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Ask the Herbalist -Constipation

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QUESTION: My wife has constipation problems and she purchased Swedish Bitters.  How long does it normally take for this to start working for her to be able to go to the bathroom?  She has tried laxatives which do nothing but cause cramping.  She eats lots of fiber and fruit and it doesnít help either. 

ANSWER:   As with anything dosage and frequency play a large role, as well as the individual client's problem and diagnostics. There are several great natural laxatives, but first I will give you the plant which in my view is not only great but healthier, and that is carrots. Carrot juice drank twice the first day and then once the second will provide the necessary effect. I suggest juicing 6 carrots and 1 stick on celery each time.  

Having said that there are other plants that are also very good. Among them Globe Artichoke, Cascara Sagrada, Senna and Psyllium husk.  These are best ingested as extracts or tinctures. A fair and honest company for these is http://www.goldenlotusherbs.com/  Extracts and tinctures work better and faster.

To use just add 15-20 drops to a cup of Green tea or Dandelion tea this last would be better as it would help to detoxify the system. Sweeten with a bit of honey and drink 2-3xs day as needed. 

Which ever method she adopts, after the problems have ceased I would suggest continuing to drink Dandelion root tea for 5-7 days to continue detoxifing the system. 

Since every person is different I would also suggest that in order to really know what is going on, and to do a more accurate and individualized treatement plan, she allow us to do an evaluation. You may visit: http://tcmconsultants.org for more info on that.  I certainly hope this helps.

: I am 52 years old  and have been in menopause for three years. I have had constipation for about 5 years now since the pre-menopause. I have a healthy diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, yogurt and some cheese. I am also physically active. I am on medication for thyroid however it has not helped me. I am also trying magnesium which is not helping much either. What is your suggestion to treat my constipation?

ANSWER: Do you know your blood type? Perhaps, using meat only very sparingly, may be a possibility. 8 glasses of water a day, with lemon, squeezed into the water, will be helpful, also taking a Bile Acid, digestive enzyme would probably really help the bowel also. I suggest a clean out using our wonderful, bowel conditioning, mild, and effective, Life Force Fiber Food. Our Green Alkinalizing mix, is also indicated, to detox, and help energy, will also help menopausal symptoms. The Chinese herb blend, Meno Free, would be good for you as well, to help deal with any symptoms, you may have due to menopause. Read the downloads on cleansing, see what feels right for you, and let us know if we can serve you further. If you will follow this simple and gentle detox, and learn to give your bowel what is needs, then you will see the results you desire. On an emotional level, not being able to easily let issues go, is one thing to consider. You may also take the flower essence Holly, 10 drops one or two times daily, will be comforting to you as well.

QUESTION: Can you please tell me how to use and how much to use bladderwrack powder for weight loss and as a bulk forming laxative.

ANSWER: Please read the below, diet sheets, and then take the bladderwrack at 1/2 tspn, 3 times daily 6 days a week, for 20 days, then 10 days off, then again, for 10 days on, then , use 1 tspn daily, for 20 days, then 1/2 tspn daily, 6 days a week, thereafter.

QUESTION: Are bitter herbs beneficial for constipation and what is a good formula that you know of?

ANSWER: In many cases the bitter herbs are great. Swedish Bitters is the best bitter blend I know of for the bowel and digestion ( we carry these) are in a alcohol tincture/tonic, that has been very popular in Europe for many years.  Our Life Force Fiber Food is one of the best for bowel health, and is not in alcohol. Following the suggested cleansing diet is also one of the best ways to unglue the bowel, and get it happy again.

QUESTION:  I am 52 years old  and have been in menopause for three years. I have had constipation for about 5 years now since the pre-menopause. I have a healthy diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, yogurt and some cheese. I am also physically active. I am on medication for thyroid however it has not helped me. I am also trying magnesium which is not helping much either. What is your suggestion to treat my constipation?

