Digestion is a normal function controlled by our autonomic nervous system. It should be a smooth, painless process of breaking down food to get energy and nutrients to our cells. But for a growing number of people, this is not the case. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 60 to 70 million people suffer from digestive diseases. (1) Doctors think these statistics should be much higher for two reasons: data isn’t available on every digestive disease, as well as some people don’t report their issues to their doctors. They choose to suffer in silence. Digestive problems can develop in both genders of any age group.
Digestive problems are a dangerous health issue to ignore. Chronic digestive issues can interfere with sleep, and result in malabsorption of vital nutrients. (2) Lack of restorative sleep and essential nutrients will lead to more chronic issues. Digestive diseases are even linked to psychological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis. (3)(4) There is also a novel association between digestive diseases and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. (5) As you can see, a poorly performing digestive system has negative consequences on the entire body. The domino effect of digestive diseases can create a cacophony of issues. This leads to confusion for any person in a health crisis and can cause one to question, “How can so many problems arise at once?” The answer is, if the gut isn’t healthy, in time, no bodily system can be healthy.
With digestive complaints being so common, how can we avoid digestive issues? What herbs are good for digestion and support digestive health? Nature has given us some amazing medicinal plants that can enhance our digestion and restore the health of our intestines.
Mimosa Pudica (also called ‘sensitive plant’) is a creeping plant that belongs to the pea/legume family of plants. It grows in warm climates and has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
The seeds of the Mimosa Pudica plant are hydrophilic, meaning they attract water. When you consume Mimosa Pudica seed, it absorbs water in the digestive tract. This absorption action draws toxins out of your intestines, so they are eliminated in your stools. When Mimosa Pudica seed turns into this gelatinous mass, it also becomes an excellent scrubber for the intestinal walls. This cleaning action encourages pathogens that are adhering to the intestinal walls to let go and be swept out in your stools. Mimosa Pudica helps in having better bowel movements to get all ‘uninvited guests’ out of your intestines.
Pathogens, parasites, and toxins create inflammation wherever they are present. They take over your gut microbiome, rob you of nutrients, and weaken your immune system. To obtain true digestive and intestinal health, removing pathogens should be a top priority! Proper digestion and gut health cannot be achieved while they keep multiplying. In addition to helping you sweep these health-robbing critters out of your system, Mimosa Pudica seed can help calm the inflammation they generated while they were in the gut. Mimosa Pudica can help turn down the inflammatory response, allowing your gut to heal. (6)
The pancreas plays several critical roles in our health. It works as both a digestive organ by secreting pancreatic juice into the small intestine and as an endocrine organ by releasing specific hormones. The pancreatic juice contains digestive enzymes vital to the complete breakdown of food. Without it, your food would only digest partially, leading to digestive problems such as leaky gut and allergies. The pancreas also secretes the hormones insulin, glucagon and pancreatic polypeptide. Mimosa Pudica plant can have anti-inflammatory and protective effects of the pancreas. It helps to promote its regeneration keeping this vital organ healthy and well functioning. (7)
A recent surge of food recalls due to contamination with E. coli or other bacterial strains leaves us wondering if there is a way for us to help strengthen or protect ourselves. Mimosa Pudica was tested against several bacteria and pathogens. It had significant antimicrobial activity against all of them. (8) Mimosa Pudica could help strengthen our defense against these pathogens as well as mop up toxins produced by them.
Mimosa Pudica also has antidiarrheal and anti-ulcer properties. It can also help protect the liver from damage. All these powerful benefits make Mimosa Pudica seed the top natural remedy for digestive health.
Ginger has been used as a natural remedy herb in many traditional cultures. Besides being a delightful spice in foods ranging from savory to sweet, this root can have powerful benefits on the digestive system. It can be consumed as a pickled condiment, a soothing tea, spice, or used as an essential oil. Like Mimosa Pudica, ginger contains numerous active compounds that support digestive and intestinal health.
H.Pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach. When this bacteria grows out of control, it can lead to painful stomach ulcers. Ginger has antioxidants that can help prevent H.Pylori overgrowth and protect the stomach. (9)
Ginger has shown to help relax the gut and relieve spasms. (10) Ginger was shown to improve stress-induced irritable bowel disorder. (11) Ginger is also known to reduce gas and bloating, making digestion more comfortable. Ginger is known to lessen nausea, a common digestive issue, especially among children.
In addition to easing digestive discomfort, ginger also has proven to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral activity. These are essential qualities make ginger a great addition to your daily routine for digestive health.
Triphala is a unique mixture of three fruits that has been used for digestive issues in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. The three fruits, amla, bibhitaki, haritaki are dried and then combined in this natural remedy to help heal the digestive system. This "fruit cocktail" is usually found in capsule, powder, or tablet form.
Triphala has the remarkable ability to suppress the growth of undesirable microbes while encouraging the growth of good microbes! Its antimicrobial effect can help your body reduce the bad pathogens in the gut. It is even effective against some strains of drug-resistant bacteria. (12) But it also has the simultaneous action of encouraging your healthy gut microbes to proliferate. (13) This is due to Triphala containing the valuable polyphenols that our gut bacteria turn into metabolites that prevent oxidative damage. The double action of knocking out the bad microbes and enhancing the growth of good ones makes Triphala a potent digestive health item in your arsenal.
