Gypsies use a root and herb infusion of FIELD GENTIAN to relieve indigestion, and TANSY leaves, chopped up and added to bread dough and cake mixtures, were a popular indigestion remedy in Cambridgeshire. In Ireland flatulence used to be cured by taking a tansy leaf decoction with salt added, and another Irish remedy is the simple expedient of eating CELERY. LEMON VERBENA leaves, fresh or dried, are widely used as a tea for indigestion, and FENNEL is used in the same way, and has been for a very long time. “Fennel seed drunke asswageth the paine of the stomacke, and wambling of the same, or desire to vomit. And breaketh winde…” A Middle English rimed medical treatise prescribed wither betony or fennel for the digestion, fennel to be taken “in droge after meat”. “Drogges” were a kind of digestive powder for weak stomachs, and were used by Chaucer’s ‘Doctour’:
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To serve him drogges and his letuaries
(Prologue to Canterbury Tales).
CORIANDER seeds are still known to herbalists as an efficient indigestion remedy. A few seeds chewed before a meal always help.
Oil of JUNIPER used to be sold (and is probably still available) as a carminative, for it has a beneficial effect on the appetite and digestion. The juice of a couple of berries in hot water is a gypsy remedy for indigestion. Buchan reckoned them to be “the most celebrated among the class of Carminatives”. NUTMEG has always enjoyed a reputation as a carminative, and has been used as such until quite recently. It was in the first half of the 19th century that they were used most, to relieve flatulence and dyspepsia. Nearly every middle-aged woman carried one to grate over her food and drink. They were carried in the pocket in small wooden or metal cases with a grater at one end. Evening drinks, known as possets, were commonly taken, and these nearly always contained large amounts of nutmeg and other spices. The drinks themselves were regarded as carminatives. A recipe for indigestion that comes from Alabama requires one to steep a pinch of YARROW blossom in a cup of water, and to drink a little of this several times a day for three days. ANISE was much used for indigestion. Gerard recommends it as “good against belchings and upbraidings of the stomacke”. The Romans offered an anise-flavoured cake at the end of rich meals to ease indigestion. MARJORAM has often been included in indigestion remedies, and the decoction used to be an Irish remedy for indigestion and acidity. In the 18th century, Hill was prescribing an “infusion of the fresh tops [to] strengthen the stomach, and [it] is good against habitual colic”. DANDELION tea or coffee are said to be good for indigestion, or BETONY tea. GREEN PURSLANE is used around the world for indigestion. The Navajo Indians, besides taking the seeds as food, recognise the green plant as a cure for stomach ache, and in West Africa they take it for indigestion by beating up the leaves with water and adding a little salt.
WORMWOOD tea is good for indigestion, though the dose should not be continued for more than a day or two. It is made with a handful of fresh leaves, over which a pint of boiling water is poured. After infusing for a few minutes, a wineglassful is to be drunk. On the island of Chios, wormwood is still the great standby for stomach upsets; there is a saying there that translates “bitter on the lips, sweet to the heart”. As far off as Morocco, we find it being used for heartburn and stomach-ache: it is boiled in water, sugar added, and the mixture drunk warm. Mixed with tea, it is also supposed to promote proper digestion after a meal; but if persons have such tea on two or three consecutive days, they will quarrel and separate, surely a recognition of the deleterious effect of the continued dosage. A tisane of WHITE HOREHOUND is often taken for indigestion, and in homeopathy a tincture of the plant is used. Even the Navajo Indians were reported to use this herb for the condition, and it is certainly an American domestic remedy for dyspepsia still.