Constipation

Herbs to improve your gut health

I often get asked at events or parties about specific herbs for specific problems. I often go into discussing how I (and many other herbalists) don’t work like how your doctor works. We tend to prescribe a concoction of different herbs (anywhere from 5-20 in my case) for each client. Every month the prescription is tweaked and changed to keep improving the function of the mind and body. Once i have said my piece on how i actually work with plants i then go onto discuss certain herbs for whatever problem people unveil to me.

Gut health is a hot topic at the moment with plenty of media outlets reporting on the advances in understanding the microbiome. As well as lots of coverage into the debilitating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disorder. Below i have listed the different herbs used in herbal medicine for treating specific issues of the gut.

Hydrochloria (Low stomach acid) and indigestion

Herbs that help increase stomach acid, bile and digestive enzyme production are classed as bitters. Bitters work by stimulating bitter receptors in the mouth that then go on to stimulate the autonomic nervous system into helping prepare digestive organs. Producing a number of reactions associated with more efficient digestion of food. Best consumed as an alcoholic extract aka tincture.

Bitters include - Wormwood (Artemesia absinthum), Gentian Root (Gentiana lutea), Dandelion Root (Taraxacum oficinale), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Dandelion Flower (Taraxacum officinale). Herbalist's use the root as a bitter remedy to improve liver, gallbladder and digestive enzyme function.

Dandelion Flower (Taraxacum officinale). Herbalist's use the root as a bitter remedy to improve liver, gallbladder and digestive enzyme function.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Belching and gas

Herbs that help with bloating are classed as carminatives. Carminatives are rich in volatile oils that help contribute towards peristalsis. They sooth and settle the gut wall and the surrounding smooth muscle so that trapped gas can be moved.

Carminatives include - Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Mint (Mentha piperita), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Ginger (Zingiber oficinale), Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Constipation

Herbs that help contribute towards bowel movements are known as laxatives. Laxatives stimulate contractions of the muscles that line the colon or work by bulking the stool by drawing water into the colon.

Stimulating laxatives include - Burdock (Arctium lappa), Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Bulking laxatives - Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis), Psyllium seed (Plantago psyllium)

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria). Seen here without the yellow flower. Use the leaf as a tea or tincture for loose stools.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria). Seen here without the yellow flower. Use the leaf as a tea or tincture for loose stools.

Diarrhea

Herbs that help with loose stools or diarrhea are known as astringents. They contain a high volume of a constituent known as a ‘tannin’. Tannins work by binding protein molecules together, lowering inflammation and creating a barrier against infection.

Astringents include - Oak Bark (Quercus spp), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria).

Other actions for the gut include herbs which help fungal, parasitic or bacterial infections as well as herbs that work on the human stress response. The function of the gut is autonomic and responds to herbs that work with hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA/Human stress response).

There are many other actions that herbs have which exert an effect on the gut. Most of the above have the largest evidence base for their reported medicinal effects.

Oak leaf (Quercus spp). Herbalist’s use a tincture of the bark for severe diarrhea.

Oak leaf (Quercus spp). Herbalist’s use a tincture of the bark for severe diarrhea.

Sometimes you may find that simple herbs on there own can offer relief. But complex, chronic health problems often involve working with somebody that understands how to offer herbal prescriptions that offer a formula which works on an array of issues. Problems with digestion often go together with mental health issues, autoimmune diseases and skin disorders. It can feel like a minefield trying to work all this out on your own. Find somebody you trust and try not to focus too much attention on one particular symptom or problem. Rather try to see how it might all be connected.

Jonny Woodall
Medical Herbalist and Flower Essence Therapist
BSc (Hons) Herbal Medicine
National Institute of Medical Herbalists

Contact me for help with your health problems and illness

PHONE: +44(0) 7525827558

EMAIL: jonnyapothecary@gmail.com

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