June 2022 Issue | Make Your Own Herbal Infusions for Better Digestion
By Lauren David
Social (distanced) gatherings with friends and family and (virtual) happy hours are often centered around food. Overindulging can be easy. Sometimes we eat more than necessary because the food tastes so good and we don’t want to stop. Other times we overeat due to stress or anxiety. We usually know we’ve had too much because our bodies are savvy and let us know, usually with a bout of indigestion or an unsettled stomach. Unfortunately, there isn’t an undo button but we can be proactive and make a simple, warm beverage of specific herbs—tea. Well, a herbal infusion or tisane, is the more accurate name since “tea” comes from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. Drinking an infusion is comforting and will help the digestive tract as it goes to work in breaking down the food. So before you open the medicine cabinet, consider reaching for your spice rack or tea collection first.
How to Make an Herbal Infusion
An herbal infusion consists of combining two ingredients—herbs and boiling water. Measure out or eyeball the quantity of herbs, typically one tablespoon of dried herbs or two tablespoons of fresh herbs, into a tea colander and place in your mug. Pour hot water into your cup and infuse for 15-20 minutes. The longer you steep the herbs, the stronger the flavor will be.
When possible, choose a reputable brand of “teas” if you prefer the convenience of tea bags or buy high-quality herbs from a nearby herbal store, online, or if the supermarket carries them because this remedy will be more effective. The best way to detect freshness is when herbs are vibrant in color and fragrant.
Here are three herbs to consider when your stomach isn’t feeling well.
Chamomile, Chamomilla recutita
Chamomile is a lovely herb with delicate yellow and white flowers. This beautiful plant may be under the radar, like a humble friend, who has more wisdom than they let on. Moms and grandmas often recommend chamomile as a soothing aid for the digestive tract, whether one is suffering from indigestion or an upset stomach and there’s a reason behind it—Chamomile has carminative properties. This means it expels and reduces gases. Because chamomile contains bitters, the longer the herbs infuse, the stronger the bitter flavor will be.
Peppermint, Mentha x piperita
Mojitos may come to mind when we think of mint but this aromatic herb is incredible when it comes to stomach issues. One of the many varieties within the mint family, Peppermint, is a go-to for easing digestion and relieving an upset tummy because of its carminative properties. Peppermint also has antispasmodic properties, which can reduce and relieve stomach cramps. Sometimes headaches can be provoked by indigestion or an overindulgence with certain foods and the anodyne properties, a natural pain reliever, can help reduce discomfort. Peppermint is worth having on hand so a tisane can be made quickly to calm the belly at a moment’s notice.
A versatile culinary herb, thyme, is a favorite in most homecooks’ spice collections. But thyme is also well-regarded as a medicinal herb, too. Thyme relieves and expels gas because it is a carminative herb so it’s naturally helpful for the digestive tract. Although there are numerous varieties of thyme, choose the most common ones—thyme or lemon thyme, which offers a fragrant citrus flavor. Better yet, combine thyme with peppermint for a delicious concoction.
Jazz up your tisanes with a spoonful of honey and wedge of lemon and/or a splash of milk (or your non-milk varieties) to create a delicious and comforting drink.