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5 TCM Pantry Herbs to Improve Digestion

In TCM, a happy digestion means happy Spleen. You may be eating healthy but without a good digestion system, the rest of your health may be affected.

General Health


Published on 18 May 2020


By Thomson Team

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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a happy digestion means happy Spleen. While eating good wholesome food is important, having good digestion is even more important. You may be eating healthy but without a good digestion system, the rest of your health may be affected too. Some signs of indigestion include bloating, belching, foul taste in mouth, poor sleep, lack of energy, skin issues, bowel movement problems or even menstrual issues.

Happy Digestion Comes from Happy Spleen

Imagine a pot resting over a fire. The pot represents the Spleen and the fire is the warmth from the Kidney Yang. This is how Traditional Chinese Medicine views the digestive system. For a healthy digestion and metabolism, we need to keep this digestive fire strong so that food can be broken down and transformed into energy, blood and invigorate organ functions.

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Warming Herbs for Digestion

Here are some TCM herbs that you might already have in your pantry. They may not be as ‘fancy’ as the lion mane mushroom, ashwagandha or Reishi mushrooms but these unsung heroes in your kitchen can do wonders for your digestive system.

The herbs that usually help with digestion are warming. They can be spicy, hot and aromatic in flavours. They warm the digestive system, stimulate digestion and tonify the Qi. They also have unique functions which are also mentioned respectively.

5 TCM Pantry Herbs

1. Black Pepper 胡椒

Warm our body and expel cold

  • Relieve Stomach cold with vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain

2. Fennel Seeds 小茴香

Warm the Liver

  • Relieve side rib pain, menstrual pain, hernia

Warm the Kidney

  • Relieve lower back pain

3. Clove 丁香

Warm the Stomach

  • Relieve vomiting, hiccup, abdominal pain and diarrhoea

Warm the Kidney and assist Yang energy

  • For weak back and knees as well as excessive clear vaginal discharge from cold in the womb

4. Cinnamon 肉桂

Warm Kidney’s Ming-Men fire (“Life Gate fire”)

  • Good for those who have aversion to cold, cold limbs, weak back, impotence and frequent urination

Warm and unblock the meridians

  • Relieve menstrual pain, body aches and pain

Lead the fire back to its source “引火归元”

  • Good for any condition with heat in the upper body and cold in the lower body

5. Fresh Ginger 生姜

  • Great for firing up the digestive system to treat nausea in particular
  • Warm up the body to induce sweating to get rid of the cold in the body
  • Warm up the body to relieve aches and pains
  • Dried ginger is much hotter and has a stronger effect

These herbs are good for those who are always feeling a little cold, sluggish, lethargic, inclined to have excess phlegm and easily get bloating or indigestion. However, if you have heaty symptoms such as always feeling hot and thirsty, flushed red face, easily get mouth ulcers, have yellow thick phlegm or yellow tongue coating, then it is better to eat less of these herbs. Instead, you can add some cooling herbs such as peppermint, chrysanthemum, elderflower and radish.

In our culture, we are often educated to ignore messages from our body unless it gives us pain. Now is the time to be more aware of our discomforts, eat only what you can digest effectively and take appropriate actions to sustain our gut health.

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