Constipation is not only uncomfortable but it can inhibit well-being. As waste becomes backed up in the colon toxins and harmful microbes have the opportunity to thrive. Over time these toxins can contribute to health problems such as thyroid disease, migraines, chronic gas, fatigue, and candidiasis.
Regular bowel movements, and therefore the constant removal of waste from the body, are essential for good health. Eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and exercising regularly is important, but when necessary herbs for constipation can be used as well to bring natural relief. It is however important to keep in mind that constipation is a symptom, not a condition. Identifying the underlying cause, whether it is poor diet, stress, the use of medications, or a medical condition, is important for truly resolving problems with regularity.
List of Laxative Herbs
The following herbs are useful for treating constipation. Some are gentle and are safe for general use, while others are intense and should be used with care.
- Senna pods have a strong laxative effect. To make an infusion steep the dried pods in warm water for six to twelve hours, four or five for one cup of water. Blend with an aromatic carminative herb such as cardamon or cloves to both cut the flavor of the senna and to calm the stomach.
- Yellow dock is a gentler herb. It does contain anthraquinones, the same active phytochemical that is found in senna pods, but the effect is not as intense. It has a general cleansing effect on the body, also supporting the liver and acting to correct the blood of impurities.
- Rhubarb root is very well-suited for constipation. Containing anthraquinones, it has a laxative effect, but it also acts to tighten tissue of the intestinal wall as an astringent and cleanse the area of bacteria with antiseptic properties. As with senna, it is best to use rhubarb with a carminative herb to minimize griping.
- Cascara sagrada is a good herb for chronic constipation as it also tones the muscles of the digestive system. It also is beneficial for the liver. Combine with an aromatic.
- Dandelion is a very gentle herb that has laxative, as well as diuretic and hepatic properties.
- Barberry is an all-around digestive tonic, stimulating the flow of bile and strengthening the digestive system. It is a more mild laxative. This herb should be avoided during pregnancy.
How to Use
Aside from senna pods, you can make an herbal infusion of any of these herbs. Steep one to two teaspoons of dried herb in one cup of boiling water for ten minutes. With the stronger herbs for constipation only use on occasion to encourage a bowel movement. Blending with one of the aromatic herbs with carminative properties, which includes fennel, cardamon, cloves, coriander, aniseed, peppermint, and ginger, will help to ease the stomach during use. The gentle laxative plants, dandelion and yellow dock, are more suited for regular use as tonics for overall well-being.
Hoffmann, David. “The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies.” (Element Books, 1996).
Balch, Phyllis, CNC. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition.” (The Penguin Group, 2006).
photo by Wibowo Djatmiko
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