It may seem too early to start planning for the ubiquitous holiday season post-meal bellyaches, but it never hurts to be prepared. After all, you could just have an upset stomach well before Thanksgiving dinner. There are many herbs and spices that we should keep on hand in the kitchen, not just for cooking, but for those times when all is not right inside our tummies.
Herbs and spices have been used for millennia to calm upset stomachs and aid digestion, as well as treat a plethora of other ailments. Cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves, for example, have been used as often for their soothing properties as they have been as antiseptics.
Traditional medicines derived from plants, herbs, seeds, bark, and roots have a long history. Until relatively recently, most medicinal compounds were derived from natural sources, and many still are. While some sources make outrageous claims about the restorative properties of certain plant-based remedies, it’s best to seek out medical studies from respected institutions (which are often research facilities outside the US). Be skeptical, and look for a preponderance of evidence before buying into claims that seem too good to be true. This applies to pharmacological remedies as well.
There are many ways to use herbs and spices, the most common being their inclusion in food. While that is an effective way to obtain the benefits of many, such as seeds, for many others, teas or infusions are better ways to release their beneficial compounds and oils.
Here are a few well known remedies for ailments resulting from the failure to launch oneself away from a fully loaded dining table before it’s too late.
Chamomile is good for indigestion, and has a sedative effect. Chamomile tea works well after dinner, or in the evening. Chamomile is usually taken in tea form, and it can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, if hot tea is not your thing.
Peppermint is probably the most popular remedy for tummy troubles. While peppermint can be taken as a tea, its beneficial oils are not readily dissolved in water. Alcohol based infusions coax out more of the beneficial oils from the leaves. You can prepare a peppermint tincture, or make a mint julep. Marjoram has benefits very similar to peppermint, and can be consumed in food, or as a tea.
Basil taken as a tea is very effective for what ails your tummy. Basil ice cream might also be a great way to finish off dinner and counteract those four helpings of turkey and stuffing.
Ginger is one of nature’s penicillins. There are not too many times when ginger is not a go-to remedy. Ginger tea, besides tasting divine, is very effective for indigestion or motion sickness. There are so many ginger candies, teas, and supplements available, but nothing packs the power and punch of fresh ginger. I like to make a fresh ginger and black pepper syrup, which I then add to water, or lemonade when my stomach starts growling louder than our Westie does.
Cloves are about the simplest remedy of all – you can include them in your food, add them to tea, or just pop a clove into your mouth and suck on it. Cloves are also a very effective gum stimulant, reducing bacteria in your mouth as they calm your stomach.
The links below include instructions on how to use various beneficial herbs and spices, concoct tinctures, and brew medicinal teas. Explore the internet to find even more information on these and more unusual remedies, but always partake wisely. At least if you have a fresh supply of cloves and a bottle of peppermint extract, you’re ready to take on those digestive demons.
(Header image: Fresh mint leaves muddled with lemon slices in water make for a refreshing tummy ache tamer. Muddling or crushing mint leaves in an alcohol based liquid releases more of the peppermint’s beneficial oil. It’s time for a mojito, you say?)