You're a healthy person. You eat right, get plenty of exercise, and stay hydrated, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that even you suffer from occasional bouts of constipation.
But you do, and every now and then, a little help is needed to “get you moving.”
You see, it happens to all of us, no matter how well we take care of ourselves. Factors such as stress, travel, or holding it in can trigger bouts of constipation - and no, it is not something we rent a sandwich board to walk letting the world know about either. In fact, we usually just suffer quietly until the problem goes away.
However, it doesn’t need to be this way.
True, you prefer avoiding things which are unnatural or pharmaceutical, and instead rely on remedies which don’t have chemicals originating from crude oil (or worse) as their active ingredients.
But when it comes to finding a laxative, all you can think of are the jittery stimulants or mineral oil found at your local drug store. That is, until you remember that Mother Nature's got her own little medicine cabinet of natural helpers and there's certainly something in her selection for something as commonplace as constipation. There are, after all, many safe and effective natural laxatives are out there - you just need to know about them!
So, to get you up to speed on what herbal laxatives will get you moving safely and effectively, here are 6 of the most effective ones and exactly how to use them. Give one a try the next time you have trouble going!
You know those cute yellow flowers growing on your lawn which you think more of as weeds than beneficial plants? Well, you may want to think again. In fact, dandelions not only work as a natural herbal laxative, they also have many other health and nutritional benefits as well.
For now, let’s focus on the dandelion’s ability to stimulate bile secretion in the liver, as well as being a rich source of fiber, both of which work as effective laxatives.
Dandelion is also a powerful diuretic, which, while helping to hydrate stools making them easier to pass, can also leave you dehydrated and low in essential minerals, so be sure to drink plenty of water and consume mineral-rich foods when using dandelion.
So how do you use dandelion to relieve constipation? An easy option is to try some dandelion tea. Or you can even use fresh dandelion greens in your salad. They do have a bitter flavor, so combining them with lemon, honey or olive oil is advised when consuming them in tea or salad. Of course, another option if you want to avoid the taste altogether is supplements.
Our favorite option when it comes to dandelion is to make a simple green smoothie of dandelion greens combined with some blueberries, banana and water - this should help get things moving quickly in the morning.
And for the evening - try a cup of dandelion tea before you go to bed at night, and you should wake refreshed and “ready to go” by the time you wake up!
We all know of aloe as a common ingredient in our skin-care and topical products, but did you know that aloe also has many internal health benefits - including being an effective laxative? Aloe truly is one of the most versatile plants there are, and when it comes to working as a laxative, this “super-succulent” does not disappoint.
Aloe has the triple-whammy of being a stimulant, lubricant, and stool-softening laxative - all while improving digestion and soothing the stomach.
The thing is, though - you have to be sure you're getting the right parts.
You see, the part of aloe that most of us are familiar with is aloe gel, which is that clear, jelly-like, goopy stuff we use for sunburn. This is the gel that's found in the inner part of the aloe plant leaf. It's full of good stuff like antioxidants, minerals, enzymes and fatty acids, but it isn't the most useful part for alleviating constipation.
For constipation, the part you really want is aloe latex, which is found just under the plant's skin and is a yellowish color. This part contains anthraquinones which stimulate the bowel’s mucous secretions, as well as drawing water to the colon to soften stools. It also stimulates intestinal peristalsis, which are the muscle contractions of the colon walls which mix and move waste along.
Together, aloe works its magic by ensuring that stools are lubricated, softened, and expelled.
To get the benefits of both, it's best that you go for aloe products that are made from the whole crushed leaf so you get both the gel and the latex. So whether you get aloe through juice or as capsules - just make sure that it contains both the gel and the latex. You should also give aloe time to digest, making it best for use as an overnight laxative.
While many natural laxatives work by softening and bulking stools, senna works as a stimulant laxative. And no, we don’t mean you will be up all night organizing every closet in the house, since in fact, senna works best as an overnight laxative which you can take before bed.
Senna contains compounds known as sennosides, which work by stimulating the muscles of the colon and inducing peristalsis to produce a bowel movement.
And that sounds lovely and simple but keep in mind that senna is also quite powerful, and too much is not a good thing!
Remember that if it doesn’t work on the first try, increase your dose slowly and incrementally, and avoid doubling or tripling the recommended dose.
However, by having a cup of senna tea before bed, you can usually wake ready for a nice, comfortable bowel movement - how refreshing! Senna is also available in tablets or liquid, just in case you don’t like the tea.
Another of the “Swiss army knife” herbal supplements, slippery elm has been used throughout the ages for a variety of medical and digestive issues. The inner bark of the slippery elm tree has a gummy texture, which is good for everything from sore throats, to wound healing, to treating your occasional constipation.
For constipation, slippery elm is high in soluble fiber (mucilage), which works to bulk and soften stools, as well as to lubricate them for easier passage.
Slippery elm also helps your overall digestion, since it not only soothes the entire digestive tract, but its fiber content works as a prebiotic to feed a healthy population of gut flora (i.e. probiotics). You can find it in extracts, capsules or powders, and remember to give it about 8-hours to work.
This cooking herb works for more than just adding flavor to curry’s, soups and sauces—it can also have you up and “moving” in no time. Fenugreek is another of the “bulking” laxatives, since it is a good source of soluble fiber, which absorbs fluids and becomes gelatinous.
This gelatinous compound then bulks up stools, as well as soften and lubricate them, which helps you have a bowel movement. Fenugreek is available in whole seed, powdered, in capsules or in extracts, and one of the best things about it? You can usually find it right in your supermarket’s spice section.
Try some in the evening, and you should be pooping by morning.
Finally, we have nettles—yes, those very same ones which used to sting you when you played near the creek as a kid. But did you know that nettles are effective for many natural health remedies, including alleviating allergies and relieving constipation? Another versatile weed!
As a laxative, nettles stimulate the colon to produce a bowel movement, and can also be added to salads to ensure you are getting enough fiber in your diet, giving them some added versatility. Nettle tea is readily available alongside most herbal teas, and you can even harvest your own (wear gloves though).
Easier yet, it is available in most herb shops and health stores in leaf, root, or powdered form, and you can try it in the evening for overnight constipation relief.
So, next time you are in that gaseous, bloated, miserable state of constipation, consider avoiding the pharmacy altogether, and instead trying an all-natural herbal remedy. Not only are they a safe, effective and affordable way to go, but some may be growing right outside on the in your yard!