5 Ayurvedic Spices for Better Digestion

5 Ayurvedic Spices for Better Digestion

In This Article

Don’t Be Shy About Digestive Trouble

Do you have occasional digestive discomfort? Did you know that Ayurveda has been using a superherb blend of five common spices, which not only help in the moment, but actually heal the problem at the root?

Many people are embarrassed to discuss digestive symptoms, even with their doctor, so often, these important issues will go untreated for years!

The most common reported digestive symptoms are gas, bloating, indigestion, and abdominal discomfort.1 Early detection, not sweeping such symptoms under the rug, is critical—not only for digestive recovery, but for long-term health. If you have prolonged digestive concerns of any kind, please get checked by your doctor.

Once cleared of any major problems, I recommend resetting upper digestive strength and efficiency naturally with foods, herbs, and spices. In Ayurveda, five spices in particular have been used for thousands of years with incredible success.

Ayurveda’s Incredible Digestive Spices

  • Fennel
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Cardamom
  • Ginger

I think the most profound aspect of these spices is how they reset function (rather than create dependencies) and that they are as gentle as they are powerful.

Chewing a handful of cumin, fennel, cardamom, and coriander seeds after a meal is still common practice in India. This is why you’ll often find a bowl of fennel seeds awaiting you at the door as you exit your favorite Indian restaurant.

Effects of Ayurveda’s 5 Digestive Spices

  • Increase bile flow2
  • Support pancreatic enzyme activity2
  • Boost small intestine enzyme activity2
  • Decrease gas + bloating5
  • Improve fat + sugar metabolism2
  • Promote optimal weight4
  • Support microbiology health5
  • Increase healthy growth rate of beneficial bacteria5
  • Stimulate digestion6
  • Quicken intestinal transit time, supporting healthy elimination3

Numerous studies suggest these five spices build digestive self-sufficiency. What’s fascinating about these studies is that these spices seemed to support the body’s natural ability to digest, rather than just addressing symptoms.

For example, while studies show that these spices improve fat and sugar metabolism, they seem to do so by boosting more of the body’s natural production of bile acid and pancreatic enzymes!2,6 Digestive enzyme supplements temporarily provide enzymes to digest protein and starches, but these spices amp up the body’s ability to produce its own digestive enzymes and bile.2,6

This is an example of resetting digestion, rather than brewing dependency on digestive aids.

In one study, ginger was shown to support healthy intestinal wall cells, as well as boost proliferation of good gut microbes.5 In another study, ginger and coriander supported the intestinal system’s natural ability to block the bacterium H. pylori from proliferating and adhering to the stomach lining.4,15

The spices seem to work with the body’s digestive intelligence, supporting better digestive function, a healthier environment for digestive microbes, healthier villi, and improved intestinal function.2,3,5

Five Spices of Digestion Up Close

Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum

lifespa image coriander seeds for digestion ayurvedic spice

Coriander is perhaps the most cooling of the five digestive spices. The seeds are commonly used in herbal remedies for a host of concerns. The leaves, known as cilantro, are slightly less cooling than the seeds.

The seeds are best known for their digestive properties of cooling excess pitta in the body and intestinal tract. Therefore, it is used effectively for occasional heartburn. It is a natural carminative, which means it prevents or relieves gas from the intestinal tract, and is beneficial for numerous heat-related pitta conditions. They have also been shown to increase natural production of bile from the liver and digestive enzymes from the pancreas.8

  • Rasa (taste): Bitter, pungent
  • Virya (action): Cooling
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Pungent
  • Doshas (body types): Balances vata and kapha, but especially pitta

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

lifespa image cardamom seeds for digestion ayurvedic spice

As a member of the ginger family, Ayurvedic texts celebrate cardamom’s ability to make foods easier to digest and enhance the taste of most ordinary foods. Its taste is most recognizable in a cup of Indian chai tea. Cardamom neutralizes the stimulating effects of caffeine, allowing chai to boost digestion without taxing the nervous system.

Cardamom is known to reduce the extreme acidity of many foods and caffeinated beverages, including coffee; it is the signature spice in traditional Turkish coffee. When cooked into your food, it balances excess mucus, gas, and bloating in the stomach and small intestine.

