Medical Definition of Carminative

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Carminative: An agent that prevents or relieves flatulence (gas in the gastrointestinal tract) and, in infants, may help in the treatment of colic. The origin of the word "carminative" is particularly curious. It was borrowed from the French carminatif (masc.), carminative (fem.). Virtually all English-language dictionaries state that the French took the word from the Latin carminare, to card wool. However, a respected French dictionary Le Petit Robert indicates that carminare meant nettoyer, to cleanse. The confusion appears to stem from the fact that to card wool was to cleanse it. Thus, a carminative cleanses the bowels.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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