ANSWER: Do you know your blood type?  Perhaps, using meat only very sparingly, may be a possibility. 8 glasses of water a day, with lemon, squeezed into the water, will be helpful, also taking a Bile Acid, digestive enzyme would probably really help the bowel also.  I suggest a clean out using our wonderful, bowel conditioning, mild, and effective, Life Force Fiber Food. Our Green Alkinalizing mix, is also indicated, to detox, and help energy, will also help menopausal symptoms. The Chinese herb blend, Meno Free, would be good for you as well, to help deal with any symptoms, you may have due to menopause.  Read the downloads, see what feels right for you. If you will follow this simple and gentle detox, and learn to give your bowel what is needs, then you will see the results you desire. On an emotional level, not being able to easily let issues go, is one thing to consider. You may also take the flower essence Holly, 10 drops one or two times daily, will be comforting to you as well.

QUESTION: I think my blood type is B positive. Does Holly flower essence without alcohol?

ANSWER: Your diet is best suited to less meat, not more. Read about it, there are several good books on Amazon.  I do have a flower essence made without alcohol, called Calm the Chaos, that would work well for you.


QUESTION: I have a question.  I have severe, chronic constipation.  I use to have chronic diarrhea, but since my bladder augmentation which used my illium, I have not been able to get regulated.  I have tried oxyginated magnesium, which only works temporarily regardless of how much I take.  Psyllium which isnít working.  Triphala which I have been taking for 2.5 weeks with no result even though IĎm taking about 4 grams per day.  I am now also drinking lemon water.  I can take senna but that works for one movement and gives me a horrible stomachache.  Help I feel like Iím blowing up instead of getting better.  Thanks

We do manufacture a fiber cleanse and daily use product, that has Triphela, and 20 other herbs in it for every organ and system in the body, it works. Life Force Fiber Food,. is what it is called; We also highly suggest our Green Alkinalizing Mix, provides energy, detoxes, and makes the body want to get well. However, I believe you must do a cleanse as well, and start from scratch. Please read the downloads, and see if you could find a way to do them. I also suggest you take a good probiotic. Let me know if we can be of service,

QUESTION:  Constipation, my wife suffers with this on a daily basis .Have been to doctors and specialist and tried all sorts all medications to no avail. Could you please help.

ANSWER: First of all, take a close look at her diet, what does she eat and drink?  What drugs is she on? What is her blood type?  Also, please read the downloads, and start her on the castor oil packs on her abdomen, right away.  Our formula, Life Force Fiber Food, has been used for over 20 years for this, and other related syndromes, and would be very supportive to her, and she will see immediate relief. She will need to drink lots of water, as the debris clears from her bowel,
     I strongly suggest she take the Life Force to detox, and heal her bowel, clean the debris, and our Green Mix, to add oxygen to her blood, build her blood, and further detox the bowel, and sweeten the breath, by detoxing the bowel.

QUESTION: I have been battling severe constipation now for 7 years and have all sorts of bowel testing done and even resection of sigmoid colon.   My new doctor thinks I might have Hashimotos thyroiditis and or a mild case of endometriosis.  Any suggestions on what to take for either of these problems?

ANSWER:  For the constipation I would try Triphala, it is balancing and toning to the bowels, start with the suggested dose on the bottle and take one pill more per day until you go or one  pill less to firm up the results if  the BM gets to loose

Is flax seed oil beneficial for regularity? If not what would you suggest
for a 43 year old woman. Thank you

ANSWER: For constipation, the 3 three basic things to start with are increased water intake, upwards of a gallon a day, increased exercise (minimum 20 minutes of walking a day), increased fiber (5 crispy fruits and 5 crispy vegetables a day).

As to Flax, Freshly ground flax seed acts as a bulk laxative, the essential oils in the seed are also good for you.   Look for refrigerated flax seed and use a small coffee grinder to grind a tablespoon of seeds each day to be added to you diet.  Keep the unground seeds in the refrigerator until ground to retain freshness, the oil in the seeds can go rancid quickly.