Cardamom has also been found to support healthy liver function, supporting healthy levels of cholesterol and weight loss.9

  • Rasa (taste): Pungent, sweet
  • Virya (action): Heating
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet
  • Doshas (body types): Balances vata, kapha, and pitta

Cumin Seed (Cuminum cyminum)

lifespa image cumin for digestion ayurvedic spice

Cumin is perhaps the most powerful digestive tonic of the five spices of digestion. It has a strong taste and, while very effective alone, it blends well in both taste and effectiveness with the other four spices for boosting digestion and reducing gas and bloating.

It is much like coriander, in that it cools the digestive system while boosting digestive strength. It supports healthy assimilation, proliferation of good microbes, as well as detoxification of the intestinal tract.

In one study, cumin was found to support occasional digestive abdominal discomfort, bloat, and gas, while supporting healthy levels of mucus production throughout the digestive tract.10

  • Rasa (taste): Pungent, bitter
  • Virya (action): Cooling
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Pungent
  • Doshas (body type): Balances vata, kapha, and pitta

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)

lifespa image fennel for digestion ayurvedic spice

Fennel is best known as the tri-doshic digestive spice. Not only does it combat gas and bloating in the digestive tract,13 it is extremely gentle for digestive distress12 and is one of Ayurveda’s favorite lymph-movers, containing natural antioxidant compounds that support healthy lymphatic function.11 As a lymph mover, it also supports healthy lactation and radiant skin on both the inside and outside.

Fennel seeds are considered the most sattvic (promoting purity and balance) of the spices, because of their very balancing effect on vata, kapha, and pitta. It is one of the best herbs for digestion, as it strengthens digestive fire without aggravating pitta, and is beneficial for mild-to-moderate intestinal cramping, nausea, and dispelling flatulence.

  • Rasa (taste): Sweet, pungent, bitter
  • Virya (action): Slightly heating
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet
  • Doshas (body type): Balances vata, kapha, and pitta

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale

lifespa image ginger for digestion ayurvedic spice

In Ayurveda, ginger is called the universal spice because of its many health benefits. It is heating for the upper digestion, with its pungent taste, but cooling and soothing for the lower digestion, as a result of its sweet aftertaste. It is therefore considered to be tri-doshic, meaning it balances vata, pitta, and kapha (although, in excess, it can be overly heating to upper digestion). Ginger is the classic kindling to start digestive fire in the stomach.

Ginger has been studied to support the body’s natural production of stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, and liver bile—acting as a digestive reset for all aspects of the upper digestive system.14 Scientific studies have shown it supports healthy microbes and intestinal wall, while acting as a digestive stimulant for nutrient assimilation.5

  • Rasa (taste): Pungent, sweet
  • Virya (action): Heating
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet
  • Doshas (constitutions): Balancing for vata and kapha, but too much may increase pitta

At LifeSpa, we’ve combined these five herbs into one easy capsule: Gentle Digest. Take two before meals for 2-3 months to reset your upper digestive strength for digestive difficulties.

Have you tried Gentle Digest or some of its constituent spices? What did you notice?

Thank you for visiting LifeSpa.com, where we publish cutting-edge health information combining Ayurvedic wisdom and modern science. If you are enjoying our free content, please visit our Ayurvedic Shop on your way out and share your favorite articles and videos with your friends and family.

Dr. John


  1. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/11/22/survey-shows-74-percent-americans-experience-gi-discomfort/
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/food.200390091/abstract
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/J157v04n02_01
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465045/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23765551
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010973
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531700800305
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12577586
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5557534/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990147/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4379888/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12868253
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202632/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

49 thoughts on “5 Ayurvedic Spices for Better Digestion”

    • That is a good question I would like to have answered also. I imagine that if you soak the seeds first like other seeds and nuts [which “sprouts” them] it would be just as beneficial. I often use ginger in my smoothies, and add to my kombucha and I can’t imagine that cooking it would make it any more beneficial.

