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Herbal remedies for gastrointestinal problems: Part 1 Herbal remedies for constipation

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Many people prefer herbal medicines for mild cases because of their more gentle effects. We would therefore like to introduce you to some plants in our series “Herbal medicines for gastrointestinal complaints” that can be used to treat problems in this area.

Herbal medicines for constipation

The first part of our series is about the use of herbal medicines for constipation. About 16% of the population in the USA suffer from constipation. The proportion is even higher in older people (33%). If you have a bowel movement less than three times a week and have to strain hard when doing so, you suffer from constipation. Causes are mostly stress, too little exercise and not enough fluids. Medications or certain diseases can also promote constipation. Constipation is an uncomfortable thing and, of course, you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

If you suffer from constipation, you should first try to change the condition without additional means. Drink at least 2 litres of water or herbal tea, (e.g. chamomile tea), per day and go for a walk. If there is no improvement after a few days, you can use natural laxatives.

Alexandrian senna pod

The Alexandrian senna grows mainly in the Arabian and African regions and has been known for centuries for its mild but extremely reliable effect on constipation. Even Paracelsus knew about the laxative effect of the plant. Today, the effect of senna on constipation has been scientifically proven by numerous studies.

Both the fruit and the leaves of the plant are used to make laxatives, although extracts from the fruit have a milder effect.

The effect is delayed. This means that if you take laxatives containing senna in the evening, your bowel movements will improve the next morning.

The special thing about the plant is its mode of action. The important components of senna (sennosides) are not broken down by the human digestive enzymes and thus reach the large intestines or rectum unchanged.

The sennosides contained in senna are among the few plant ingredients that are what are known as natural prodrugs. This means that only after ingestion are these sennosides broken down by bacteria and converted into anthranoids – the actual active form. Senna increases the moisture content in the intestines and thus softens the hardened stool. It also stimulates intestinal movement and thus promotes bowel movements.

Note the information on dosage and possible interactions on the package insert. It is best to seek advice from your pharmacy before taking.

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