A balanced bitter herbal formula used 3 times a day before meals is also helpful, a balanced formula uses warming and cooling herbs.  Ingredients would include, Angelica, Orange Peel, Dandelion, Gentian, Artichoke and some carminative herbs such as Peppermint and/or Ginger.  You can read my other answers on Bitter Formulas for more information.  We carry several balanced bitter formula brands in our store if you cannot find one locally, stay away from the Swedish bitters and the Angostura bitters.

A great Ayurvedic or Ayurveda herbal formula to get and stay regular is Triphala a combination of 3 berry herbs used in India, we carry this product in our store and mailorder everyday.

Here is an article on the benefits of Triphala

Triphala formula Amla, Amalaki, Latin Named: Emblica officinalis, Haritaki
Latin Named: Chebulic myrobalan Bhibitaki, Latin Named: Beleric myrobalan
The Wonders of Triphala: Ayurvedic Formula for Internal Purification Dr.
Michael Tierra L.Ac., O.M.D.

The most popular herbal remedies in the health food industry are those which
promote bowel movement. The reason is quite simple since the most common
problem of so many individuals is constipation and bowel irregularity.
Consider how tremendously valuable a formula is that not only regulates
bowel movement but at the same time does the following:
*    improves digestion,
*    reduces serum cholesterol,
*    improves circulation (potentiates adrenergic function),
*    contains 31% linoleic acid,
*    exerts a marked cardio-protective effect,
*    reduces high blood pressure,
*    improves liver function,
*    has proven anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties,
*    expectorant, hypotensive.
Sound like a panacea? Well, it is practically just that.
Triphala, as it is called, is the most popular Ayurvedic herbal formula of
India, since it is an effective laxative which also supports the body's
strength. The constitution of vegetarian Hindus cannot tolerate harsh
laxatives anymore than vegetarians in other countries. Because of its high
nutritional value, Triphala uniquely cleanses and detoxifies at the deepest
organic levels without depleting the body's reserves. This makes it one of
the most valuable herbal preparations in the world.
How is Triphala different from other kinds of laxatives? There are two
primary types of herbal laxatives. One is called a purgative and includes
herbs such as senna, rhubarb, leptandra, buckthorne and cascara. These often
contain anthroquinones which work by stimulating the peristaltic action of
the intestinal lining, either directly or by promoting the secretion of bile
through the liver and gall bladder.
The second type of laxative is a lubricating bulk laxative, including
demulcent herbs such as psyllium and flax seed. This is more nutritional and
usually does not have any significant direct effect on either the liver or
the gall bladder. Rather, these work like a sponge by swelling and absorbing
fluid, thus acting as an intestinal broom.
Triphala combines both nutritional as well as blood and liver cleansing
actions. It has little function as a demulcent or lubricating laxative,
however. It possesses some anthroquinones which help stimulate bile flow and
peristalsis. The nutritional aspect is more in the form of its high vitamin
C content, the presence of linoleic oil and other important nutrients which
it makes more of a tonic.
People who are in need of purgatives are those whose bowel irregularity is
caused by liver and gall bladder congestion usually accompanied by some
degree of blood toxins. Those in need of demulcent laxatives are those with
intestinal dryness caused by a variety of metabolic factors including a
nutritional deficiency as well as a condition of excess hypermetabolic
energy. Triphala will prove useful for all kinds of constipation except that
caused by a lack of vital energy or chi. Even for the latter type, it will
not further deplete such an individual and can be made to work well if it is
combined with other chi, blood or yang-warming tonic herbs such as ginseng
for chi tonification, tang kuei for blood tonification and prepared aconite
for yang tonification.
Herbal healing is largely a matter of strategy. One approach may emphasize
tonification while another emphasizes elimination. The problem with
overemphasizing tonification is that it can lead to further stagnation and
congestion in an excess condition. Emphasizing elimination through the
overuse of purgatives in an already deficient individual can further deplete