      • Hi Fayette,
        Yes, ginger can be used in smoothies, cooking, tea or a capsule – whatever works best for you.

    • Yes, you can certainly add them to smoothies since you can eat each of these raw. In fact, fennel seed is used as a great breath freshener and has a bit of a licorice taste!

  1. Ginger root should be avoided by people who have glaucoma and perhaps other eye ailments.
    You really need to warn people about any potential negative effects of any of your products.
    This is a responsibility you must not avoid!!!

    • Why? I have glaucoma and never heard about ginger root being bad for your eyes.
      What is the source of your information?

      • Yvette a troyan, did you ever get a response to your question about ginger root and glaucoma? How about the coriander, fennel and cumin? I drink that as a tea and was just diagnosed so am trying to figure out what is ok and what isn’t. Thanks.

        • Exceptional spices for glaucoma: nutmeg, anise, cumin, some say cardamom. Grape seed and heirloom seeded grapes/unsulfured raisins (chew the seed too), as well as spirulina, are great for glaucoma. Ginger can be used to aid in lowering intraocular pressure by dissolving buildup of solutes, pus, etc, and can help to refine eye tissue. Only dry ginger should be used in this case, but not in excess, and not with improper combinations (see below).

          The primary risk with spices for glaucoma is when they are used concurrently with improper foods for the condition. Large amounts of meat and grease, salt, dairy, and especially ferments like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, etc – all of these are usually contraindicated when trying to heal glaucoma. If blood sugar/insulin issues exist, this can change a little, and in that case coriander can become a useful spice. Breathing/cardio exercise along with blood-nourishing and blood-cleansing foods are also very helpful.

          All just my experience, but hope this helps someone!

          • Oh, and I forgot to mention that there are many herbs used as spices that can help too. Parsley and cilantro and basil are three (though I haven’t found cilantro or basil to be that helpful), some say rosemary and similar “pine smelling / resinous / turpentine-like” herbs, and citrus peels. I’m sure there are others!

        • Oops… one last thing: fennel seed in small quantities is OK for glaucoma, as is fennel leaf, but the bulb and stalk are variously described as helpful, ineffective, or contraindicated depending on the specific person.

          • Hello Vacheslav! I assure you that my full given name hasn’t been withheld on a mischievous basis. In any case, I don’t deal with social media, have any websites, or anything to gain or lose by providing my name, and the information I’ve provided is purely out of kindness and compassion, not to procure notoriety. As I have very few connections on the internet to my name, I’ve seen it as best to post helpful information under a pen name I used to write under, as a symbol to myself that I’m giving advice for other people’s benefit first and foremost, and that I shouldn’t stand to gain from what is intended as an attempt at altruism.

            Hope this cleared some confusion! Best wishes. 🙂

  2. There appear to be numerical footnotes in the article, specifically 2-6. Do these refer to a specific report? I did not see anything comparable on the Fox News page.

    • Hi Fayette,
      Yes, the footnotes refer to specific articles and reports. The Fox News one links directly to the article that is being referenced.
      Only #2 and #7 are not hyperlinks, the rest should take you right to the source. Are the links not working for you?

      • This reply helps those of us who would not buy at this time – we can see that 1. not much is needed, and we can understand that 2. ginger is powdered, and we can use the information that the 5 spices 3. may be taken around 15 minutes before a meal. The not much is needed helps those of us who would go overboard and end by creating more problems. -_-

  3. I use these herbs in powder form after dinner with little Mishri… sugar candy… This is quite effective for digestion for gas etc

  4. are these safe to add in tiny amounts to make special herbal tea for babies?

    similar to babies magic tea?

    or would this be just too much too soon?

  5. I have always used coriander cumin fennel seeds toasted for chewing. Do you have another recipe that would incorporate cardamom and ginger?


  6. Myrtle Clower I have IBS and I’m a diabetic can II us these 5 herbs I’m also on about 13 different medications and I’m over weight I have been trying to lose my belly fat but nothing seems to work

  7. Hi, I know you want to sell your capsules, but would you be willing to tell us the proportions of these herbs to each other so that we could put them on our food? Thanks.

