7 Gut Healing Herbs
Updated: Jul 7
"Everything starts from the gut." This is one of the most common statements I tell my patients. Reason being, gut health is so vital to our overall wellness. In TCM, digestion is the cornerstone where Qi (energy) is generated. What we consume really does matter on a whole. The Qi provided from the food and fluids we consume will allow all the other systems in our body to function at their best, which will keep us thriving.
In Western perspective when you think of the gut, most people think the stomach and the intestines but the gut is a whole system of organs that begins with the mouth then moves to the esophagus, the stomach, the intestines, all the way down to the rectum and anus. This system is known as the gastrointestinal tract.
A lot can happen over a period of time to this digestive pathway if it isn't take care of or its environment isn't properly maintained. Damage to the gut can be from long term use of medications, frequent antibiotic use, an unbalanced diet, a diet rich in processed foods, high and long standing stress, and not properly detoxing and eliminating waste from the body. Over time, this can lead to digestive issues such as ulcers, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut syndrome, and eventually more serious conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune conditions.
How do we know if we are experiencing an unhealthy gut? It best to first take a look at your daily and/or lifestyle habits to see how these could be potentially effecting your overall gut health. Then see a trained practitioner who can do a little more digging and possibly run some tests (most of these you can do at home) to see where your gut health is at currently.
Once you know how everything is functioning in the digestion department, you can move forward in the right direction. Along with the guidance with your practitioner, there are many healing foods and herbs that can be utilized to restore the gut.
Here is a list of my favorite herbs I love to recommend to heal the gut.
This well-known fruit has been used in cuisines and added to many dishes as a side for decades but its use for healing the gut has become increasingly popular. Plantains contain high levels of antioxidants and immune boosting properties which help to keep the body strong but definitely the gut. It is contains large amounts of fiber and is considered a resistant starch which makes passing stool easier. It also contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, B6, C, Potassium, Magnesium, and Iron.
2) Marshmallow Root
This herb is not the same as the lovely sweet clouds we put in our hot chocolate or s'mores. It is an herb known for its mucus producing abilities that help to coat the lining of the intestinal tract and the respiratory system. This mucus layer calms inflammation and eases muscle spasms in the stomach and intestines, even great for a dry cough. Marshmallow root also has the ability to stimulate the immune systems functions, protecting us from harmful pathogens.
This herb has been used to assist the body's healing by increasing cell production and also creating a mucus-like lining along the digestive pathway. Due to its cell producing ability, Comfrey is great for a speedy recovery with gastrointestinal injuries and ulcers. As great of an herb as this one is, there is some controversy of its high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which has been known to cause severe liver damage. So if have a history or have been diagnosed with liver issues or damage, this herb should be avoided. However, if you would like to use it, it is highly recommended to use it under the guidance of a trained practitioner.
4) Licorice Root
In the same way as the previous two herbs, licorice root is also known for its gut healing properties due to its soothing, mucus forming strengths. Licorice root decreases inflammation in the gut by reducing the acidity and removing bad gut bacteria from the intestinal lining.
We have all heard how turmeric is great for inflammation. But we don't hear much about how awesome it is with healing internal tissues. Inflammation can cause many digestive issues such as ulcers, intestinal bleeding, and even infection. Turmeric assists in healing by reducing the inflammatory response and helps to bring a balance or "tone" to the tissue, shrinking the ulceration, stops the bleeding, and prevents infection. This root herb is also great to assist your liver in digesting fats so it makes it easier for digestion. When the liver isn't working at its best, the digestive system can become overloaded with an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria, poor nutrient absorption, and possibly causing inflammation.
6) Aloe Vera
This common plant has been used for decades to improve digestive health. It helps to digest sugars and fats. It also helps to keep things moving smoothly by moistening the stool for easy evacuation. Aloe vera has a helping hand in healing the gut by reducing inflammation and irritation in the stomach and intestines. Typically the gel or the juice is used in smoothies to keep digestion in check. The juice is recommended to be purified. If consumed unpurified, this could potentially lead to stomach cramping and diarrhea. The gel can be a bit too moistening for some individuals as well, to the point of loose stools. If this occurs, reduce the frequency of use or avoid all together and discuss with your practitioner if you should continue.
7) Slippery Elm Bark
The awesome slippery elm bark has been a digestive aid for years. It has been known to increase mucus production in the gastrointestinal lining, reducing inflammation, and lowering an acidic environment. In doing so, it helps to maintain the balance of the gut microbiome. Slippery elm bark is also a great herb for GERD due to its protective mucus that lines the esophagus.
These are some commonly known herbs and commonly used. However, their gut healing properties aren't as widely known but most people using these wonderful herbs are still reaping the awesome benefits!
Definitely give them a go, however, if you aren't sure which one to start with, always check in with a well-trained herbalist or practitioner who is familiar with the gut and the herbs.