Whether drinking peppermint tea after a heavy meal or popping a ginger chew when feeling nauseous, these natural, commonly used remedies are referred to as carminatives. Typically quite fragrant and rich in volatile oils, carminatives work by stimulating the peristalsis of the digestive system and relaxing the smooth muscles of the stomach. This in turn supports digestion and the elimination of gas that has accumulated in the digestive tract.
What does this mean?
Let’s start with the concept of peristalsis. Simply put, peristalsis is a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract. It begins in the esophagus, where strong motions of the smooth muscle move food to the stomach. Carminatives work by encouraging and regulating these gut contractions. This is largely a result of the volatile oils they contain, which help increase gastric emptying and are mildly irritating to the gastric mucosa (a component of the stomach lining). This causes peristalsis to be increased, thereby relieving cramping and expelling gas.
Like many natural remedies we use today, carminatives have been used for hundreds of years both in natural medicine and in culinary traditions. In many cultures, they are often ingested as an ‘after-dinner drink’ known as a ‘digestif’, as an herbal tea or are directly incorporated into cooking. Common examples include peppermint, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, chamomile and lemon balm.
Did you know that peppermint, arguably the most well known carminative herb, has been extensively studied for its effects on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? In fact, studies have shown peppermint oil to be highly effective for the relief of abdominal pain and other symptoms of IBS. For those reasons it is commonly prescribed by gastroenterologists and naturopathic doctors alike.
We’ve all experienced the discomfort of gas and bloating after a eating a big meal, or even simply by eating too quickly. Carminative herbs have been shown to effectively help improve digestion, ease bloating, break down gas and even relieve stomach cramps. Whether by adding carminatives to meals to help promote better digestion, or by taking a supplement post-meal, carminatives provide natural, immediate relief from digestive upset without the possible side effects of some conventional digestive aids.
Are you looking for relief from gas and bloating? Try our Bye Bye Bloating supplement, which is a blend of three widely used carminatives including peppermint, fennel and ginger.
By: Kylie McGregor