ayurvedic spices for digestive health

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?

References

  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/

References

  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/