Carminatives are herbal remedies that are rich in volatile oils. Through their activity the digestive system is stimulated to work properly and with ease by coordinating and regulating gut contractions. The main action is to soothe and settle the gut wall, thereby easing gripping pains and helping in the removal of gas from the digestive tract.
How Carminatives Work
The mode of action of carminative herbs is largely a result of the volatile oils they contain. The volatile oil stimulates the gastro intestinal nerves to promote digestion and dispel accumulation of undigested food materials.
These compounds help increase gastric emptying and are mildly irritating to the gastric mucosa so that peristalsis is increased, thereby relieving cramping and expelling gas. It should be noted that carminatives are NOT necessarily muscle relaxants, but are useful (and synonymous with) antispasmodics. Carminatives are herbs that relieve intestinal gas, pain and distention. They settle digestion and increase absorption. They dispel water and mucus, Phlegm, stagnating in and clogging the gastrointestinal tract. They promote proper and normal peristalsis.
Carminative herbs work indirectly through normalizing Vata. As such, they are particularly good for digestive weakness owing to nervous upset, anxiety and depression. They relieve spasm or pain (as do nerviness), may also possess diaphoretic and expectorant actions, and are often circulatory stimulants. They improve and promote the basic flow of energy (Prana) of the body.
All carminatives moves accumulated Vata, yet their dryness may aggravate Vata, if used to long or in excess. Most of these aromatic herbs tend to be heating and pungent in taste; however some are cooling and bitter.
Heating carminatives may aggravate Pitta and some promote acidity, in which case cooling carminatives would be preferred. Cooling carminatives are most likely to have a long term depleting effect on vata. All aromatic and carminative herbs reduce Kapha, owing to their drying property.
Most spices are in this category of herbs, and used as spices they should be part of the daily diet, particularly for someone with a Vata constitution. One to five grams of any of these spices can cure many diseases, as most diseases arises from indigestion. With food or tonic herbs, these spices aid in rejuvenation. They correct many digestive diseases and nervous disorders.
Typical heating carminative: caraway, asafetida, basil, bay leaves, calamus, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, orange peel (Chen Pi), oregano, thyme, turmeric, valerian.
Typical cooling carminative: chamomile, catnip, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, lime, musta (Xiang Fu), peppermint, spearmint.