For centuries, many botanicals have been used to maintain digestive and liver health or to treat digestive diseases, symptoms or upsets.
Some clinical studies have been done with botanicals but often the information is experiential over time and has been passed down from different cultures.
Usually it’s a specific part of the plant, such as the buds, root, bark, stem, fruit, or flower that’s used for a specific medicinal purpose. Herbal tea infusions are a very popular way of delivering botanicals directly to the GI tract.
Dietary supplements may use the whole plant part or they may extract and concentrate the most active ingredients and standardize the amount of them found in each dose.
Many supplements are formulated with a number of plants or their extracts that act synergistically.
A sampling of botanicals used for digestive and liver health
Artichoke – has been shown to improve liver and gall bladder functions and stimulate the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile. It also interferes with the production of cholesterol and enhances the elimination of cholesterol.
Black Radish – a time-honored remedy for digestive and liver problems. Black Radish encourages the liver to produce bile and lowers the tension of the bile duct. It accelerates movement in the digestive system, relieving constipation. It also boosts the immune system, as it is anti-microbial.
Boswellia – has been used for centuries as an herbal medicine. It has been clinically studied for its effects on reducing inflammation in the mucosal lining of the GI and respiratory tracts.
Fennel – has been used to help flatulence and helps relax the smooth muscles of the GI system.
Ginger – among other uses, it has a soothing effect on the stomach and helps relieve nausea and dyspepsia (indigestion).
Lemon Balm – a member of the mint family, the oil from its leaves has been used to improve appetite and digestion. It is also known for its calming effects.
Milk Thistle (pictured above) – it is believed that it’s the flavonoids in milk thistle that help support the liver’s important role in detoxification.
Peppermint Oil – alleviates upset stomachs, inhibits the growth of certain bacteria and soothes and relaxes muscles.
Rosemary – an herb found to be helpful for indigestion and to alleviate stomach pains. It also has a calming effect.
Slippery Elm – used by native Americans in North America, through its coating properties it is taken orally to relieve diarrhea and stomach problems. (Also used to relieve coughs and sore throats.)
Thyme – has antibiotic properties and has been found to be effective against intestinal infections.
Wormwood – acts as an antiseptic, keeps the bowels clean by eliminating gastrointestinal microbes. It is also a useful remedy for liver and gallbladder problems.