Another compelling benefit from Triphala is it seems to promote the regeneration of intestinal villi. (14) Intestinal villi are finger-like structures, almost like the bristles of a soft brush lining the wall of the small intestine. This is where we absorb the components of our digested food. All these villi significantly increase the surface area of our small intestine, allowing us to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients. These microscopic villi can begin to atrophy and erode, leaving you with much less surface area to absorb nourishment. Not being able to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients will exacerbate any health crisis you are already experiencing. Several factors can contribute to their atrophy. Celiac disease, autoimmune disorders, medications, Crohn’s disease, SIBO, and parasites are all situations that can lead to villi atrophy. Triphala helps to restore the lost protein of the villi so you can begin to glean the most nutrition out of what you eat.
Triphala has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit the growth of specific cancers, including cancers of the colon and pancreas. (15) Triphala increases the cellular toxicity in cancer cells but not healthy cells. This induces an apoptotic effect (the cancer cells kill themselves) helping to protect you from their potential growth.
With its wide range of benefits, Triphala makes a perfect remedy to pair with Mimosa Pudica seed.
Aloe Vera has been used topically for sunburns or skin health for generations. Did you know it offers digestive health benefits as well? The gooey, gelatinous leaves of this succulent plant offer several uses.
As with the other natural remedies mimosa pudica seed, ginger, and Triphala, Aloe Vera has a potent antimicrobial effect, even with drug-resistant strains of bacteria. One study revealed that Aloe Vera not only inhibited the growth of six different drug-resistant bacterias, but it inhibited them from forming biofilms. (16) Biofilms are a group of microorganisms that stick together and also on surfaces inside our bodies. They then coat themselves with a protective shield that prevents our defense systems from recognizing them. If they remain unrecognized, they grow and continue to plague us by causing inflammation and multiplying. So preventing them from ever forming this protective shield is important. Then our bodies can recognize them as a threat and begin to eliminate them.
In addition to its antimicrobial effects, Aloe Vera has excellent antifungal properties and can inhibit their growth. A protein from the Aloe Vera had potent antifungal activity againstCandida Parapsilosis, Candida Krusei, and Candida Albicans. (17)
Aloe Vera has a soothing effect on the digestive tract and can help eliminate constipation. Aloe Vera is also a rich source of plant polysaccharides that can help stimulate the growth and healing of cells. (18)
Most of us think of Dandelion as a pesky yellow weed, ruining the look of our green lawn. But dandelion root has some beautiful properties that enhance digestion. You can consume Dandelion Root as a tea, an extract, or in capsules. Some compare the taste of roasted Dandelion Root tea with coffee. Dandelion Root tea has no caffeine content.
Dandelion Root is an extremely bitter herb. Most people are not a fan of bitter tasting foods. This aversion to bitter is a protective mechanism, our brains equate bitter with the idea that something terrible is about to be ingested. Not everything bitter is bad for us, however. Drinking bitter roasted Dandelion Root tea, for example, can help stimulate the secretion of digestive juices. This stimulating effect can help to relieve gas, bloating and discomfort by having enough enzymes and stomach acid present at all points of the digestive process.
Dandelion Root has proven to be a fantastic herb for intestinal health. A recent study suggests that Dandelion Extract helps with digestion, increased the thickness of the gut wall and increased absorption. Villi length, width, and the number of total villa also improved! It also concluded that there were better immunity and integrity of the gut wall. (19)
The diuretic effects of Dandelion Root have been used for centuries. This effect can help flush out toxins, giving our drainage pathways a boost, and supporting our liver and kidneys to detox.
Dandelion, like Triphala, also has anticancer properties. It has shown to block breast and prostate cancers from spreading. (20) This bitter herb can improve your digestion and studies suggest it may help protect you from cancer at the same time.
Moringa Oleifera is a plant grown in tropical regions. It has been nicknamed ‘The Miracle Tree’ by the people local to where it is grown because of its many uses medicinally. It is drought resistant, grows quickly and is full of valuable nutrients. This makes it an important food source in the regions where it is grown. Moringa Oleifera is so efficient at absorbing toxins, and it acts as a form of water purification in regions where the water is typically unsafe to drink.
Moringa Oleifera has demonstrated significant antimicrobial and antibacterial activity. (21)(22) As with mimosa pudica, and many of the other plants mentioned, we cannot stress enough how important antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties are. Getting rid of the bad microbes in the gut is the first order of business in robust digestive health.
Moringa Oleifera has also had a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the digestive tract and body. The anti-inflammatory properties were significant in digestive problems such as IBS and colitis. (23) It can even help to down-regulate the genes involved in the production of inflammation. (24)
A well functioning liver is part of a healthy digestive system. Moringa Oleifera seems to protect the liver from harmful substances so it can regenerate and function normally. (25)
Just as there is more than one way the digestive system can develop problems, there are more than one great plants to help us prevent and overcome those problems. Nature provides several ways to address our digestive issues so we can heal our intestinal tract, which will help bring health to the entire body. Use a few of them in combination daily to achieve robust digestive health.