Laxatives from medicinal plants

Types of herbal laxatives


What are natural home laxatives?

Natural laxatives are natural remedies, with plants, food supplements or foods, which are intended to facilitate the movement of bowels

It is important to distinguish between natural laxatives and natural purgatives.

Both are used as home remedies, with the difference that the latter have a more drastic action and have certain contraindications.The types of laxatives that can be used for natural treatment of constipation are described bellow


types of laxatives against constipation

Different types of laxatives against constipation

According to the modus operandi, we classify natural laxative remedies into:

  • Stimulant laxatives
  • Mechanical laxatives

Characteristics of stimulant laxatives

They are also called cathartic, purgative laxatives, natural purgatives.

Stimulant laxatives are those laxatives that act by stimulating the muscles of the intestine. They have a component, called anthraquinone, acting on nerve endings in the gut, which causes a bigger movement of bowel movements (peristalsis), promoting defecation.

Moreover, it is believed that this type of laxatives also act on the cells lining the small intestine, increasing the production of fluids and minerals (especially potassium), and decreasing absorption of certain minerals (sodium and chlorine) and intestinal fluid in the large intestine.

By increasing the volume of liquid, the pressure on the intestinal wall causes a need to expel the stool.

What are the main stimulant laxatives?

Photo of senna

Photo of senna. It is a very strong laxative to be used very occasionally. Sometimes it is found in preparations of laxative teas. Good to know that you can not take it frequently, as it may cause intestinal dependency and worsen chronic constipation.

Different types of laxatives against constipation

Among the main stimulant laxatives, there are the following:

  • Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)
  • Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)
  • Senna (Cassia angustifolia, Cassia senna)
  • Rhubarb (Rheum spp.)
  • Aloes (. Aloe spp) including Aloe vera.

Negative effects of stimulant laxatives

Stimulant laxatives have a very strong effect, which manifests about 6 to 8 hours after they are ingested. They produce abundant malodorous and watery stools. It is recommended to take them before going to bed, so that their effects occur in the early hours of the next morning.

The greatest danger that exists with this type of tea is that used frequently, the bowel may lose tone and cause intestinal dependency, ie the intestine loses its natural motility of these herbs need to evacuate.

* More information: Consequences of laxative abuse

Characteristics of mechanical laxatives

Psyllium seeds

Psyllium seeds. They are rich in fiber and are used against constipation, as a mechanical laxative.

Mechanical laxatives are those laxatives rich in fiber. These food supplements or food, work by increasing the volume of stool, because they retain water. They hydrate and press the intestinal walls, naturally stimulating peristalsis which favors the expulsion of feces.

Supplements can be rich in soluble fiber (mucilage, pectins,…) or insoluble fibers (cellulose, hemicellulose and other complex carbohydrates).

Their action is much lighter than stimulant laxatives. Feces produced are normal or slightly softer and not malodorous. They are recommended against stimulant laxatives, especially because they do not create dependency or have such adverse effects.

This type of laxatives are best suited for people with chronic constipation because they help normalize the functioning of their digestive tract, although the effects are not as immediate as those of stimulant laxatives..

It is recommended to accompany these remedies with probiotic food, such as yogurt, miso soup, etc. For example, you can add a teaspoon of chia or flaxseed on yogurt.

What are the mechanical laxatives?

Among the major mechanical laxatives include the following:

How to use mechanical laxatives

Like stimulant laxatives, they require the ingestion of large amounts of water to favor their action and to prevent body dehydration or intestinal obstructions.

They lack the negative effects of stimulant laxatives, except a possible stomachache and flatulence during the first days of ingestion. Side- effects usually disappear after a few days of treatment.

Not to be used in cases of intestinal inflammation, vomiting, acute intestinal pain undiagnosed, intestinal obstruction, inflammation of the urinary bladder, uterus inflammation, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other intestinal disorders.

Osmotic laxatives

osmotic laxative

Photo of osmotic laxative supplement

They are those rich in osmotic agents (such as lactulose, magnesium salts or phosphates).

Osmotic laxatives act by means of increasing the volume of water in the intestine and softening the stool. Its action is similar to mechanical laxatives, and require the same considerations as these.

They are mineral-based laxatives, which cause a large difference in concentration of minerals in the intestine, which forces the body to release water to attain balance.

Among the natural osmotic laxatives are foods rich in magnesium or phosphates such as prunes (Prunus domestica).

Osmotic laxatives can be bought in pharmacies in the form of phosphates (sodium phosphate), magnesium hydroxide, lactulose and lactitol, or Epsom salts. Its effect is strong and require abundant intake of water or sports drinks to recover lost water and electrolytes.

punto rojo More information on laxatives and constipation.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

15 September, 2023

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