Not all natural laxatives are harsh. Following are gentle herbal remedies for constipation.
Dandelion root is perhaps the mildest laxative in this category. Burdock, eaten as a vegetable, tea, or tincture, is also a gentle laxative. The Chinese have long prescribed it for constipation. Marshmallow has been used for centuries to treat constipation. Its soothing demulcent quality provides lubrication in the colon and calms inflammation.
Dried plums, or prunes, are well-known for their ability to combat constipation. Plant an Italian prune plum tree, pick the ripe fruit, and dry them or eat them fresh. Rich in fiber and a natural sugar called sorbitol, prunes have the ability to promote bowel movements virtually every time. Researchers developed a jam using prunes and dates for hospitalized patients. It was so successful that many other institutions have adopted the recipe, which is shown above. Black cherry juice is also helpful in the same way.
Which type of laxative should you use? Generally there are two types of constipation. Flaccid constipation is characterized by weak muscular activity in the colon. This condition is the one that usually responds to bulking agents and increased physical activity. Abdominal massage, a high fiber diet, and certain herbs can help this type of constipation. Make an infusion or decoction (remember, an infusion is used for upper parts of a plant, whereas a decoction is used for the root) of one part each of licorice root, raspberry leaves, and Oregon grape root. Add two parts dandelion root.
Tense, over-contracted muscles in the colon characterize the second type of constipation. This type responds to herbs that help relax the muscles of the bowel so that residue can be pushed on through. Again, make an infusion or decoction of the following herbs: one part each of chamomile, valerian, and peppermint mixed with two parts each of licorice, wild yam, and dandelion root.
For all types of constipation, psyllium seeds are recommended. They are a gentle yet effective bulk laxative.
Some people experience allergic reactions (skin and respiratory) when exposed to psyllium seed. Do not use dandelion root if you have large gallstones. Avoid using senna or any of the other stimulating laxatives for more than ten consecutive days or they may cause dependency. Chronic use of these herbs can also result in diarrhea, dehydration, depressed potassium levels, and irregular heartbeat. Do not use stimulating laxatives if you are pregnant or have Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Laxative Jam Recipe
- 1 cup pitted prunes
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup boiling water
Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Cut or chop dates and prunes into small pieces. Add to boiling water, and cook until mixture is thick. Use 1 tablespoon per day. Yield: Approximately 20 tablespoons.
For more information about the subjects covered in this article, try the following links:
- To see all of our herbal remedies, visit our main Herbal Remedies page.
- To learn more about treating common medical conditions yourself, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To learn other ways you can getthingsmoving, read Home Remedies for Constipation.
- Find out more about Dandelion and the conditions it treats when you read Dandelion: Herbal Remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gayle Povis Alleman, M.S., R.D. hold degrees in both alternative and conventional nutrition. She manages nutrition education programs and teaches nutrition in the community. She is also a freelance writer and speaker in the area of food, nutrition and health, specializing in holistic nutrition to promote optimum health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS
Silena Heron was a naturopathic physician with a family health-care practice. She was a nationally recognized specialist in botanical medicine who had taught throughout the West and Canada since 1973. She was founding chair of botanical medicine at Bastyr University and on the faculty for six years. Additionally, Dr. Heron was an adjunct faculty member at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She was the founding vice president of the Botanical Medicine Academy, an accrediting organization for the clinical use of herbal medicines.
Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H. (A.H.G.) is a naturopathic physician and registered herbalist in private practice specializing in men's health and urology. He is an assistant professor in the botanical medicine department at Bastyr University in Seattle and is president or the Botanical Medicine Academy. He is the author of several textbooks including Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, and Clinical Botanical Medicine; He writes a regular column on herbal medicine for Alternative and Complementary Therapies.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.