the body's store of minerals and essential B vitamins as well as imbalance
beneficial intestinal micro-organisms. The result is weakness with a likely
tendency towards chronic fatigue and anemia. Since the body is always
simultaneously involved with maintaining and gaining strength through good
nutrition as well as eliminating waste, Triphala is unique in that it is
naturally able to support both vital processes simultaneously.
Because of its high nutritional content, Ayurvedic doctors generally do not
regard Triphala as a mere laxative. Some of the scientific research and
practical experience of people using it down through the ages has
demonstrated that Triphala is an effective blood purifier that stimulates
bile secretion as it detoxifies the liver, helps digestion and assimilation,
and significantly reduces serum cholesterol and lipid levels throughout
body. As a result, it is regarded as a kind of universal panacea and is the
most commonly prescribed herbal formula.
A popular folk saying in India is, "No mother? do not worry so long as you
have Triphala." The reason is that Indian people believe that triphala is
able to care for the internal organs of the body as a mother cares for her
children. Each of the three herbal fruits of tTriphala takes care of the
body by gently promoting internal cleansing of all conditions of stagnation
and excess while at the same time it improves digestion and assimilation.
We herbalists believe that the longevity and innate power of herbs such as
those of Triphala are, when ingested, energetically absorbed and imparted to
our reserves. This belief exists with herbs such as wild ginseng, where
specimens that have "weathered" decades of climatic stress have been found
to contain the highest concentration of ginsenosides. The Ginkgo tree is
another of those long lived plants whose evolution extends back over
millennia to the time of the dinosaurs.
The three fruits of Triphala (Harada, Amla and Bihara) each correspond to
the "three humours" or "tridosha" of Indian Ayurvedic medicine. According to
Ayurvedic theory, the body is composed of three doshas or humours. Vata is
sometimes translated as "wind" which corresponds to the mind and nervous
system. Its nature is dry, cold, light and activating. The second is pitta
which is also translated as "fire" or "bile." It is responsible for all
metabolic transformations including the digestion and assimilation of food
as well as assimilation and clarity of thought and understanding. The nature
of pitta is primarily hot, moist and light. Kapha is sometimes translated as
the "water" or "mucus" humour and is responsible for all anabolic or
building functions such as the development of muscle and bone tissue. Its
nature is cool, moist and heavy.
Harada, having a bitter flavor, is associated with the vata humour as well
as the air and space elements. It treats imbalances and diseases of the vata
humour. Harada possesses laxative, astringent, lubricant, antiparasitical,
alterative, antispasmodic and nervine properties. It is therefore used to
treat acute and chronic constipation, nervousness, anxiety and feelings of
physical heaviness.
Among Tibetans, Harada is so highly revered for its purifying attributes
that it is the small fruit that is depicted in the hands of the "medicine
Buddha" in their sacred paintings or tankas. Of the three fruits, Harada is
the most laxative and contains anthroquinones similar to those found in
rhubarb and cascara.
Amla has a sour flavor and corresponds to the pitta humour and the fire
element in Ayurvedic medicine. It is a cooling tonic, astringent, mildly
laxative, alterative, antipyretic. It is used to treat fire imbalances that
include ulcers, inflammation of the stomach, intestines, constipation,
diarrhea, liver congestion, eruptions, infections and burning feelings
throughout the body. In various studies, Amla has been shown to have mild
anti-bacterial [1] Triphala properties, pronounced expectorant[2]Triphala,
anti-viral[3] <Triphala_fn.html> and cardiotonic [4] Triphala activity.
Amla is the highest natural known source of vitamin C. Having 20 times the
vitamin C content of an orange, Amla is also uniquely heat stable. Even when
subjected to prolonged high heat, as in the making of the Ayurvedic tonic
formula called Chyavanprash, Amla, as the primary herb comprising 50% of the
formula, hardly loses any of the vitamin C that is present when it is
freshly harvested off the tree. The same is true of Amla that has been dried
and kept for up to a year. This age and heat stable form of vitamin C in
