As an herbalist, people are often surprised to find that I struggle to maintain healthy eating habits — pretty much just like everyone else. I have a notorious sweet tooth and I have other vices, like bread and cheese. The combination of these amounts to a lot of sugar, which in turn, wreaks havoc on my digestive system and leads to a bloated, gassy stomach. While the ideal response is to stay away from these foods, I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes use my knowledge of herbs to offset, and thus enable, my bad behavior.
A perfect example of this happened yesterday, when I made a nice, healthy Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls from my favorite recipe website, http://www.onceuponachef.com/. Unfortunately, the flour in the matzo balls triggers unsightly and uncomfortable bloating. I’ve found a number of herbal bitters that alleviate bloating so I’d like to share with you one of the herbs that I use as a cure for bloated stomach – dandelion root tea.
Benefits of Dandelion Root Tea
Some may be surprised to learn that the pesky weed we spend so much time rooting out of our lawn, is actually a powerful medicinal herb with a long tradition of use as both food and medicine. While the whole plant (root, leaf, and flower) is edible and useful for medicinal purposes, the root, in particular, is best for use in alleviating stomach bloating. That’s because, unlike the leaf, dandelion root also stimulates the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which in turn triggers pancreatic enzymes and bile to enter the small intestine for breakdown of cholesterol and fat into their base chemical forms. Once food has already passed from the stomach and moves into the small intestine, it’s the effective breakdown of cholesterol and fat that will bring us the needed relief from indigestion.
How to Prepare the Tea
Dandelion root can be sliced up thin to cook with meals, when it’s fresh and tender, however, I typically use dried dandelion root. To extract the medicine out of the dried root, you would normally need to cut it up into small pieces, bring it to a rolling boil in plain water, then let simmer for 20 minutes. However, the secret to avoiding this is to grind the root into a coarse powder, using a coffee bean grinder. Put the powder into a fine mesh tea strainer and pour boiling hot water over it to let steep for 10-15 minutes. The taste of the root is only mildly bitter – it doesn’t have nearly the same bite as the leaf. Add honey to give it a little sweetness. I typically see the stomach bloat going down within 2-3 hours after drinking it. The best part is that, even though some people may be allergic, in general, dandelion can be taken in large doses without toxic or other adverse effects, therefore, you can feel free to drink several cups of tea throughout the day.
Have you ever used herbs to relieve stomach bloating? If so, which ones and how well did they work for you? Would you be interested in hearing about other herbs that aid in the digestive process?