these herbs and how best to personalize a formula for a person’s constitution and condition.

Ingredients for this blend can be found at health food stores that sell dried herbs in bulk, and occasionally at farmer's markets. The herbs can also be ordered online from a high-quality supplier such as MountainRoseHerbs.com.

In most cases of food intolerance, removing offending items from the diet is always the first line of action. Once that is done, an herbal formula such as this one can make the process go more quickly, easily, and completely than dietary changes alone. For those struggling with dietary issues, a tea that is both delicious and medicinal can make all the difference.

Ryn Midura is a clinical herbalist at CommonWealth Center for Herbal Medicine, located at 25 Saint Marys Court in Brookline. For more information, call 617-750-5274 or visit CommonWealthHerbs.com.