Whether it's stress, pregnancy, overeating, or something else, upset stomach happens to us all. Avoiding triggers like certain foods and other stressors can help, but sometimes you feel sick before you know it.
Herbs provide a whole world of support for indigestion, nausea, and other digestive issues. Some can soothe an upset tummy, while others help your body digest better. Many have been used for centuries (and longer) to support gut health and to help in "emergency" situations.
Finding the right herb or herbs will depend on what the problem is as well as what your body reacts to the best. You may need to try a few single herbs or some combinations before finding what makes your body happier. With that in mind, here are the top tried and true herbs for nausea and upset stomach.
Herbs for Nausea and Upset Stomach
Ginger is one of the oldest remedies for upset stomach and nausea. It's highly regarded for its ability to help with nausea and vomiting from morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy, and medication. (1)
You can take ginger in many forms: crystallized, powdered in capsules, as a tea, raw with salt, and as ginger ale (the real kind). Adding lemon and honey to ginger tea can further help with nausea.
Ginger is a warming herb that stimulates digestion and helps with sluggishness. If you already have a "hot" digestion, you may wish to try a more cooling herb.
Peppermint and Spearmint
Peppermint and spearmint are herbs with similar benefits for easing nausea and indigestion, although peppermint is the stronger of the two. Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that relax muscles in your digestive tract. It can help with stomach cramps, nausea, gas, and IBS symptoms. (2)(3)
Spearmint also calms an upset stomach and eases nervousness that may be causing stomach pain. It's milder than peppermint, which often makes it a better choice for children with upset tummies.
Both spearmint and peppermint are most often used as a tea for digestion, although inhaling peppermint oil can help with nausea as well.
If stress or nervousness is causing your digestive problems, chamomile is known to help with stress and anxiety. (5) It's also a gentle herb with a sweet flavor that children find more appealing than other herbs. In fact, chamomile has a long history of helping colic and upset tummies.
Fennel seeds are another long-used remedy for digestive health. In certain cultures, the seeds are simply chewed on after a meal to aid digestion. Making a tea with the seeds is another way to ease indigestion after a meal or get your stomach ready for food before a meal.
Drinking fennel tea consistently will help your body break down, digest, and absorb nutrients from food more effectively. You can also use it to help with nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain. (6)
Even though lemon isn't technically an herb, it's on this list because it has been shown to help with nausea, especially from morning sickness. Research hasn't determined why yet, but lemon and other sour flavors can reduce nausea.
Just smelling a freshly sliced lemon or inhaling lemon essential oil can calm your stomach. (7) Adding the juice to hot water with honey or combining it with ginger are also remedies for queasiness.
Cinnamon is a warming herb that helps with a sluggish digestion and bloating. It's especially helpful as a tea when you've overeaten, perhaps around the holidays.
The great thing about cinnamon is that it combines very well with other herbs for nausea and upset stomach and makes remedies more tasty. Try making a tea with cinnamon, ginger, honey, and lemon to help with both stomach and menstrual cramps.
It also works well with peppermint, spearmint, cardamom, and fennel.
Cardamom is another spice that's been used for ages to help with stomach upset and overall digestive health. It can be used on its own or mixed with other herbs like cinnamon to help sluggish digestion.
Some studies indicate that cardamom may be especially helpful for stomach ulcers. (8) You can take advantage of it in a tasty way by making homemade chai with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper.
Lemon balm is closely related to mints like peppermint and spearmint. It has similar antispasmodic properties that calm your digestive system. You can combine it with chamomile to help with both upset stomach and nervous stress.
You can also add lemon balm to your list of remedies for digestive upset in children. It's very gentle and has a mild, sweet lemony taste that is welcomed by many. Making a tea with lemon balm is the easiest way to use it, but it can also be used to make a glycerite (a sweet tincture made with glycerin).
Licorice has a very polarizing flavor, but it contains compounds that will coat and soothe an irritated digestive tract. It's known as a demulcent herb, which means it moisturizes and calms inflamed tissues.
Taking licorice root as a tea will help to coat the lining of your stomach and ease pain. Licorice extract has also been found to help heal stomach ulcers and reduce symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and bloating. (9)
If you like the taste, you can drink a cup of licorice root tea to help your stomach. It's also frequently combined with other herbs to increase their effectiveness and to hide its strong flavor.
Marshmallow root (not to be confused with the fluffy, white treats) is a much respected herb for calming inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract. The root contains a high content of mucilage, which forms a slippery and soothing mixture when combined with liquid.
The slippery nature of marshmallow is helpful for constipation while at the same time soothing diarrhea. If your digestion is feeling hot, dry, irritated, and inflamed, this is one of the best herbs to try. It also helps to neutralize excess stomach acid and has shown potential for healing ulcers. (10)
To get the most out of marshmallow, steep the dried root in cool water rather than hot. This extracts mucilage the best.
Slippery elm is similar to marshmallow root in several ways. It also has a high mucilage content and will make a slippery liquid that is soothing to tissues in your digestive tract.
This herb comes from the inner bark of slippery elm trees. The bark is known to coat all kinds of irritated and inflamed tissues, including those in your stomach, colon, and bowels. It contains fiber as well and can be helpful for both constipation and diarrhea. There's also indication it can help with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (11)
You can mix slippery elm in with water or something like applesauce or make a porridge out of it. Be sure to buy this herb from a reputable seller, since slippery elm trees have drastically decreased in number due to Dutch elm disease.
This is a category rather than a single herb, but bitters have been used as digestive tonics for centuries. They work by stimulating your body's own digestive juices and enzymes so that you digest and absorb food better.
Digestive bitters are used more to prevent stomach and digestive upset than to calm it. You can take them before or after a meal to help prevent indigestion, gas, bloating, etc. However, there are also bitter formulas that you can use as needed for nausea or an upset stomach.
Finding Herbs for a Happy Stomach
There are so many herbs that can help you deal with an upset stomach or nausea. There are options for both kids and adults. Herbs like ginger, chamomile, and peppermint are safe to take during pregnancy and can help with morning sickness.
Of course, prolonged nausea or digestive problems is something you should see your doctor about, but for everyday woes you can definitely turn to herbal support!