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Herbs are a natural way to treat digestive problems, but do they work for IBS?

Here are five herbs for IBS that have a history of providing digestive relief: peppermint, fennel, ginger, chamomile, and aloe. Please note, there are some cautions for the last three.

Peppermint

… is relaxing. The tea calms down a stomach ache and acts as an anaesthetic to mucous membranes. Peppermint reduces nausea and vomiting and relieves gas and bloating. It aids digestion, increasing the production of bile by the liver and gall bladder. Definitely a friend to IBS sufferers.

If you are prone to spastic colon, try peppermint oil capsules instead of tea. The caps release their contents in the intestines rather than the stomach, so reach the affected area more effectively.

Fennel

… reduces gas, helps with stomach cramps and bloating, and may help to reduce pain. It is anti-microbial.

When you chew a few fennel seeds, not only will they help your digestion but they will freshen your breath! You can also make a tea from the seeds. Steep for at least 5 minutes. If you are prone to UTI’s (urinary tract infections), making a tea from the roots may help.

Ginger

… has actually been tested with navy men and pregnant women (not in the same study!) and was found to relieve nausea and vomiting. Ginger is anti-inflammatory but is also something of a stimulant, so if you have problems with spasms, it may not be your best choice.

Ginger is very portable. You can take along a few capsules of ginger root powder when you go out and make your own tea wherever you are. Just open a cap and sprinkle some of the powder into boiling water. You won’t need the whole cap – a little ginger goes a long way! Add honey or stevia and a little lemon juice, if desired. This tea is soothing not only for digestion but also for those inflamed mucous membranes when you have a cold.

Chamomile

… has many healing properties. It is anti-spasmodic so should help to relieve cramps, it is anti-inflammatory, and is anti-microbial so it helps to control and balance bacteria. Chamomile tea is used to prevent heartburn, gas and bloating, and some evidence suggests it can be helpful for diarrhea.

It is also a sedative so can make you relaxed and sleepy. Don’t drink it when you need your full ability to concentrate!

One big problem with chamomile is that, if you react badly to ragweed or have a ragweed allergy, you will probably have trouble with chamomile. No worries! Many of the herbs listed above have similar beneficial qualities so try one or more of them instead.

Aloe

… is yet another anti-inflammatory (isn’t it nice how Nature makes so many useful plants? BTW, one reason the anti-inflammatory aspect of these plants is important is because when you have pain, there is usually some associated inflammation helping to cause it. When you relieve inflammation, it can help to relieve pain.)

Apparently there is little clinical evidence about aloe, but it is said to have a laxative effect about 10 hours after drinking 2 – 4 ounces of gel or liquid. So, if you have IBS-C, it may be helpful. Choose an unsweetened variety.

However, aloe has several cautions. First, it is not recommended for people with Crohn’s, Colitis or IBS-D. This is because it may cause diarrhea and cramping.

Pregnant women should also avoid aloe. The inner lining of the aloe leaf contains latex and latex can trigger abortion. (Yikes!)

Using aloe long-term may also give you a potassium deficiency, and if you are on any medications – particularly for heart or diabetes, you will need to check with your doctor if aloe is compatible with them.

So there you have it. Please leave a comment below and let Kathy and me know about your favourite herbs for digestion and how the herbs mentioned above work for you.

Also, if you liked this content, sign up on the right for updates and grab a copy of our IBS report. It’s free! ->

See you next time!

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Comments (25)

  1. Karen of No-IBS

Hi Jayne,
Does licorice tea help with IBS? (Or licorice mixed with peppermint.) Very interesting question - I had to do some research to answer it. Dr. James Balch says licorice has many health benefits including cleansing the colon and possibly...

Hi Jayne,
Does licorice tea help with IBS? (Or licorice mixed with peppermint.) Very interesting question - I had to do some research to answer it. Dr. James Balch says licorice has many health benefits including cleansing the colon and possibly preventing ulcers. However, he also writes that you shouldn't take licorice daily for more than 7 days in a row as it can cause an increase in blood pressure, even if you've never had high blood pressure before.

I read a long article on PubMed by a group of researchers who warn against over-consumption of licorice. These scientists agree that licorice is fine - and offers benefits - in small doses, but you can quickly have too much of a good thing.

