The regular passing of stools is essential for comfort as well as health. Experiencing less than three bowel movements a week or - when movement does occur - stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass is indicative of constipation. Although constipation is not dangerous, it is unpleasant, and can cause uncomfortable bloating and abdominal pain. Luckily, constipation can usually be treated quickly; the most efficient and often most convenient solution to the problem is often a combination of herbal remedies and minor adjustments to exercise routine and daily water intake.
1. Prune (Prunus domestica)
The key to relieving digestive issues usually involves increasing fiber intake, both soluble and insoluble. Prunes are an ideal remedy for constipation, because they combine a high amount of soluble fiber - 7.6 grams per cup - with sorbitol, a type of natural sugar that helps increase the amount of water in the bowels.
2. Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
Flax, also known as flaxseed, has historically been used to treat digestion issues, as it contains high proportions of insoluble fiber; one tablespoon provides 3 g, combined with a large amount of mucilage. Both elements can improve stool structure and make bowel movements smoother. Flaxseed meal can be used to bake breads and sweets, and its oil can be taken as a supplement, making it very versatile.
3. Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
A 2012 study of the effects of anise in treating constipation showed resolute results; after consuming the herb, the sample group showed a decrease in time taken to pass stools and an increase in number of bowel movements, in comparison with those who had taken a placebo.
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger has numerous medicinal properties, not least of all its ability to treat problems in the gastrointestinal tract. The herb also has soothing anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with relieving the abdominal pain associated with constipation. Furthermore, ginger also has anti-spasmodic and anti-nausea properties thanks to its action against histamine, making it one of the best all-around remedies for digestive problems.
5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary has constipation-treating abilities in an aromatherapy context. Recent studies found that using rosemary essential oils in lower abdominal massages helped enable digestion for up to two weeks after the treatment.
6. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is a notable source of fiber, with two teaspoons providing 4% of the recommended daily intake. It helps to smooth digestion by stimulating the release of stomach bile. This antispasmodic action aids in reducing gas, bloating, indigestion, and general abdominal pain that can result from digestive problems.
7. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile root has been found to have laxative properties to aid digestion. What's more, the herb can be infused with water to make a tasty and effective tea; drinking plenty of fluids maximizes the effects of dietary fiber in the body, and hot drinks have been found to be particularly useful in easing digestion problems.
8. Papaya (Carica papaya)
Papaya contains quantities of the digestive enzyme papain, which helps the body break down protein and therefore helps speed up digestion. One medium-sized papaya also provides almost 20% of the recommended daily fiber intake, providing even more support to your bowels.
Alongside these herbal remedies, it is advisable to exercise regularly to help treat and prevent constipation. Those experiencing significant lifestyle changes, pregnancy, and old age have increased susceptibility to constipation, and may find it worth increasing their fiber intake to reduce the likelihood of digestive problems occurring. Although medicinal laxatives are available to aid smooth digestion, it is best to consider these only after using herbal therapies first, after making sure the herbal medicine you choose does not have adverse side effects or drug interactions.
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Ginger
- Clinical Evidence, Constipation, haemorrhoids, and heartburn in pregnancy, 2010
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases, What I need to know about constipation
- Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, Effect of aromatherapy massage for the relief of constipation relief in the elderly, 2005
- Georgetown University Medical Center, Oregano
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Flaxseed and flaxseed oil, 2012
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Laxative effects of partially defatted flaxseed meal on normal and experimental constipated mice, 2010
- National Institutes of Health, Roman Chamomile
- ISRN Pharmaceutics, Review of Pharmacological Properties and Chemical Constituents of Pimpinella anisum, 2012