Health & Wellness, Nutrition

How I Found Relief from Digestive Distress: The 4 Best Herbs for Intestinal Health

If you suffer from digestive distress, you know how troublesome and embarrassing it can be. I know—because I’ve been there. There was a time when I used to suffer from extreme GI issues seemingly all the time. You see, I have low stomach acid, so no matter what I ate, my gut would constantly become inflamed. I would go out to dinner while on vacation with my husband and not be able to walk back to the hotel because of painful stomach cramps. And I’ve had to leave parties and dinners with friends more than once due to abdominal cramping.

Whenever I would seek help from a doctor, all I would hear was “It’s IBS,” or “It’s just stress.” Some even told me it was simply in my head.

Frustrated, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And now, I’m happy to report that I no longer suffer from painful stomach cramps that cause me to miss out on life. This is thanks, in part, to what I consider four of the best herbs for intestinal health for helping me find relief.

Read on to learn more about these incredible digestion-supporting herbs and how they may help you, too.


The 4 Best Herbs for Intestinal Health

There are many herbs that can help to promote healthy digestion. Below I’ve listed what are in my opinion the four best herbs for intestinal health. By using these herbs—in combination with a modified diet, exercise and stress management—my gut has been mostly resolved, without medications.

As always, before you take any new supplements, check with your healthcare provider first.


1. Slippery elm: Soothes and protects the digestive tract.

Also known as Ulmus rubra, slippery elm is a tree with bark that forms a mucilage, which means it becomes a gel when mixed with water. You can imagine this gel coating your gut lining. It’s soothing, calming, and restorative—like a good “mud mask” for your gut!

Slippery elm has been used in North American herbal medicine as a soothing remedy for hundreds of years. Native Americans used slippery elm as an ingredient in salves to treat wounds and other skin irritation.

It was also used as an oral remedy for cough and throat irritation as well as digestive health issues including diarrhea and stomach aches.

A study found that a blend of slippery elm and some other ingredients can be helpful in easing symptoms of constipation-predominant IBS. [1]

Lab studies have also revealed that slippery elm has prebiotic properties. Researchers speculate that it can likely help feed the “good” bacteria in your gut and promote healthy gut microbiota. More research is needed to confirm this theory. [2]

Slippery elm is also often used to help relieve conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, more research is needed to confirm slippery elm’s efficacy in treating these conditions.


2. Ginger: Helps relieve nausea.

Ginger (Ginger zingiber officinale) is a member of the same family as cardamom and turmeric. It has been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years all over the globe. As a digestive aid, ginger is one of the best herbs for intestinal health because it helps to relieve nausea. [3, 4]

While ginger has also been used traditionally to treat other conditions, including colds, arthritis, and migraines, more clinical research is needed to scientifically confirm these uses.

I personally love a cup of ginger tea and adding ginger to curries, baked goods, and even golden milk. It’s also amazing as an essential oil.


4 Herbs for intestinal health - Dr. Pingel


3. Marshmallow root: Calms an irritated digestive tract.

What I love about marshmallow root (Althea officianalis) is how nurturing and anti-inflammatory it is to the digestive tract. It’s like hugging the intestines in fluffy marshmallows!

Not only is marshmallow one of the best herbs for intestinal health, but it also has been used as a remedy for thousands of years to help relieve a variety of ailments. These include asthma, bronchitis, sore throat, IBD, indigestion, and skin inflammation. [5, 6, 7 ]

Think of marshmallow root as cool and soothing. Similar to slippery elm, marshmallow root forms a mucilage that can help calm the mucous membranes in an irritated digestive tract—for example, if you’re dealing with GERD or IBS. It is also antispasmodic, full of nutrition, and a relaxant. [8]

Because of their mucilaginous properties, both marshmallow root and slippery elm are also sometimes used to help improve intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut.” [9]


4. Fennel: Relieves gas.

Can I just say, I LOVE FENNEL! I add fennel (Fennel foeniculum vulgare) to many of my tinctures for flavor. Plus, it’s fabulous in curries, vegetable dishes … honestly anything.

You can chew fennel seeds as well after a meal to stimulate digestion. In fact, a bowl of fennel seeds often sits by the door as you walk out of an Indian restaurant for this very reason.

Have you ever roasted fennel bulbs in the oven? Trust me—they are incredible! Add fennel to some roasted cauliflower or potatoes in the oven and you’ll see what I mean.

It also blends fabulously with some romesco sauce as a dip. This is a delicious way to enjoy one of the best herbs for intestinal health!

Research has revealed that fennel can provide health benefits to aid numerous health conditions. For gut health, fennel is mostly used as an antispasmodic for the digestive tract and as a carminative to aid digestion, which means it relieves gas. [10]


Key Takeaways on the Best Herbs for Intestinal Health

  • For relief from digestive issues, some of the best herbs for intestinal health include slippery elm, marshmallow root, ginger, and fennel.
  • Be sure to speak with your healthcare first provider before trying any new supplements.


You might also enjoy: Stress and Digestion (3 Ways to Improve Digestive Health)


  1. CristinaMB

    December 5, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Greta tips! I suffer from GERD and use slippery elm and ginger. They really help!

    1. Dr. Tricia Pingel, NMD

      December 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      They are so helpful!!! Thank you for your comment! Be well!

      1. CristinaMB

        December 6, 2019 at 2:16 pm

        Thank you! You too!

  2. Sam

    June 17, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Dr. Pingel, where do you buy your herbs? And are there any tea brands that you recommend?

    1. Dr. Tricia Pingel, NMD

      June 28, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      There are herb stores around – or online 😊

  3. Samantha

    June 18, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Dr. Pingel, do you mind sharing what brands of tea you really like? 🙂 And do you just buy your herbs at your local grocery store?

    1. Dr. Tricia Pingel, NMD

      June 28, 2020 at 9:49 pm

      Yogi tea, traditional medicinals….those are readily available! 😊

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