Published in the June 2014 edition of ‘The Bay’ Magazine
Filipendula ulmaria, also known as Meadowsweet and Queen of the Meadow, is found in damp meadows and on riverbanks; it is best recognised by its sweet-smelling frothy clusters of white blossoms that flower atop its leafy stems.
In the Middle Ages the plant was used to flavour meads and it has long been recognised as a herb with therapeutic effects on the stomach.
In 1890s, aspirin was created from salicin (a synthetically altered version of a chemical discovered in Filipendula) it was so named after the herb’s botanical name at the time – Spiraea ulmaria. The whole herb contains a complex mixture of many healing substances which create balance, whereas the isolation of one chemical results in side effects – stomach irritation and internal bleeding. Aspirin causes the very problems the plant from which it originated repairs.
The keynotes for Filipendula are its benefits for the stomach and digestion.
- Reduces acid and calms the stomach – used to treat heartburn, gastritis and peptic ulcer, as well as other conditions relating to excess acid.
- Increases the secretion of digestive juices thereby relieving indigestion, nausea and bloating. Indigestion can often be caused by a lack of stomach acid and enzymes responsible for protein breakdown. Conventional antacids frequently taken for stomach discomfort reduce the acid further and perpetuate the problem.
- The gentle astringent action of the herb makes it suitable for the treatment of diarrhoea.
A tea of Filipendula made using the flowers and leaves can be effective for simple cases of the above conditions. For more severe and long-term discomfort a deeper understanding of the causes will need to be established by a qualified practitioner.
The Intelligence of Your Gut
Digestion is not simply the physical process of converting food into nutrients and waste, it is closely connected to our mental and emotional interaction with the world around us.
Our digestive tract contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it is known as the ‘second brain’. Technically referred to as the enteric nervous system it consists of over 100 million neurons which share important similarities with our cranial brain.1 The ‘digestive brain’ sends signals to our ‘cranial brain’ that directly affect feelings of sadness and stress and can influence memory, learning and decision-making.
When we eat we take in part of the outside world, break it into simple pieces, decide what will be nourishing to us and what is of no use, absorbing one and eliminating the other. The ability to digest and assimilate information from life will be related to how well we can digest at a physical level.
At the Herbal Clinic we find that disorders of the stomach are often associated with confrontations in life, either an avoidance of confrontation or excessive embracing of challenges and opposition. By addressing both the physical and mental cause of disease resolutions are made.
The stomach zone, representing stomach enzymes and hydrochloric acid is the closest ring to the pupil; its presence indicates weakness of the stomach. White colouring here shows over-activity and brown under-activity.
Tips to Improve Your Digestion
- Take your time – The first stages of digestion begin in the mouth, where thorough chewing establishes the flow of digestive juices. Give your meal your full attention; this simple change can help with weight loss, indigestion and irritable bowel.
- Keep calm, don’t carry on – Avoid food when emotionally distressed, or angry – blood is directed away from the digestive system when stressed so cannot perform the job of digesting.
- Choose smaller portions – Overeating makes you feel lethargic and bloated by putting strain on your digestion.
Stress and the Digestive Process
Stress creates a ‘fight or flight’ response, preparing the body to take action by diverting blood flow from the core and digestion to the limbs and muscles. Long-term stress repeatedly deprives the digestive system of the rich blood supply necessary for absorption of nutrients and digestion becomes chronically impaired. Many diseases may result from an inability to absorb nutrients, rather than a lack of intake.
A note on comfort eating: Stress makes the gut release ghrelin, a hormone that reduces anxiety and depression, whilst at the same time increasing appetite.2
1. Boron, Walter F.; Boulpaep, Emile L. (2005). Medical Physiology. Elsevier Saunders. p. 883.
2. Meyer RM, Burgos-Robles A, Liu E, Correia SS, Goosens KA (October 2013). “A ghrelin-growth hormone axis drives stress-induced vulnerability to enhanced fear”. Mol. Psychiatry. doi:10.1038/mp.2013.135.
The Herbal Clinic in Swansea provides natural healthcare with the use of organic herbs, acupuncture and iridology.