Therapeutic Herbs for the Digestive Tract
by Elisa Adams

Mouth

Gingivitis. Add five drops each of thyme oil and eucalyptus oil to 2 tbsp of water and rinse mouth thoroughly after brushing, 23 times a day, especially at bedtime. Kills germs on contact! Also, see your dentist for adequate oral care.

Halitosis. Stop consuming all animal products (beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy) for 21 days, eat primarily fruits and vegetables (raw, cooked, and in soup) and cleanse liver and colon (see below). Add 2 tbsp of liquid chlorophyll to your water 3 times a day and drink hot alfalfa tea before eating, to warm the digestive tract. 

When resuming a “normal” diet, consume no more than one protein food per meal, and add ginger, curry, mustard, cinnamon, cloves and/or cayenne pepper while cooking. Ginger-mint tea is also excellent at mealtimes. When tea is not convenient, use a digestive supplement with protease and ginger.

If constipation is present, do a 23 week colon cleanse and continue to stimulate the liver to produce sufficient bile with LBS II, cascara sagrada, milk thistle, and other liver supporting herbs.

Also, have a dentist check your mouth for any sources of infection, try tongue brushing, and make sure your body temperature is 98.6º F (see www.wilsonstemperaturesyndrome.com).

Esophagus

Heartburn, GERD. Almost all holistic professionals are united in their awareness that the cause of this common and painful disorder is not excess HCL but in fact an insufficiency of stomach acid, an insufficiency of raw food enzymes in the diet, and an excess of cooked food.

The stomach is composed of two parts, the “foyer” and the lower area, where protein foods are broken down into peptides. In the upper area of the stomach, food remains for about 20 minutes and continues to digest in an enzyme solution, using the enzymes in the raw food and from saliva. If no enzymes are present, the food begins to ferment, producing gas. 

As the HCL begins to churn in the lower part of the stomach, the gases cause the cardiac sphincter between the stomach and esophagus to open, and acid will splash up into the esophagus. The acid present is fine; the gassy situation is not.

One simple old-time remedy is to take a drink of honey and vinegar before eating, or even just a tablespoon of Bragg's vinegar, straight, to ensure adequate enzymes and acid for digestion. Adding ginger and digestive enzymes is also useful. Try a raw-foods diet for 21 days, along with cultured foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented beets, fermented carrots, and sauerkraut. Raw-food cookbooks are available at local bookstores. You should feel better immediately!

An often overlooked aspect of this increasingly common malady is the irradiation of foods. By killing the enzymes in our produce, grocery stores are assured a longer shelf life and better-looking produce. Unfortunately, plant enzymes are an essential part of our digestive needs, and they are not found in irradiated foods. Therefore, for people with GERD, buying organic, non-irradiated foods is not just an option, it is a necessity, and so is a diet high in raw vegetables and salads, at least for one year. (See Gut Solutions, by Brenda Watson.)

Gas, Indigestion

This is an upper-GI condition, accompanied by burping, as opposed to the lower-GI condition, where bloating is a more common occurrence. First, make sure the body temperature is 98.6º F, the ideal temperature for digestion. Next, make sure your carbohydrates are digesting, not fermenting! Protein foods, which rot, create a disgusting unmistakable odor, which fat and carbohydrate indigestion does not. Carbohydrates, when macerated and left in a warm environment (the gut), will ferment; this is the process that makes wine, beer, vodka, whisky, etc. Gases are a natural byproduct of fermentation — this is not abnormal at all.

One simple solution is to eliminate all carbohydrate foods from your diet. Bloating and burping will cease immediately! Meats, avocado and salads, green cooked veggies (such as asparagus, broccoli, and leafy greens -- spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, and beet greens), and soups (such as chicken soup with lots of onion, celery, and chopped greens, no noodles or potato, but a bit of butternut squash might be OK), make an ideal diet for a gassy condition.

When reintroducing carbohydrates, be sure to eat carbs with greens, in a non-protein meal. An example would be a baked potato with a large green salad. The enzymes in the greens will help digest the potato. Sprinkling paprika on the potato or adding mustard pickles or horseradish, ginger tea, salsa, or a small bowl of hot and spicy Oriental soup before the potato will also help.

Bloating

As above, in Chinese medicine, this is considered a condition of “cold in the gut.” It needs to be heated by hot and spicy herbal teas and soups, (think ginger and other Indian and Oriental spices). Leaky gut and food sensitivities may also be implicated.

A chronic cold belly will almost inevitably lead to Candidiasis and a leaky gut situation, where incompletely digested protein segments find their way through the lining of the small intestines, leading to confusion in the immune system (what are these proteins? Bacteria? Viruses?) and consequent food reactions. 

Rotting proteins and fermenting carbohydrates both produce abdominal distention and discomfort. A small amount of protein, sautéed with grated ginger and served with mustard sauce or salsa, a small serving of carbohydrate, such as brown rice or winter squash, and lots of green vegetables — which don’t have enough sugars to easily ferment — help eliminate the bloating.

