Constipation is a common condition that affects people at some point in their life. While the discomfort and bloating usually last a couple of days, the clinical definition of constipation is less than three bowel movements in a one week time frame. Usually this will occur due to lack of fluids, fiber and exercise. While constipation is very common, it can evolve into chronic constipation. This type of constipation can last for months, and even, years and is usually attributed to non-existent physical activity. The over-consumption of laxatives can numb rectal nerve endings. Instead of relying on laxatives for either conditions, herbal remedies can be chosen as they are effective and are generally not as harsh as pharmaceuticals. If you have tried adding more fiber into your diet, consuming more liquids and increased levels of physical activity, then herbal treatments are more natural options to relieve your constipation symptoms.
Herbal Remedies for Constipation
Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
According to Commission E, the Germanic version of the FDA, flax seeds can reverse chronic constipation. The Commission E scientists say that 1 to 3 tablespoons of whole or crushed flax seeds consumed 2 or 3 times a day can dramatically alleviate constipation symptoms. As a cautionary note, it is important to drink large quantities of water (8 glasses) in order to move the bulk of substances to digestive system.
Psyllium (Plantago ovata)
Another seed, psyllium is full of fiber. The fiber in psyllium seeds house mucilage. Mucilage is a thick substance that has adhesive properties and it plays an important role in relieving constipation because it can easily soak up fluids and cause psyllium seeds to swell up. As the seeds swell, they continue to add weight and pressure to the stool sitting in the body and on the colon wall. This pressure creates the sensation and contractions of needing to use the restroom right away. Germany’s Commission E recommends 3 to 10 daily tablespoons to assuage constipation symptoms. However, intake of large quantities of water are again advised to aid the digestive process. Those who suffer from asthma are advised not to take this herb because of past instances of allergic reactions. Because of the heavy seed dust, those who suffer from allergies should be wary of this treatment and should not consume the seeds after the first allergic episode.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The rootstock of the plant, Zingiber officinale, is a great healer of gastrointestinal distress. In its tea form, ginger can ease abdominal muscle spasms that accompany constipation. It is recommended to prepare this tea by combining ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger with 1 cup of water. You can take 1 cup of the tea, 3 times a day to get optimal results.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
Another tea that can assuage constipation symptoms is the one prepared from hibiscus. With soothing properties known to ease the common headache, hibiscus, a flowering plant, is a natural treatment for constipation, as well. Hibiscus will absorb water into the intestine which can soften the stool and ease the common pain during constipation when expelling stool. The preparation for and the recommended dosage for hibiscus tea is the same as ginger.
Kelp (Laminaria digitata)
Kelp can be consumed as a solid food item. The recommended amount is 2 ounces in a single serving. Consuming kelp once a week will alleviate stress on the blood vessels around the rectum and the anus. Kelp, a seaweed rich in vitamins, nutrients and minerals, will act as a bulking agent and purify toxins in the body with its antiseptic properties.
Aloe (various species)
Herbs with similar properties
- Cascara sagrada
This group of herbs all contain natural laxative chemicals known as anthraquinones and can treat constipation symptoms. However, these treatments should not be your first choice in herbal treatment because they are more severe in the body. If you are interested in trying buckthorn, cascara sagrada or frangula, all of which are barks, then aged barks work best. It is important to stay away from fresh barks because they contain forms of anthraquinones that are too harsh for the body and could even lead to bloody diarrhea and vomiting. It is not recommended to take anthraquinones over extended periods of time, especially while nursing or pregnant.