Amla is due to the presence of certain tannins that bind and inhibit its
Bihara is astringent, tonic, digestive and anti-spasmodic. Its primary
flavor is astringent and the secondary is sweet, bitter and pungent. It
targets imbalances associated with the kapha or mucus humour, corresponding
to the earth and water elements in Ayurvedic medicine. Specifically Bihara
purifies and balances excess mucus, treats asthma, bronchiole conditions,
allergies and hiccoughs.
Ama is a term denoting a substance associated in Ayurveda with chronic
disease patterns and symptoms of aging. It is described as a kind of sticky
buildup of material that clogs the circulatory channels. In many ways it is
nearly identical to the accumulation of excess cholesterol and blood lipids
described in the West. Both conditions seem to contribute to a wide variety
of circulatory disorders ranging from senility, rheumatic conditions, cancer
and heart disease. It is interesting that in Traditional Chinese Medicine
there is also a pathological condition associated with the heart called
"invisible mucus" that is similar to the descriptions of both excess
cholesterol and ama in Ayurveda.
One of the body's reactions to coping with stress is to increase the
production of corticosteroids. The accumulation of these stress hormones can
also contribute to the formation of cholesterol. Internal stress and the
resultant buildup of cholesterol can be caused by the abuse of stimulants,
spicy, hot foods such as garlic and cayenne, excessive aerobic exercise and
repression of the emotions. It is interesting that an excess of some of
those very substances and activities that lower cholesterol in some, when
not utilized in a holistic, balanced manner, can act as a stimulant and add
further stress that would precipitate the further accumulation of
cholesterol. Triphala is one of two [5] Triphala Ayurvedic formulations that
are specific for eliminating Ama and cholesterol from the body.
Triphala is a completely balanced energetic formula, being neither too cold,
nor too hot. When taken regularly over a long period, it gently effects the
elimination and purification of Ama from the tissues of the entire body. The
three fruits have been scientifically studied and confirm some of its known
traditional benefits. These include the lowering of cholesterol, reducing
high blood pressure, benefiting circulation, improving digestion and
regulating elimination without causing any laxative dependency.
One Indian study reported by C.P. Thakur, demonstrated the enormous value
and effectiveness of Amla, reducing serum, aortic and hepatic cholesterol in
rabbits[6] Triphala. In another study [7] Triphala, extracts of Amla fruit
were found to decrease serum free fatty acids and increase cardiac glycogen.
This helps to prevent heart attacks by providing significantly greater
protection and nourishment to the heart muscle.
Studies of the fruit of Bihara [8] Triphala found that it contains up to 35%
oil and 40% protein. The oil is used in soap making and by the poorer
classes as a substitute cooking oil for ghee. The sweet smelling oil is 35%
palmitic, 24% oleic and 31% linoleic. Linoleic oil is an essential fatty
acid important for increasing HDL cholesterol, associated with a healthy
state and reducing LDL cholesterol, considered to indicate a
higher-than-average risk for developing coronary-heart disease.
One of numerous studies of Harada [9] Triphala demonstrated its anti-vata or
anti-spasmodic properties by the reduction of abnormal blood pressure as
well as intestinal spasms. This confirms its traditional usefulness for
heart conditions, spastic colon and other intestinal disorders.
With all the virtues of the three individual herbs, Triphala has many wide
and varied uses as a therapeutic herbal food. Before considering
pathological indications for which Triphala would be appropriate, we should
never ignore the value of taking it on some regular basis whether once daily
or once or twice a week simply for health maintenance. Triphala, having
great nutritional properties, will help to prevent sickness.
I remember meeting a yogic master who was in his late eighties and staying
in Santa Cruz for a few months. Being clear of mind and body, he could out
walk anyone, both in terms of speed and distance. Besides his practice of
meditation, he considered the fact that his remarkable fitness and health
was primarily due to the fact that his diet consisted primarily of Kicharee
(mung beans, rice, ghee and spices, i.e., cumin, coriander, turmeric and
