Everyone can agree: Herbs and spices make food taste way better. But you might not know that your spice rack is also a rich resource for remedies you can use to soothe a stomachache or promote healthy digestion.
Here, gut health nutritionist Amanda Sauceda, RDN, CLT, offers recommendations for six spices and herbs for digestion to sprinkle into your diet more often.
Chances are you've sipped on ginger ale or ginger tea for an upset stomach. This ancient herb has been used for centuries as a traditional antidote for gastrointestinal complaints.
Ginger is considered antiemetic, meaning that it helps with nausea and vomiting, Sauceda says. Some research suggests that the herb might even serve as a safe, effective treatment for nausea during pregnancy and chemotherapy, according to a March 2016 paper in Integrative Medicine Insights.
The same article notes that ginger also increases gastric motility and may boost the speed of stomach emptying, which explains why it can help relieve other symptoms like indigestion and painful abdominal bloating.
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric touts potential to help with digestive concerns, Sauceda says.
Indeed, preliminary evidence suggests that turmeric may prove beneficial as complementary treatments for intestinal illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a January 2019 paper in Current Gastroenterology Reports.
"There is also emerging research that curcumin, the main component of turmeric, could help improve gut microbiome dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut bacteria," Sauceda says. Case in point: An October 2019 article in Nutrients noted that curcumin promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut while reducing pathogenic strains.
"This smoky flavored spice has been linked to helping improve IBS symptoms," Sauceda says.
In fact, the use of cumin essential oil can significantly decrease abdominal pain and bloating and improve stool consistency and defecation frequency in people with IBS, according to a small October 2013 study in the Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases
Chewing on fennel seeds has long been used as a post-dinner digestive aid, Sauceda says. That's because the licorice-flavored herb can help regulate the motility of smooth muscles of the intestine and reduce gas, per an August 2014 review in BioMed Research International.
Plus, the antioxidant-abundant flavonoids and phenolic compounds found in fennel seem to exhibit anti-inflammatory benefits.
Mint can help with belly bloat and supports digestion — it's why peppermint oil is a common remedy for people with digestive problems, especially IBS, Sauceda says.
"It is thought to work by helping smooth muscle relaxation, decreasing visceral sensitivity, which can help with pain, and acting as anti-microbial/anti-fungal," she explains.
Fragrant coriander is a mainstay ingredient in a wide array of regional dishes from Indian to Latin American cuisine. Not only does this popular spice supply a powerful punch of flavor, but it also helps with digestive ailments.
A small study of people with IBS found that an herbal supplement containing coriander reduced the severity and frequency of abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating, per the August 2006 issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences.
- Integrative Medicine Insights: “The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy”
- Current Gastroenterology Reports: “Cannabis and Turmeric as Complementary Treatments for IBD and Other Digestive Diseases”
- Nutrients: “Curcumin, Gut Microbiota, and Neuroprotection”
- Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases: “Cumin Extract for Symptom Control in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Case Series”
- BioMed Research International: “Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology”
- Digestive Diseases and Sciences: “The efficacy of an herbal medicine, Carmint, on the relief of abdominal pain and bloating in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study”