Most healthy individuals need no assistance with their normal digestive processes, but there are many who do suffer from certain digestion problems, either because of their genetics, diet, or lifestyle. In such cases, there is a lot to be gained by including the right herbs in the daily diet, especially those that contain enzymes to optimize digestion. For healthy people, these herbs are still worth considering, as they can nonetheless help prevent future digestive problems and bring other benefits to boot. Keep reading to find out about four herbs that contain beneficial digestive enzymes.
1. Papaya (Carica papaya)
There are studies that show papaya to be an excellent fruit for optimizing digestion, and it is actually frequently used as a natural remedy in tropical countries for the purposes of treating abnormal digestion. One recent study showed that a papaya preparation helps maintain optimal digestive tract physiology and improves disturbances, such as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The reason for this is mainly due to the proteolytic enzyme papain, which aids protein digestion.
2. Aloe (Aloe vera)
Aloe also has been documented to have some beneficial effects on the digestive system, but it is more controversial than papaya, with some studies showing little or no effect, and others having found evidence that it is helpful. This is in part because it contains the enzymes lipase and amylase, which help to break down fats and starches, respectively.
Additionally, there are claims that it helps with the last stage of digestion - eliminating waste from the body - thanks to some of its non-enzyme phytocompounds. The anthraquinones and barbaloin in aloe are thought to be responsible for stimulating the bowel and effectively making aloe function as a laxative.
3. Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
Pineapple joins papaya in being one of the two top sources of the enzyme bromelain, which digests proteins. The fruit has actually been used for centuries in Central and South America for this very property; it was a common natural remedy for treating indigestion. Bromelain, a group of proteases, is found in the stem and in the juice; it was first isolated from the pineapple in the 19th century.
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The digestive benefits of ginger have been known in Chinese medicine for around 2,000 years; it is used a key tool in keep digestion healthy and the system running smoothly. It contains the enzyme zingibain, which helps break down proteins with a certain structure. In addition, studies have shown that ginger is a spice that, when consumed, enhances fat digestion and secretion of bile salts, meaning the food runs through the digestive tract much more smoothly.
Consuming herbs that are known to aid digestion is not a cure for serious health problems, but they are a good way for healthy individuals to protect against future health issues and for people suffering from digestive disturbances to complement medical therapies. In any case, the aforementioned herbs have a wide range of health benefits, and any person will benefit from incorporating them into the diet.
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Bromelain | Ginger
- NYU Langone Medical Center, Proteolytic Enzymes
- Neuro Endocrinology Letters, Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders, 2013
- Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, Aloe vera in treatment of refractory irritable bowel syndrome: Trial on Iranian patients, 2013
- Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Fat digestion and absorption in spice-pretreated rats, 2012
- National Institutes of Health, Drug Record: Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
- University of Utah, Healthcare, Aloe
- Food Chemistry, Characterisation of commercial papain, bromelain, actinidin and zingibain protease preparations and their activities toward meat proteins, 2012