salt) and a daily dose of Triphala as the primary herbal tonic.
I have numerous reports of individuals with chronic constipative tendencies
who were able to regulate their bowels with the use of Triphala. One patient
with a history of bowel irregularity was suffering from pyorrhea. After
taking Triphala twice a day for three months, she was completely cured.
Another patient who was at least 40 pounds overweight began taking Triphala
and lost 20 pounds in a month with hardly any modifications in her diet. The
reason is that such severe obesity is usually accompanied by congestion of
the internal organs of elimination, including the liver and bowels. As a
result, digestion is compromised with the poorly assimilated food
contributing to the organ congestion. For such conditions, Triphala can be
highly effective in removing stagnation of both the liver and intestines.
Regardless of any other herbs used, Triphala can be prescribed singly or
adjunctively whenever there are symptoms of inflammation, heat, infection,
obesity and other conditions of excess. Because of its combined tonic and
eliminative properties, it is generally quite safe to give even for
deficiency diseases including anemia, fatigue, candida, poor digestion and
assimilation. Unlike other eliminative and cleansing herbs, Triphala is
safely taken for symptoms of wasting heat that frequently accompanies
diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and AIDS.
There are two ways to take Triphala, as a powder or tablet. Traditionally
Triphala is taken as a churna or powder. One would stir in two or three
grams of the powder with warm water and consume the entire amount each
evening or divided into three doses throughout the day. Since for most it
does not possess a flavor that one would look forward to experiencing, it is
convenient that Triphala is available in tablet or capsule form. Generally
the dose is from two to six tablets taken one to three times daily. Children
may only require one or two tablets in the evening.
The larger dose is more laxative while the smaller dose tends to be more
gradually blood purifying. A smaller dose might be one or two tablets three
times daily. One should increase or decrease the dose according to one's
bowel movements. Since there are no problems in using Triphala, the dose can
be adjusted upwards from the suggested amount.
Triphala is also widely taken for all eye diseases including the treatment
of conjunctivitis, progressive myopia, the early stages of glaucoma and
cataracts. For these conditions, it is taken daily both internally as
described above, as well as externally as an eye wash. Steep one
tablespoonful of the powder or six tablets in an 8 ounce glass of water
overnight. In the morning, strain the infusion through a clean cloth. The
resultant tea is used to sprinkle over the eyes or used in an eyewash in an
eyecup that can be readily purchased at most drug stores. One can drink the
remainder in one or two doses, morning and evening. Taken in this way for at
least three months, Triphala becomes an herbal eye tonic.
As stated, there can be different reactions to the same dose of triphala.
For some it causes too loose bowels while in others it may have little or no
effect. As a result, it may take two or three days to regulate the dose that
is best. After the constipative tendencies are removed, usually within 15
days of daily application, it will no longer cause loose bowels.
Presently Triphala is distributed and available in the US from a few
different sources. The powder can be purchased in most Indian food import
stores in larger cities. Tablets are currently manufactured and distributed
by Planetary Herb Formulas as well as a few other companies.
I have used Triphala as a regular part of my clinical practice for at least
ten years. I know that other Ayurvedic doctors both here and in India also
regularly prescribe Triphala for most of their patients to be taken at least
once each evening. For centuries, Triphala has been known and used as a
standard household health supplement much as vitamins are in the West. In
many households, Triphala is taken on a weekly basis by all family members
to prevent disease and maintain health.
In India, Triphala is considered the greatest and most versatile of all
herbal formulations. With the presence of such a vitamin C rich herbal food
as Amla, it possesses unique nutritive tonic and eliminative properties.
Both the public and therapists of all disciplines should be able to benefit
from its unique therapeutic virtues.