Medical herbalist Nicola Parker provides remedies to ease gas forming in the large intestine
Peppermint oil has long been recommended for all types of digestive issues.
Wind is something I’m no stranger to, working in a clinic on the coast. There’s not much I can do about blustery days other than wrapping up warm, wind inside the body though, this I know a lot about. In fact, for what can be an embarrassing topic for some, I spend quite a lot of time talking about it.
Wind in the gut can cause pain, discomfort and bloating. Gas can stretch the gut walls, when trying to pass through the digestive tract, through narrow gaps or around bends and past solid waste. Like one of those long balloons that entertainers twist and manipulate into balloon animals, the gut can stretch and move to accommodate this movement.
Unfortunately, this can be painful, and while it’s always a good idea to see your own GP with unusual bowel and gut changes, there are a number of ways you can manage gas on your own, if nothing more complicated is going on.
Peppermint oil has long been recommended for all types of digestive issues. It’s used as a tea, a powder, a capsule or a flavouring in many indigestion remedies. Peppermint is what herbalists refer to as a carminative, meaning that the rich and volatile oils it contains can help to sooth and ease the passage of gas by relaxing the digestive muscles. Think of it like a massage for the digestive system, except instead of smoothing out knotted muscle, it helps to move gas on it’s way so that it can be eliminated.
While peppermint boasts the greatest fame when it comes to carminatives, it is actually one of many, with different herbs being more suited to different types of digestive issues.
If occasional stomach discomfort is all you’re experiencing, then peppermint is a nice and simple recommendation. Yet for most people, one digestive issue usually compliments another, so here are some of the less famous carminatives and how I use them in my clinic.
Cinnamon probably sits at the top of my list due to its versatility. Cinnamon contains compounds that are often included in anti candida products, to help kill of bacteria that cause bloating and gas production. Choose cinnamon over peppermint if you are susceptible to bloating after meals, especially if you tend to feel comfortable on waking and get gradually more bloated throughout the day.
In this way, cinnamon can help manage gas production as well as help ease its passage, reducing uncomfortable bloat and embarrassing wind.
Cinnamon can also help to improve blood sugar control, helping to ease sugar cravings and reduce weight gain around the middle. If you have a sweet tooth, sugar can contribute to this gas production, so cutting down on sweet things and replacing plain sugar for cinnamon on cereals is certainly worthwhile.
If you suffer with heartburn or reflex, try chamomile.
Chamomile is mucilaginous, helping to put a soothing coating on any damaged mucous membranes within the digestive tract. It can be really helpful for diarrhoea and I often use it in cases of bowel inflammation for the soothing effect that it has.
Volatile oils in carminative herbs encourage tight valves to open up, so peppermint and cinnamon could contribute to reflux. Chamomile can actually aid this problem, so it’s definitely one to choose over the other herbs if reflux is an issue for you.
If you find that your digestive problems are aggravated by stress or anxiety, then herbs like lemon balm or lavender are commonly used for these symptoms as well as being very effective carminatives. These gentle anxiety herbs can be taken in a tea or used as a tablet, or even in a liquid tincture.
Lavender has a strong floral taste, which isn’t to everyone’s liking, but it does keep the volatile oils well when the flowers are dried. In contrast, lemon balm is best used as fresh as possible when brewed as a tea, but in tincture form, either should be just as effective as the other.
Sometimes, the less famous herbs may be the ones most appropriate for your health. So it’s always a good idea to ask someone in the know before picking up your next remedy.
For more information, or to book an appointment with Nicola, call 01524 413733.