5 Herbs to Support Gut Health

While gut health is something many people associate with probiotics, the term bad bacteria and 'SIBO', there are other aspects we need to consider. For today's blog post I'm focusing in on 5 herbs that are useful in maintaining your gastrointestinal lining, rather than the bacterial side of things. Also, before we get started - if you're not into herbs, stay tuned for a post relating to foods that support this area!

The integrity of your gut is important for many aspects of your health ( some may even say all aspects ) - why ? Because this lining is what we call a 'selective' barrier, allowing nutrients in to the blood stream, and waste products to be removed out and further excreted down the line. If there has been damage done to your gastrointestinal lining, you may have some issues surrounding your digestion. Some possible symptoms may be bloating, excess gas, pain, 'sensitivities' to foods, skin problems, cravings, rashes, a poor immune system, 'brain fog' or memory loss plus loads more. If you think this may be you - it's best to speak to your health care practitioner about these symptoms first. This blog post is intended for the care, and upkeep of your gut lining, rather than as a guide to fix it. We need to be continually looking after this lining, because for many people diet and lifestyle factors, as well as other medications can have a negative effect.

By including these herbs in your weekly health and wellness routines, you will be able to counteract the negative effects of things like alcohol, sugars, even parasites - and keep your gut lining intact. 

The way in which all of these herbs work is essentially through the same mechanism of action, for this reason I'm not going to do a long write up on how each one will work, but instead explain here. 

These herbs contain many polysaccharides, which allow the plants to become mucilaginous when mixed with a liquid. This mucilage provides soothing, demulcent actions on whatever it comes in to contact with (ie. your gut lining as you drink the mixture) The word 'demulcent' means that these herbs soothe inflammation and irritation - in the case of the gut, by forming a protective barrier (eg. over an ulcer) allowing the gut lining to heal and not be further damaged. An added benefit is that all of your other smooth muscle within the body will also heal with these herbs - think your mouth, throat eosophagus all the way down, and even your vagina. If you’d like to know more about this effect leave me a comment below and I’ll do a post about it.

 

1. Glycyrrhiza glabra | Licorice root:

You can usually find licorice root available as a powder, which can be mixed with water until it becomes mucilaginous (it will turn into a sludge ) and you want to quickly drink it. Because glycyrrhiza has many other benefits, you could also incorporate the powder into recipes such as bliss balls - though this will give more of the prebiotic effect and less of the demulcent.

Animal studies have this herb to have an anti ulcer effect, be useful in the management of functional dyspepsia as well as potential prebiotic properties. 

2. Althea officinalis | Marshmallow root:

Once again this can be bought as a powder and mixed with water. I have more commonly seen raw marshmallow root roughly chopped up. With this you will want to make a deco toon (essentially a cup of tea you simmer for a longer period of time - I have a blog post explaining the process here )

According the the European Medicines Agency, marshmallow root can be used for the relief of stomach and gut discomfort. 

3. Calendula officinalis | Marigold:

This is the herb that is best for your daily wellness rituals in regards to your GI tract because it's gentle, and can be used in different forms rather than just the powder or root. ( this is why it's the base of the Glow tea ! ) while still having demulcent, and soothing effects for your gastrointestinal system.

Calendula has been found in animal studies to resolve the effects of acetic induced ulcerative colitits. 

4. Ulmus rubra | Slippery elm:

This product is actually a bark, and like the marshmallow and licorice root can be found in powder form, chopped roughly or in capsules. You could make a decoction with all three of these herbs together for more potent gut healing tonic. 

5. Aloe barbadensis miller | Aloe vera:

Something you will have seen more likely for skin soothing externally - but it works in much the same way on the inside ! Be sure you’re not just eating the gel you have at home though, as this may contain other ingredients. Instead try the juice, or purchase some capsules containing the gel.

 

A note; these mucilaginous herbs may also help with constipation (depending on the cause) as they can add more ‘bulk’ to the stool which causes more contractions in the colon (a normal process). However aloe Vera contains a constituent called ‘anthraquinone glycosides’ which can have an actual laxative effect, so please be mindful in which herbs you choose ! There are also other benefits and possible precautions for all of these herbs, so if you’re thinking about taking anything ensure you discuss with a qualified health care practitioner to make sure there will be no interactions. (For example licorice can result in high blood pressure so is not suitable for those with this issue)

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post, and if you include any of these herbs for gut health - Id love to know ! Leave a comment below or send me a direct message via email or Instagram if you have any questions.

 

kindest always,

Sarah 

References

Jalilzadeh-Amin, G., Najarnezhad, V., Anassori, E., Mostafavi, M., & Keshipour, H. (2015). Antiulcer properties of Glycyrrhiza glabra L. extract on experimental models of gastric ulcer in mice. Iranian Journal Of Pharmaceutical Research, 14(4).

Mehrabani, D., Ziaei, M., Hosseini, S., Ghahramani, L., Bananzadeh, A., & Ashraf, M. et al. (2011). The Effect of Calendula Officinalis in Therapy of Acetic Acid Induced Ulcerative Colitis in Dog as an Animal Model. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 13(12), 884 - 890.

Peterson, C., Sharma, V., Uchitel, S., Denniston, K., Chopra, D., Mills, P., & Peterson, S. (2018). Prebiotic Potential of Herbal Medicines Used in Digestive Health and Disease. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, 24(7), 656-665. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0422

Raveendra, K., Jayachandra, Srinivasa, V., Sushma, K., Allan, J., & Goudar, K. et al. (2012). An Extract ofGlycyrrhiza glabra(GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-9. doi: 10.1155/2012/216970

Sabaghian, M., Keshavarzi, Z., Bibak, B., Vatanchian, M., & Mohammad Rezapour, T. (2014). Effect of aqueous extract of aloe vera leaves on gut-brain axis response following acetic acid -induced gastric ulcer in male rats. Journal Of North Khorasan University Of Medical Sciences, 6(2), 347-357. doi: 10.29252/jnkums.6.2.347

Watts, C., & rousseau, B. (2012). Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. Journal Of Investigational Biochemistry, 1(1), 17. doi: 10.5455/jib.20120417052415

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