Flatulence is the unwanted passing of wind from the lower digestive tract. This surplus air is produced by excessive amounts of air or gases in the stomach or the intestine. Basically, flatulence is a problem of faulty digestion. There are numerous natural solutions, many of them from our ancient past.
What would fresh rye bread be without its caraway seeds? It turns out there is a medical reason caraway was used in bread, cheese, and soups. Caraway seeds are an ancient cure for flatulence. The Egyptians used it first. They went to great lengths to obtain the seeds from the island of Caria (hence caraway) in Asia Minor.
In the British Isles, where this herb grows freely even in wild places, an old herbal recommends that caraway should definitely be “in the cupboard of every British housewife to curb the wind and delight the stomach.” It takes about six pounds of seed to make four ounces of the essential oil of caraway.
Directions: Most old herbals suggest this dose: two to four drops of caraway oil dissolved in one tablespoon of boiled water or dropped onto a lump of sugar. In bygone times, caraway was also a favored remedy in Germany, and there is a delicious German liqueur, Kummel, made with caraway seed.
Directions: Sip the liqueur in very small amounts to relieve flatulence or add a scant teaspoon of the liqueur to carminative teas such as peppermint, ginger, or chamomile. If you prefer to make your own caraway preparation, bruise a tablespoon of the seeds, place in a pint of cold water, and let stand for five to six hours. Strain out the seeds. Give a child one to two teaspoons or an adult one to three teaspoons at a time, several times a day.
Caper is the name of a delicious flower of the caper plant as well as a term for an adventure. The Arabs discovered centuries ago that pickled capers had a twofold use: they stimulate digestive juices and relieve flatulence.
Directions: Capers are found in the condiment section of supermarkets. Use them as often as you like. The smaller they are, the more taste they have. And they are a no-calorie addition to pasta, salads, stews, and sandwiches.
Bygone herbalists loved sage and, over time, discovered it had many medicinal uses including pacifying such digestive problems as flatulence. Sage has been so admired over the centuries that its Latin name salvere means “to be well,” or “to save.” Sage is also a cherished table tea throughout the world and is especially admired in Greece, where you can order it in most outdoor cafes. The Chinese valued it as a tea to remedy stomach problems and weak digestion. And in his early English herbal, Culpeper recommended sage drinks for flatulence, or even a side stitch “coming from wind.” Culpeper advised application of warm sage compresses onto the area of the “stitch.”
Directions: Place two tablespoons of sage leaves in a pint of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Strain out the leaves. Place a folded dish towel or washcloth in the liquid, squeeze out the water, and apply the warm cloth to the side, ribs, or stomach.
The aromatic seeds of the anise plant were native to Egypt and were often used as a digestive aid. The plant also grew in Greece and Asia Minor and was admired and used by the Greeks and Romans for digestion. During the Middle Ages, when anise was finally cultivated in central Europe, the plant was often added to strong laxatives to neutralize spasms and “griping.” The French are fond of anise in food and as a digestive aid.
Directions: An anti-flatulence recipe from early Rome combines six bruised anise seeds plus a cup of distilled water. Simmer into a tea, strain, and drink. A good shortcut: add a teaspoon of the French Anisette liqueur to calming chamomile or fennel tea. Drink at bedtime.