Leaky gut is characterized by having holes or cracks in the intestinal lining. This allows toxins, food particles and pathogens to enter the bloodstream, creating inflammation and affecting gut flora (the microbiome). To heal these holes, foods and herbs that are high in mucilage are especially helpful. Here, 7 herbs are recommended to soothe and repair the mucosal lining. You can buy these online (a reputable place is Mountain Rose Herbs) or purchase seeds and grow them yourself (a good source is Richters).
1. Marshmallow (Althea officinalis): Marshmallow is an easy to grow plant, and will grow even in large planters. All parts are mucilaginous and are edible. The root is what is commonly sold in health food stores and is available chopped or powdered. Chopped Root: add 1-3 TBSP + 4 cups water to a pot to make a decoction. Let come to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes and strain. Dosage: 2-4 cups daily. You can add 3-4 TBSP chopped root to soups and stews, but if you don't care for the taste, then puree the soup with the root to get the benefits without the taste. Powdered Root: add 1-2 TSP to smoothies and juices. For tea, add 1 TSP with 1 cup boiling water in a mug and stir to dissolve. You can sweeten your tea with stevia and non-dairy milk, if you like.
The leaves and flowers are edible, yet you will have to grow Marshmallow to benefit from these parts in their raw form. She is an easy to grow plant -will even grow in large planters- and she does attract friendly critters such as butterflies and bees to the garden. Since the fresh leaves can grow quite large (think as large as your hand), they are great to use instead of bread for low-carb wraps. Fresh or dried, the leaves can be added to soups and stews. The dried leaves are sometimes sold mixed with the root in bagged teas, and you can certainly do similarly. The flowers add a touch of mucilage and make lovely decorations atop salads.
2 & 3. Common Mallow (Malva sylestris) and Hollyhock (Alcea rosea - many different varieties), are used EXACTLY as Marshmallow above. All parts are edible and mucilaginous. All plants are part of the Malavaceae family. You can find Marshmallow and Mallow growing in the wild. You can also purchase seeds and grow the plants yourself. Hollyhocks are tall plants, so do better in the garden. Marshmallow and Mallow are okay in containers, so long as the planter is tall to accommodate their long root. All plants are perennial, self-seed readily and are easy to grow. Seeds, by the way, are also edible (but not medicinal) and some use them to make a faux "cheese." To research further on your own, if interested :)
4 & 5. Plantain (Plantago major & lanceolata) and Violet (Viola, many different species, including Heart's ease and Pansy) are common edible weeds that can be found on many lawns. The leaves are dried and are then made into an infusion: 1 oz. leaves + 4 cups boiling water in a 1-liter mason jar. Let sit 4-8 hours before straining. This liquid is drunk throughout the day but can also be used as the liquid in a smoothie. Plantain leaves have a cooling energy (not mucilaginous) and are called the boo-boo plant because they help to repair broken tissues. You can add them fresh or dried to soups and stews and you can add them fresh to green juices and smoothies.
Unlike Plantain, Violet leaves are mucilaginous and have a slight wintergreen taste. You can add them fresh or dried to soups and stews. They can also be added fresh to green smoothies.
Violet flowers only come out in the early spring, however they are edible and can be used to decorate salads. Violets are easy to grow and self-seed readily. They love the shade and you can sometimes find leaves as big as your palm (if so, you could use these leaves as wrap "bread"). Plantain seeds are edible and can be used similarly as flax or chia seeds (good for constipation being high in soluble fiber).
6. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). Similar in nature to Plantain, Comfrey is known as knitbone because she is an excellent vulnerary to help heal bones, sprains, strains and all kinds of tissue damage. The leaves contain low levels of pyrrolidizine alkaloids (PAs) BEFORE and WHILE in flower (the flowering tops), which is when you would want to harvest the plant for internal use, that is, to make infusions. AFTER the plant has flowered, the PAs are highly concentrated and the leaves can only be used for EXTERNAL use, that is, to make salves. Some herbalists are completely against the use of Comfrey for internal use while others have not found this to be an issue in their practice. Go with your intuition and work with a health practitioner or herbalist when in doubt.
7. Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra). The inner bark of the tree has a mucilaginous aspect to it. You can find it in piece or powder form. Make a decoction with 2-4 TBSP of the chopped pieces. 1-2 tsp of the powder can be added to juices and smoothies, or add to a mug with a cup of boiling water and stir. For that last option, you can add in stevia and non-dairy milk to your "tea."
To great healing days ahead,
Originally Written in 2016. Updated 2020.
Marshmallow & Hollyhock: Photo-manipulation by Cat.
Comfrey Leaf: Cat's Photo.
Slippery Elm Collage by Cat.
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