Based on that information, my personal opinion (but I am not a doctor, so you can check with your physician) is that you could probably drink the peppermint/licorice tea every second day, or a couple of times a week without adverse effect UNLESS you already have high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, history of stroke, severe menstrual problems, or you are pregnant. If you have any of these conditions, avoid licorice. (This list comes from James Balch, MD.)

Hth.

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  1. Jayne

I have peppermint and liquorice tea bag, is liquorice okay for ibs c?

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  1. Karen of No IBS

Hi Sarah,
You're welcome! Thanks for your comment and the tip about the Relax tea.

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  1. Sarah

This is so useful - thank you! I have been at my wits end with a seemingly never ending list of IBS symptoms. I bought the Pukka Relax tea bags (fennel, chamomile and marshmallow) after reading this advice and have noticed a difference. Thank...

This is so useful - thank you! I have been at my wits end with a seemingly never ending list of IBS symptoms. I bought the Pukka Relax tea bags (fennel, chamomile and marshmallow) after reading this advice and have noticed a difference. Thank you! :-)

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  1. Edie

the other day I muscle tested the aloe gel I had , and found that it tested well, but I didn't know why. now I know, an I will use it. Thank you!!

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  1. donna

I have found fennel to be very helpful. I have used chamomile for years and never knew about the ragweed connection so now i will have to watch and see. As far as ginger and peppermint are not a help for me. It can actually give me heartburn, the...

I have found fennel to be very helpful. I have used chamomile for years and never knew about the ragweed connection so now i will have to watch and see. As far as ginger and peppermint are not a help for me. It can actually give me heartburn, the peppermint and ginger has no effects.

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  1. Karen of No IBS

Hi Mila,
That's an interesting combination of herbs. I'll have to try it sometime. Thanks for sending it along.

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  1. Mila

I find peppermint and chamomile helful, but not ginger for some reason.
A herbalist suggested that i should make a mix of 1 spoon peppermint,marshmallow leaf, skullcap and slippery elm bark...

I find peppermint and chamomile helful, but not ginger for some reason.
A herbalist suggested that i should make a mix of 1 spoon peppermint,marshmallow leaf, skullcap and slippery elm bark powder and brew for 30 min with boiled water. Very good for diarrhea, spasms and other gi issues

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  1. sharon

I do have a magnesium problem, I have akidney problem where I cannot take any vit "C" or magnesium supplements ,with the extra magnesium supplements my body reacts with highbloodpressure like 220 over 110 stroke high, and with the vit C I just...

I do have a magnesium problem, I have akidney problem where I cannot take any vit "C" or magnesium supplements ,with the extra magnesium supplements my body reacts with highbloodpressure like 220 over 110 stroke high, and with the vit C I just get kidney pain and a cluster of wierd symptoms,that last for about 8 hours and cause me distress and panic attacks. the high blood pressure always sent me to the ER ,because my MD said that if my pressure got to 220 that is an emergecy. It was really hard trying to figure out what was causing the high pressure because at the time it was happinging I was on 200 mg twice a day of magnesium, and the blood tests always showed that it was normal (at the hospital) I have learned a lot by reading blogs because the kidney sites really do not tell very much about kidneys. but on the blogs you learn about a lot of problems from people suffering, that they never talk about on kidney disease sites.

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  1. Karen of No IBS

Hi Sharon,
Did the doctor put you on supplemental potassium? Dr. James Braly, author of Dangerous Grains, says that in the case of long-term potassium deficiency due to chronic D, magnesium...

Hi Sharon,
Did the doctor put you on supplemental potassium? Dr. James Braly, author of Dangerous Grains, says that in the case of long-term potassium deficiency due to chronic D, magnesium supplementation may be needed and will help to restore potassium levels. He is a big advocate of the gluten-free diet to heal IBD and other chronic illnesses.

With IBD, grains, dairy, legumes and sugar have proven to be big problems for the bowel as they cause inflammation. Also, avoiding chemical toxins - scented products, fabric softener, etc.- really helps as these also contribute to bowel and immune system problems. You might consider looking at the paleo or primal diet - google MarksDailyApple for more info. This way of eating has helped many people resolve digestive problems.

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