Two of the most common causes of bloating and indigestion are dairy and wheat. If this is the case, no herbs will help until you eliminate the milk and Wheaties and toast/bagels/muffins/noodles, etc. Muscle testing will help determine whether you need to give up milk, wheat, or both.

Celiac 

This is a somewhat underdiagnosed disorder, causing GI distress due to a sensitivity to all gluten foods, namely wheat, barley, rye, and oatmeal. The current treatment is to limit one’s diet to all gluten-free foods, which include all unprocessed fruits and vegetables, yogurt, butter, dairy, eggs, nuts, fish and meats. Being gluten-free for two weeks makes a remarkable change in one’s health. The gene pool where Celiac disease is the most common is the Nordic peoples, with fair and freckled skin and blue/gray/green eyes.

Crohn’s Disease

This is another medically diagnosable digestive disorder, perhaps considered one step more serious than celiac disease. In addition to diarrhea and the risk of dehydration, Crohn’s is incredibly painful. It is caused by a sensitivity to all grains and dairy. For more information on the appropriate diet, see The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (www.scdiet.org). 

Following diagnosis, eliminate all sugars, sugar-cane products, grains, and dairy products, while retaining a remarkably healthy diet of protein foods (meat, poultry, fish and eggs), green vegetables, root vegetables (beets, carrots, potatoes, yams, turnip, onions), other carbohydrate vegetables (such as squash, peas, and beans, which are good sources of fiber), herb teas, and water.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It has been estimated that perhaps 20 per cent of adults in the USA suffer from IBS, with symptoms including pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Less serious than celiac and Crohn’s, it is distressing and very disruptive of one’s quality of life. In IBS, the rhythm of peristalsis through the small and large intestine is disrupted, and weight loss and dehydration can occur.

Blackcurrant tea and jam are good for counteracting diarrhea, as are slippery elm, marshmallow, and chamomile. A good NSP herbal combination, Intestinal Soothe and Build, works wonders for IBS, along with the following diet:

No wheat or dairy, with the exception of butter, which seems to be okay. No raw fruits or vegetables, no salads.

Every day: At least two eggs, as a source of protein and vitamin A, to repair the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Sweet potatoes, at least one daily and preferably two, to provide the perfect fiber for the regrowth of friendly bacteria in the colon and prevent dehydration. (If you absolutely hate sweet potatoes, cooked carrots or winter squash are an option.) Liver, if you like it, up to 3 times a week. All cooked vegetables are fine. Take an herbal combination containing chamomile and slippery elm with each meal. Expect to feel fine in two days!

Constipation

This condition, a precursor to hemorrhoids and varicose veins, is normally found only in technologically advanced countries. It may be caused by any combination of the following: refined starches and sugars, cheese, excess dairy products, supplements high in calcium and low in magnesium, a magnesium deficiency caused by insufficient apples, cornmeal, and leafy greens, and/or iron supplements.

Herbal support for a sluggish colon generally includes herbs such as cascara sagrada, turkey rhubarb, buckthorn bark, barberry rootbark, licorice, ginger, and lobelia. Lobelia is an antispasmodic, helping prevent constriction of the colon.

Senna leaf has some measure of renown as an herbal laxative and is useful for purgatives and antiparasitic formulas, but it causes cramping and is urgent in its results. Cascara is much gentler and may be used safely for a longer period of time.

Hemorrhoids

This uncomfortable enlargement of the veins around the anus is fairly common as a side effect of constipation and sometimes pregnancy. Wheat bran, other whole grains, lentil soup and hummus and other legumes, and cooked leafy greens, with adequate drinking water, make a remarkable difference in a short time. Try organic five-minute oatmeal “parritch” for breakfast (with raisins, cinnamon, and chopped prunes and apricots) for a delicious, inexpensive, high-fiber way to start the day. The herb most highly recommended for hemorrhoids is white oak bark; its tannins work to shrink flaccid tissue. Longstanding, chronic hemorrhoids may still need medical intervention, but a short-term condition should heal up easily.

Quick Herbal Reference

Anxious stomachache. Passionflower, chamomile, hops, skullcap

Appetite, lack. Gentian, horehound, rosemary

Constipation. Cascara sagrada, buckthorn berries, flaxseed, psyllium, rhubarb, yellow dock, senna

Diarrhea. Chamomile, red raspberry leaves, slippery elm, marshmallow, kudzu

Digestion. Blessed thistle, dandelion, gentian, ginger

Gas, digestive. Catnip, fennel, gentian, ginger

Hemorrhoids. White oak bark, witch hazel

Irritable bowel syndrome. Flaxseed (ground), psyllium, slippery elm, wild yam

Liver disorders. Milk thistle, dandelion, schizandra, yellow dock, kudzu, turmeric

Motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea. Ginger

Nausea, flu. Chamomile, ginger, peppermint

Ulcers, stomach or duodenal. Licorice, DGL (deglycerized licorice)

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