Thursday, May 22, 2014

Anise, Fennel, & Oregano for IBS digestive aids


Anise, which is botanically related to fennel, is an ancient spice indigenous to the Mediterranean. It was cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and noted in the works of Dioscorides and Pliny. Anise has been grown in Italy continually since Roman times for use as a digestive aid. Anise was introduced to central Europe in the Middle Ages and by the 14th century was so popular in medieval England that King Edward I placed a special tax on the spice to raise money to repair London Bridge. 

Anise seeds have a very sweet, pronounced licorice taste and contain a volatile oil, anethol, that aids in the digestion of rich foods and settles the stomach. Anise stimulates gastric juice production, relieves nausea, and is helpful for colic. It regulates digestion, making it useful for both constipation and diarrhea. 
Anise is also helpful for belching, gas, bloating, vomiting, chronic diarrhea, gastrointestinal cramps, and sluggish digestion. It's a mild sedative and is useful for calming stress-related nervousness and relieving insomnia. Anise has anti-spasmodic and anti-fungal properties, and helps prevent fermentation and gas in the stomach and bowels. 

Anise is available as small, black, dried seeds from spice shops or the bulk section of health food stores, and can be easily brewed into tea. Lightly crushing the seeds before brewing them with hot water will increase their strength. Whole anise seeds can also be chewed. 

Fennel ~ Exceptional for IBS Bloating and Gas

Fennel has anti-spasmodic properties and it stimulates the production of gastric juices. High volatile oil fennel tea is exceptionally beneficial for bloating and gas, which tend to be the most difficult IBS symptoms to overcome.

Fennel is also useful for gastrointestinal and menstrual cramps, bowel irregularities (studies have shown that fennel regulates contractions of the small intestine), colic, heartburn, indigestion, and stomachaches. 

The primary volatile oils in fennel are anethole, fenchone, and estragole. The higher the volatile oil content of the fennel, the more effective fennel tea will be for IBS symptoms. 
Anethole has a chemical structure similar to dopamine, a chemical that is naturally present in the body. Dopamine is known to have a relaxing effect on the intestine. Fennel also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, probably also as a result of the anethole, which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticarcinogenic. 

Fennel's documented use goes back to ancient China, and the plant is mentioned in virtually every European work on herbal medicines from ancient times to modern day. The mild licorice-flavored (though unrelated to the actual licorice plant) seeds are native to the Mediterranean, were known to the ancient Greeks, and were spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. 

In the 1st century A.D. Pliny attributed 22 healing properties to fennel. According to Chaucer, the 14th century English poet, fennel was one of the nine holy herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. 

The United States once listed fennel as an official drug to be used for digestive problems, and today the herb is still used daily as an after-dinner digestive aid from India to Italy to Spain. 

Using fennel every day will actually help prevent bloating and gas in the first place, but if you're already suffering from these problems fennel will help relieve them. 

Fennel is available as a dried, light greenish brown seed in spice shops or the bulk section of health food stores, and can be easily brewed into a delicious tea. Lightly crushing the seeds before brewing them with hot water will increase their strength. Whole fennel seeds can simply be chewed (a custom you may be familiar with if you've eaten in Indian restaurants), though they tend to get caught in my teeth so I prefer the teas. 


The use of oregano, which has benefits similar to peppermint, is documented by the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks used it for convulsions and muscle cramps, and the herb is mentioned by Aristotle as an antidote to poisoning. Traditional Chinese medicine has used oregano for centuries to relieve vomiting and diarrhea. Early American colonists brewed the leaves for muscles cramps and stomach troubles. 

Oregano contains two volatile oils, thymol and carvacol, that act as anti-spasmodics, increase the production of gastric juices, ease bloating and gas, and relieve menstrual cramps. 

Oregano also aids nausea and morning sickness, and has a calming effect as a muscle relaxant. 

The dried or fresh leaves of the herb make a warm, spicy tea that will probably remind you of pizza. 
Oregano oil has anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsant, pain-killing, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Pure oregano oil can be found at health food stores and is typically taken by adding 2-4 drops to a cup of hot water or herbal tea (the pure oil should never be used undiluted.). Enteric coated oregano oil capsules are also available - the enteric coating ensures that the capsules dissolve in the intestines instead of the stomach, which could cause heartburn

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