  8. I am having issues with all spices and ginger, fennel, onion, sweet potato, shellfish and garlic. They either give my stomach issues, cause insomina, or make my heart palpitate harder. All of this started this year. I had my stomach baterica tested, i didnt have basically any good bacteria or bad. Is there a reaction you think between thr lack of any bacteria and these items?

  9. Hi John,

    I have read your “Eat wheat” book where you also mention how powerful is mixing those 5 spices together. I am into cooking so always have those 5 spices in my kitchen. What’s the proportion of each spice that you have to use when mixing them up? (the info is not in the book either)
    I guess that way more ginger than cardamom right?


  10. Hi John , if I take also tea of licorice and marshmallow roots.. Can they both (your gentle digestion formula and the tea ) be taken before meal ? Many thanks for your advise

  11. Hi Dr. John,
    Are the seeds best cooked in the food or taken raw? In your formula are they raw?
    Many thanks for all the valuable information you put out! Truly outstanding.

    • Hi Filipa,
      Thanks for your question. In our formula they are dried, powdered, and encapsulated. So yes, they are raw. The raw seeds/herbs are generally more potent as supportive supplements, but to have these spices cooked into your food also delivers benefits. Slow simmering like in many traditional Indian dishes also delivers the benefits to your food and your body. You are on the right track, and why not let your food benefit your health?!
      Be well

    • Cardomom, coriander, cumin, and fennel are ALL spices that come from SEEDS. I am not sure where you got the idea that only fennel is a seed.

  12. I generally follow an Ayurvedic diet and cook with these spices all the time. My 7 year-old son is having digestive troubles, belly aches after eating and almost all of the time he reports having a sore belly. He does not have much of an appetite and it is obvious to me that his agni is low. I don’t think he is drinking enough water and has internal dryness. I can tell him to drink more during his school day, yet he is a vata-type child and he forgets. Giving him herbal combinations, like triphala and trikatu, is the equivalent of subtle torture to him. I mix the powders with honey and have a glass of juice ready to wash it down. He eats kichadi about twice a week.

    Do you have any other recommendations for helping him to increase his fire and improve his digestion?

    • We use fennel seed powder for kids a lot in India for digestive symptoms referred by you, please make a powder of fenel seeds and give him a tea spoon twice daily with little sugar in milk or in water what ever he likes

  13. I currently use a 50/50 blend of fennel seed and carom (ajwain) seed that I chew on after a meal. Just wondering if the carom would be compatible with your Gentle Digest formula? Carom, as much as I like it, doesn’t seem very gently, it is very pungent. Maybe I can just use them separately or rotate them.

  14. It doesn’t matter if you follow this advice if you still have diary with your lunch! or worse eat microwaved food!
    Many have weird allergies, and think why did God send me this torture? Fortunately, as always it is your fault! Should not have trusted your magician with that toxic shot!
    So not to leave you in despair, there is a solution. A tea spoon of sulfur twice a day, preferably half an hour before eating will heal you!

  15. Hi John. I have started listening to your podcast and been blown away. Thank you.
    I’d like to mix up these 5 ingredients so I can just conveniently take a teaspoon (or whatever you recommend?) each day (either take whole or add to food). A few questions. Grateful for advice.
    – How much of each spice?
    – Do I use whole seeds or ground?
    – What proportions?
    – Do I mix with some water to form a paste and just keep in the fridge?

    Thank you

  16. I fully agree with all points in above article and having eaten these spices in my food for past 42 yrs in India I can corroborate the facts. Thanks a lot to Dr John for his endeavours to provide patients with safe and natural remedies like in this article

  17. This may sound unusual, even bizarre for some, but I have been taking 2 spoons of gau mutra or distilled cow urine with a little water first thing in the morning and I haven’t had a stomach problem in decades. Hundreds of thousands of people do this in India.

    • Hi Barbara,

      It is hard to say, as everyone’s digestion is unique. Please read the product description to learn more about how this herb can help a person in order to determine if it is right for you.

      Should you need more individualized care, work with your doctor, nutritionist, or meet with Dr. John in consultation.

      LifeSpa Staff


Leave a Comment