Constipation can be annoying, uncomfortable and hard to consistently treat. Those with occasional constipation can avoid this fairly easy by following the steps & tips listed below. Those with Chronic Constipation, may not have such luck and may need to use stronger herbs that provide a Laxative affect. Make sure you pay attention to the precautions described below and remember that constipation is usually a result of several factors.
Some of the best ways to handle Constipation:
Increase Peristalsis- Contractions by the Bowel Muscles that squeeze out waste. Herbs that help range from Mild Colon Cleansers to Strong Laxatives or Purgatives. Mild Colon Cleansing Herbs- Butternut, Licorice, Rose Petals (or Hips), Triphala- these help to gently cleanse the colon increasing bowl movements. Moderate Herbs- Aloe Vera & Rhubarb Root cleanse as well as providing mild to moderate cleansing action at lower doses. Aloe may cause peristalsis action when taken at higher doses. Strong Laxatives cause a Purging action- Cascara & Senna (strongest), Buckthorn (milder)- that contain “anthraquinones” chemical compounds that cause cramping or griping (can be severe yet are temporary). Do not Use these Herbs on a regular or long term basis (up to 2 weeks, but I only recommend a few days)! Over Use of Laxatives can affect your bodies ability to go on its own. These herbs should not be taken alone, but combined with Carminative & Demulcent herbs.
Increase Moisture- Add Demulcent Herbs to soothe and add a slipperiness to stools- Slippery Elm, Marshmallow, Oatstraw. Drink Plenty of water every day! Castor Oil or Aloe may help, take 1-2 tsp. / serving.
Increase Bulk- Bulk in stool helps to scrap waste from the colon. Bran, Flax, Hemp, Chia, Psyllium Seed or Husk (Plantain), Fruits and Veggies (Soluble Fiber & Pectin).
Intestinal Flora Balance- Add Probiotics (Beneficial Bacteria) after a Colon Cleanse to replenish intestinal flora crucial to proper digestion and immunity.
Other Herbs & Substances that may be of Benefit:
Dandelion Root- Increases Bile Flow into Large Intestine (Colon). Do not take Dandelion if you have Gallstones.
Ginger- Reduces cramps and muscle spasms.
Epsom Salt- Saline laxative. Take 1-2 tsp. per serving in water. Limited Use only.
Fennel Seed- Helps alleviate gas. Others that work as well- Ajwain, Anise, Caraway, Coriander & Dill make effective anti-gas remedies.
Milk Thistle- Better known as a liver protective herb- Milk thistle does increase bile flow into the colon- too much can cause diarrhea. Blessed Thistle or Artichoke Leaf can be substituted.
Hibiscus Flower- Draws water into the intestines softening stool
Mate- Helps restore mineral balance after laxative use. Caffeine in Mate and in Coffee may act as a mild laxative.
Vitamin C- higher doses of vitamin C can loosen your stools, but too much can cause diarrhea! Try Acerola, Rose Hips or Schizandra Berry.
Recommendations & Precautions:
Add Fiber & Increase Moisture (water)
Eat Smaller, Regular Meals to allow your digestion to catch up.
Try to achieve Regular Bowel Habits- should go 1-3 times a day…
Research Herbs before you use them! Consult with an Herbalist like myself that can help you decide which herbal approach is best for you or can make a custom formula for you. Not all herbs are appropriate for everyone and for every situation.
Long Term Use of Laxative Herbs- more than 2 weeks or more is not recommended. Not only for the “harshness” of these herbs by the cramping/griping they can cause, overuse can negatively affect your ability to naturally pass stools. Overuse of Laxatives also can dehydrate you, deplete your electrolytes & create imbalance of intestinal flora.
If you have Heart Problems—use bulking agents and mild colon cleansing herbs and avoid using strong laxative herbs.
Griping or Cramping- is temporary, but can be very intense and painful! Usually happens in 8-12 hours after taking laxatives.
Herbal Forms- Herbal Teas are wonderful to balance digestive issues! They are already hydrated and readily assimilated in the bowel. Powdered (Ground) or Herbal Supplements in Capsules need additional water to rehydrate so they may not be the best choice. Tinctures (extracts) also work well, but lack the nutrients and enzymes found in herbal teas.
Finding the best solution giving your situation is the trick. Learn and listen to your body! Stress can cause many internal imbalances as well as when we do not own our personal power (Third Chakra issues). For further information, please read my upcoming blogs on digestion and IBS www.herbalelements.net download my Detox EBook (also available in printed form- www.magcloud.com search for Detox for a New You). I am also available for Consultations and Custom Tea Blends at Ubi’s in Tacoma on Tuesday, Friday & Saturday (1st & 3rd) www.ubistacoma.com
Disclaimer: The following article is intended for educational purposes and not intended for self- diagnosis. Be wary of “miracle cures” that promise instant success, because we all know (or show know) that “panacea” does not exist! Consult with your physician before starting a cleansing or detox program.
References: Herbal Defense by Robyn Landis. 1999. Precriptions for Herbal Helaing. Phyllis A. Balch. 2002.