If you ever struggled in indigestion after a meal, instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet, try an alternative. These natural remedies for indigestion include both things you can do (such as eat slowly or take a walk after meals), as well as herbs and other botanicals that can lend you a bit of botanical help.
Relax, eat slowly, and chew thoroughly.
It's surprising, but one of the best remedies for better digestion has less to do with what you eat, and more to do with how you eat. Digestion is a parasympathetic process (1). That means digestion increases when you're relaxed and calm (2). Relaxing your body encourages the release of enzymes that help digest your food.
Identifying and releasing stress, practicing mindful eating and taking it slow can help improve digestion (3). In addition to improving digestion, relaxing and eating slowly has other benefits, too. Eating slowly tends to increase a sense of satiety, meaning that you eat less but still feel full. People who eat slowly may also snack less between meals (4). As a result, your digestive system is less overburdened by excess food, and you eat more intuitively appropriate amount for your body.
As you eat slowly, you'll also have the opportunity to chew your foods more thoroughly. Chewing your food thoroughly allows you the opportunity to better savor its flavor, as it helps better release the volatile oils that give your foods its flavor (5).
In addition, chewing thoroughly helps to mix your food with the enzymes in your saliva, such as amylase which breaks down carbohydrates or lingual lipase which breaks down fats. This helps to kickstart digestion, easing the burden on your other digestive organs such as your stomach and gut.
In Practice: Say a blessing + put your fork down
To relax before your meals, consider saying a blessing, praying, expressing gratitude, or meditating before you begin your next meal. Then, set your fork down between bites, ensuring that you have a chance to savor and enjoy each bite you take.
Try bitters before your meal.
Bitters, including both cocktail bitters and digestive bitters, are a tincture of bitter herbs designed to support digestion. They act by triggering bitter taste receptors, which then spurs a cascade of digestive responses including increasing saliva, bile, and other digestive juices. As a result, bitters support the digestive process (6).
In addition, the bitter flavor may also inhibit cravings for sugar (7). Further, tasting something bitter before you eat not only helps kickstart digestion, but it may also help curb caloric intake - in essence, helping your body to feel satisfied with less (8).
In addition, many bitter herbs are also highly anti-inflammatory and full of various antioxidants that help support cellular health while combatting inflammation. Dandelion is highly anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants (9), while citrus peel is rich in flavonoids (10). Other popular bitter herbs include angelica which supports hormonal health, artichoke leaf, and gentian, among others.
In Practice: Sip on bitters + start with salad
Try a dropper full of bitters taken under the tongue or squirted into mineral water before your meal. We're fond of these Chai Spiced Bitters by Mountain Rose Herbs.
In addition, you can also start your meal with a salad of bitter greens such as arugula, dandelion, or chicory.
Sip something sour.
As with bitterness, tasting something sour stimulates digestion, triggering a cascade of responses such as increasing enzyme-rich saliva and other gastric juice. If you've ever bitten into a lemon and felt that intense buzzing sensation in your jaw, you know precisely how acidity can increase saliva production.
Sipping something sour, such as lemon juice or vinegar diluted in water, supports digestion. Lemon juice in particular supports the kidneys (11) and liver (12, 13).
As with lemon, raw vinegar also offers some measure of digestive support. Apple cider vinegar diluted in water is a popular folk remedy intended to alleviate indigestion when taken before a meal. While it's a natural remedy for indigestion, it also may support better blood sugar balance (14) and liver health (15).
In Practice: Splash a little vinegar or citrus into your water.
Try splashing a little flavored vinegar into your water before you eat. Rather than straight apple cider vinegary, try the living tonics from Acid League. Their Passionfruit Oolong is our favorite because of its sharp acidity finding balance with aromatic, sweet-tart passionfruit.
You can also make your own vinegar-based drinks such as this cherry shrub. And a squeeze of lemon or lime added to your water is always pleasant.
Drink ginger tea.
Ginger is a traditional folk remedy for morning sickness, indigestion, and upset stomaches. It has a sweet floral note spiked with a fiery heat, and it works well as a carminative herb, which means that it helps ease indigestion and relieve excess gas. In addition, ginger is highly anti-inflammatory (16).
