Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:82-9. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.627841. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


On analyzing the traditional societies' plant lore by treatment and plant categories, one cannot but notice the greater weight given to treatment of digestive disturbances and ailments compared to modern Western pharmacopoeias, and the blurred boundaries between medicines and foods, in contrast to the clear-cut distinction made in contemporary industrialized societies. Hence, there is an interest in exploring the issue of multifunctional food and traditional ingredients with digestive properties. In this paper, I examine the coevolutionary foundations for digestive activities, the problems and ambiguities that emerge in the analysis of traditional data, and the possible biological mechanisms underlying the actions of bitter, aromatic and pungent compounds. After these premises, this paper presents a short review of those plants with a significant body of research supporting the claims that they have a digestive action, with particular emphasis on clinical data. The plants that have a substantial body of data in support of their digestion-enhancing activities mainly belong to one of three groups: bitter, aromatic and pungent plants. Amongst the most important we can find ginger, peppermint, aniseed and fennel, citrus fruits, dandelion and artichoke, melissa and chamomile, but many more have a significant body of experimental data available.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apiaceae / chemistry
  • Asteraceae / chemistry
  • Digestion*
  • Food, Fortified / analysis*
  • Functional Food / analysis*
  • Gastroenteritis / diet therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lamiaceae / chemistry
  • Medicine, Traditional


  • Gastrointestinal Agents