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When you think about gut health, you might think in terms of “this food is good” and “this food is bad.” While there are entire food groups that can be good or bad for your gut, you can break it down even further into individual ingredients, like herbs and spices.
Here are 10 herbs and spices with microbiome-healing powers — try adding these to your next breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
This Indian spice aids digestion and soothes your digestive tract. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compounds, it has been found to reduce stomach pain, cramping, and flatulence. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects may explain its effectiveness in preventing relapses of ulcerative colitis.
How to use it: Add turmeric to rice dishes, soups, and stews, or try golden milk. Golden milk is a powerful beverage of turmeric and dairy-free milk along with maple, pepper, and cinnamon, plus tastes great when served warm!
Turns out there really is a reason your mom used to serve you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach. This old-world spice can improve languid digestion and reduce gas. Ginger also works some magic on nausea. It’s used to prevent or reduce vomiting caused by pregnancy, chemotherapy, and motion sickness.
How to use it: To prevent gas and aid digestion, add slices of fresh ginger to your meals, especially soups and stews. To soothe a tumultuous tummy, sip on warm ginger tea or add fresh ginger to soda water. Most ginger ale these days won’t take care of that tummy ache, so it’s best to opt for fresh ginger for the best results.
Part of the ginger family, cardamom has been a staple in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, but newer science also touts its benefits. Cardamom can help relieve bloating and gas, and its antispasmodic properties slow stomach cramping. On top of all that, cardamom works well as a diuretic and can reduce bloating.
How to use it: Cardamom is a versatile flavor, often used in both sweet and savory dishes. Sprinkle ground cardamom in yogurt, smoothies or even on protein and vegetables. You can also consume it as a hot tea, by adding cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and honey to a pot of water. Heat the water for 30 minutes, then add it to low-fat milk and enjoy warm.
Ayurveda practitioners use fenugreek to balance the body, enhance digestion, and prevent stomach disorders. Its powerful anti-inflammatory actions help soothe the mucus membranes in your digestive tract. Fenugreek seeds contain a great deal of mucilage, which can help move things along more smoothly. Fun fact, fenugreek seeds are native to India, so they can be found in many Indian dishes.
How to use it: You can sprinkle fenugreek seeds on savory dishes, like salads or even roast the seeds for stir-fry.
Dandelions are so much more than weed-like flowers that pop up in your backyard each year. The roots of dandelion flowers are rich in inulin, an important soluble fiber and prebiotic that supports the growth of healthy bacteria and fungi in your gut and reduces constipation.
Dandelion roots and greens are also rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, which help the good bacteria in your gut thrive.
How to use it: Try dandelion greens raw on salads, or steam them and add to other greens, such as spinach. You can also consume dried dandelion root as a tea.
You probably use peppermint as a breath-freshener, but did you know it can soothe stomach cramps and ease indigestion? Another herb with antispasmodic properties, research finds peppermint to be incredibly effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
How to use it: Chop fresh peppermint leaves and sprinkle on salads or savory dishes, add fresh peppermint leaves to iced tea, or brew a hot peppermint tea.
Cayenne pepper is a spice of many trades: it may boost your metabolism, keep you full, and aid digestion. Cayenne can increase fluid production in your digestive tract and help send enzymes to your stomach, which helps digestive processes run smoothly.
How to use it: Sprinkle cayenne over any meal that you want to give a spicy boost. Cayenne goes great on chicken tacos and scrambled eggs. You can also slice whole cayenne peppers as a salad topping, but be cautious, as their heat level is difficult to gauge!
For generations, herbal medicine has utilized fennel seeds to speed up digestion, reduce gas, and detoxify the body. Fennel does this through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
How to use it: From Indian to Italian, many cultures use fennel in their cuisine. Try adding fresh fennel bulbs to soups and salads, or steam them to eat as a side dish. Fennel tea is also said to have a soothing effect on the stomach.
For something most often used as a garnish, parsley boasts pretty powerful digestive remedies. This herb can prevent indigestion, reduce water retention in the belly, and minimize gas production.
How to use it: Parsley is super versatile — toss a handful into a salad or on mashed sweet potatoes, add it to soup, pasta, roasted vegetables, and more. Parsley also goes great with fish dishes.
If you think you’ve never eaten cloves, think again! Cloves are a main ingredient in the spicy warmth you taste in gingerbread desserts. They’re equally as helpful as they are scrumptious.
Cloves boast antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effects that may improve the overall health of your microbiome. Cloves also have a “gastroprotective” property that increases the production of gastric mucus, which can protect the lining of your digestive tract.
How to use it: For an upset stomach, try mixing a tablespoon of powdered cloves with honey and hot water for a powerful soothing beverage. You can also sprinkle powdered cloves on yogurt and soup. Its flavor meshes well with earthy vegetables and gourds — try it in pumpkin soup.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for relevancy. Its first publish date was September 8, 2019.