Ginger has been traditionally used for hundreds of years to ease nausea, and current research appears to support that traditional use (18). Researchers have examined the role ginger might play in easing nausea associated with pregnancy, motion sickness, and chemotherapy, which favored the use of ginger over placebos (19).
While the research on ginger has focused on easing nausea, in herbalism, ginger is also used for indigestion, excess gas, as well as for promoting better circulation and hormonal balance. It's also an easy remedy to find, since you can find both fresh and powdered ginger in most grocery stores at an affordable price.
In practice: Try ginger tea
To make a ginger tea (properly called a decoction), you'll chop about a ¼ pound of the herb and add it to a saucepan containing 1-quart cold water. Then bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, and immediately turn the heat down to low. Allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat, cool to room temperature, and strain.
Alternatively, Pique Tea makes a delicious ginger tea that is triple-screened for toxins, and it dissolves in both hot and cold water. I keep a few packets in the car in case I start to feel sick to my stomach during a long and winding drive.
Chew on mint leaves or fennel seed.
Like ginger, both mint and fennel have a long history of use in herbal medicine. Herbalists use both herbs to help ease indigestion, especially after meals. You can see this in the tradition of offering an after dinner mint at restaurants, which not only freshens the breath, but also helps soothe the stomach especially after a heavy dinner. Similarly, the North Indian tradition of offering mukwas (which contains fennel among other spices) both freshens the breath and eases post-dinner indigestion.
In traditional European herbalism, mint is considered a gentled, soothing herb that calms and relaxes both the nervous system and the digestive system. Fennel seed is also traditionally used to support the digestive system, ease indigestion and relieve painful gas. Both herbs are commonly used in gripe waters (herbal preparations for colicky babies), and a are delicious in culinary applications as well.
In Practice: Chew on mint or drink mint and fennel tea.
You can chew on fresh mint leaves or fennel seeds to support digestion, especially after heavy meals. They also make excellent tea, and you can find both herbs in most grocery stores and natural markets, or you can order them online from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Try an herbal remedy or supplement.
I also like to keep my medicine cabinet filled with a few simple herbal supplements that are easy to take and designed to help soothe an upset stomach or relieve gas. These natural remedies for indigestion are nice to have on hand and require no extra preparation. They're also an essential for travel.
Most of these natural remedies contain a blend of herbs as well as certain nutrients, such as electrolytes, designed to help ease nausea or restore digestive balance. In addition, you're getting benefit from more than a single herb (without having to keep dozens of jars in your cupboard).
In practice: Keep some supplements on hand.
We're particularly partial to the remedies from Hilma, which are founded on good science and impeccable research.
Upset Stomach Relief contains chamomile, ginger, and marshmallow root in addition to other stomach-soothing botanicals.
Gas Relief contains both mint and fennel, in addition to other carminative herbs.
Stomach reset contains amla (which is high in vitamin C), goji, and mineral-rich coconut water powder in addition to electrolytes, and I like to recover after a bout of nausea or similar digestive issues.
Take a walk.
Walking after meals encourages healthy digestive function as well as metabolic health. While gentle movement supports better (and speedier) digestion, vigorous training right after a meal may inhibit it. Instead, focus on gentle, casual movement that allows you to relax and enjoy the world around you. This relaxed, quiet movement is a natural remedy for indigestion, and you may find your self with less heartburn and indigestion.
In practice: Try a 20 minute walk after dinner.
To enjoy the benefits that walking has on your digestion, remember to keep your movement relaxed rather than vigorous. Now's the time to look at flowers, enjoy a casual conversation, rather than to train hard.
- Frank R. Noyes, Sue D. Barber-Westin, 40 - Diagnosis and Treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Editor(s): Frank R. Noyes, Sue D. Barber-Westin, Noyes' Knee Disorders: Surgery, Rehabilitation, Clinical Outcomes (Second Edition), Elsevier, 2017, Pages 1122-1160,
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