12 Natural Remedies for Stomach Pain
When I worked in the Wellness Department at the local co-op, one of the most common requests from customers was how to naturally ease stomach pain. From mothers with colicky babies to cancer patients, I've helped dozens of people choose the most effective and safest remedy for stomach problems.
As with any natural "cure," there are no guaranteed magic bullets, and I recommend seeing your doctor if you have chronic stomach pain. But if you've just eaten some funky take-out or if you're trying to relieve menstrual cramps, there are lots of natural alternatives to at least calm your belly.
Here's a list of twelve herbal and home remedies to help soothe many types of stomach discomfort.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits, ginger aids in digestion and can ease stomach pains. Fresh ginger is the most potent form, and I recommend making a simple tea with it. While there are many recipes for fresh ginger tea, I suggest peeling and grating the ginger for the best results. If fresh ginger isn't available, there are many varieties of ginger tea on the market. (See also: 10 Reasons to Drink Tea)
Keep in mind that ginger can be spicy, so if you are sensitive to spicy foods, you may want to consider buying ginger supplements. Most health food stores carry the supplements, which can be found as pills or infused in a tincture. I wouldn't recommend drinking conventional ginger ale, since it is loaded with sugar, and if you look at the ingredients, most ginger sodas use artificial flavors and do not contain actual ginger. Reed's Ginger Brew is one of the more common natural ginger sodas, and it is sweetened with fruit juice and packed with real ginger. Some ginger candies contain real ginger, but most contain conventional sugar, which can upset the stomach.
Like ginger, fresh mint works the best to settle the stomach, and all you need is a cup of warm water and a few sprigs of mint to make a tea. Simply chewing on a mint leaf also works, and because mint is technically a weed, it grows well in most environments. You can also buy the tea or peppermint supplements. Peppermint candy tends to have sugar, so make sure you check the ingredients if you are buying regular mints. Mint also helps with digestion, stimulates the appetite, and it is one of the better remedies for menstrual cramps, particularly if you make tea with fresh mint.
3. Licorice or Fennel
Although licorice and fennel are two different plants, I have grouped them together because they are very similar in taste. If you do not like the taste of licorice, fennel, or anise, I would recommend using another remedy for an upset stomach. Licorice and fennel are found in many herbal teas, which is perhaps the easiest and most common form; however, they can also be found as supplements. If you like raw fennel, you can chew on a fresh slice of the bulb to ease indigestion or bloating after a meal. Licorice can be known to increase blood pressure and irritate ulcers, but only in large amounts, according to Medline. Many of the natural "stomach ease" teas contain licorice and fennel, so check the ingredients for the amount if you are concerned.
Not only does chamomile tea soothe an aching stomach, it can also calm the nerves. If you are having trouble sleeping in addition to a stomach ache, homemade chamomile tea may be exactly what you need. Dried chamomile flowers are usually sold in health food stores or herbal shops, but you can easily find chamomile tea on the shelf at any grocery store, since it one of the most common herbal teas. Add lemon for an extra tummy soother and flavor (see lemon water below).
5. Lemon Water
Lemon is one of the most versatile fruits you can buy. If you don't have mint, ginger, or other herbs at home, just squeeze half a lemon into a mug of warm water. You can also use lemon juice if you don't have fresh lemon, but you'll only need a few teaspoons.
6. Warm Saltwater
I have only used warm saltwater to help with a sore throat, but I have heard that this formula works wonders for an upset stomach. One cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt is all you need. For best results, drink it as quickly as possible; however, I wouldn't recommend this if you have other health issues, such as high blood pressure.
7. Baking Soda
You don't need to buy Alka-Seltzer to ease heartburn or indigestion. Any of the antacids on the market are basically just sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Mix one teaspoon (or two, depending on how strong you need it) into a cup of warm water, and you get the same results with a common household item.
8. Cola Syrup
This is another one I have not tried but was personally recommended. After a little research, I found that it has been used for years to treat an upset stomach, particularly because it tastes good and safe for children. The only issue is that it is a little trickier to find, but you can purchase cola syrup online. While I am partial to The Vermont Country Store, you can also find it at Amazon. I don't know what the secret ingredient is, but it seems to work for a lot of people.
9. Warm Rice Compress
Heat is one of the best ways to soothe stomach pain, especially cramps. If you don't own a heating pad, all you need is an old sock and some rice. Try to use a thick sock free of holes, and fill it with uncooked rice. Don't pack it too tightly, so that the grains have room to move around, giving it more flexibility. Tie the end and stick it in a microwave for about a minute. Make sure it isn't too hot before you place it on your stomach. You can also use flax seeds, which take longer to heat than rice, but they stay warmer longer. This works for sore muscles too, or you can put it in the freezer if you need a cold compress. Add dried lavender or chamomile flowers for a relaxing aroma.
10. Burned Toast
Charcoal is commonly used in hospitals for food or alcohol poisoning to help neutralize the toxins in the system. I suggest you go to the hospital if you suspect any kind of poisoning, but if you've just had one too many cocktails, the charcoal in the burned toast may help absorb some of the alcohol and neutralize the toxin. Black tea or anything with tannins (except wine in this situation) also helps neutralize toxins and process the alcohol in your system, which may be the reason coffee is prescribed to sober someone up. Toast is also part of the well-known acronym B.R.A.T. (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast), which was commonly used to treat children with stomach aches or diarrhea. I would not recommend burned toast in this case. Lastly, if you are concerned about carcinogens in burned food, ask a doctor or visit the website for The American Cancer Society.
11. Aloe Vera Juice
During my year in the Wellness Department, Aloe Vera Juice remained one of our most popular supplements. While there are many claims about the benefits to Aloe Vera Juice, many of my customers had excellent results with drinking it for a number of different intestinal problems. But the number one reason people used it was to treat constipation. It can also help with gas, bloating, diarrhea, and cramps.
12. Apple Cider Vinegar
I use apple cider vinegar mainly as a natural cleaner or as an antiseptic, but it can also be used to assist with digestion, help absorb nutrients, and to treat stomach aches. Just put a few teaspoons in a glass of cold or warm water. To help absorb nutrients, drink it before the meal. Make sure you are using apple cider vinegar and not other types of vinegar.
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