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Can you Name Some Herbal Medicines Already In Use for Constipation Today?

Updated on July 9, 2011
RNMSN profile image

Barbara worked at Thomas Hospital Home Health and is certified for home health from ANCC. She received her MSN from Mobile University, Ala.

Constipation diagram
Constipation diagram
Normal and Abnormal intestine
Normal and Abnormal intestine
Diagram of constipation
Diagram of constipation


First of all, I have to be a nurse.

Well really, guys, you thought I would be a writer?


Everyone has problems with constipation. It is NOT in anyone's best interest to use any product at all in the occasional case of constipation. And therein lies the rub. The occasional case indeed.

Well, this that segue? Now I am no longer a nurse but just a writer! This writer has had the occasional case of constipation every week since she can remember! But, do I follow the nurses’ advice? Oh Puh-Lease Louise!

Here is what to do to AVOID constipation: walk, drink at least eight glasses of (gagging heard in the background) water, add fiber to your diet, such as whole grains, flaxseed sprinkled on your cereal, eat fruits with edible skins daily and oh no say it isn't true!



Barring that, as no one except Olympians are able to withstand such torture, then try to get something that will work without a lot of pain (cramping) and one that will work only once (so you don't spend your whole day watching TV and going...going....get the picture?

So what can you do then once a week before you go to bed? If the herbal medicines are in the over the counter-counter medicines then which ones do you choose?

None of them. I know, this will negate this hub from the contest but none of them. The thing about herbs is this. When you want to put sage in your turkey, do you get the sage from a capsule at the health food store? Even then, if you buy the fresh herbs for cooking all nicely packaged in 1.4-ounce plastic tins; how long do they stay fresh? Exactly. Not very long.

The same is true for the senna, the psyllium, even the cascara. Along with that, you get the added effect of teaching your digestion to respond to the stimulants in the herbal medicines. Yes, the key word is stimulant. As much as constipation pains you, pardon the pun, the cure can become much worse than the disease!

Although constipation is not, by itself a disease. However, left untreated, the worst case scenario is actually a rupture in the intestines themselves, then the emergency room, then surgery and if you are lucky a TEMPORARY colostomy. With that said then constipation is indeed a problem and one that is easily remedied, with or without herbal over the counter medicines! The thing to remember about the use of any medicine, herbal…. or otherwise Pfizer made…. Is this: Use any and all medications judiciously and only as needed and only as long as they are needed.

Cascara is a very old herbal remedy for constipation. I am just old enough as a nurse to recall giving a dose of cascara and a box of Kleenex to every new mother on their third hospital day. No one could go home until they had pooped and had a good cry, or the reverse, I forget the order!

However, cascara is very strong and not in the least comfortable. Senna is just as old and a little less uncomfortable to take but it will not work overnight. Neither will work without hot liquids and plenty of it, hot as coffee. Psyllium seems to be newly discovered isn’t that funny because it is probably the oldest fiber laxative known.

Laxatives can work in four different ways. Osmotic. Bulk forming, stool softeners and lubricants and lastly, stimulant type laxatives.

Osmotic, where all the water and liquids are sucked from the tissues in the intestinal tract and flushes everything out (sounds rather like Drano doesn’t it? Well, there is a reason why miralax is used in so many different products, from skin creams to antifreeze! That is correct, propylene glycol makes everything rather slick) but it is not the easiest thing in the world to tolerate. The worst-case scenario with osmotic laxative is an imbalance of electrolytes such as magnesium and phosphate. End stage renal disease and patients on dialysis are rarely given this type of laxative specifically for this problem.

Bulk forming laxatives are fiber, like psyllium or Metamucil. This works very well…as long as you drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Otherwise, it will clump up and just sit there until liquid stool passes around it. I know, well, now you know why psyllium is not as well known as milk of magnesia!

Stool softeners and lubricants will not work at all as a laxative. It does not matter how many little red football capsules you take, if you are well and truly constipated, it is not doing anything but softening it up. Constipation can sometimes be just a matter of the sphincter muscle and rectal vault itself. If stool is palpable in the rectal vault but will not come out sometimes a soapy wet washrag or gentle digital stimulation will relieve the pressure, enough to get the movement started without any other thing used first. However, there is one lubricant that has long been used as a laxative and that is mineral oil. Taken long enough and in enough quantity, this will cause a slick film to form along the sides of the intestines and eventually a bowel movement will occur. The worst-case scenario with overuse of mineral oil is that stool will leak continuously from the rectum.

Stimulant type laxatives are good old standby milk of magnesia. Being a good old Baptist I will take liberty here and tell you “The Secret Baptist Cocktail!”

One cup of prune juice, hot as coffee with one pat of real butter and one ounce of MOM.

Then stand back.

Worst case scenario? Heart arrhythmias and electrolyte imbalance.

Given all of that, and in one succinct paragraph can you guess where this is headed? You GUYS! You are soooo smart!!! I am soooo proud of you!

Do not allow yourself to become constipated in the first place! No remarks from the peanut gallery about this writer’s life long struggle with   ahh hmmmmm!!!!

Stay active. Walking is the best exercise any of us can do and it is very easy. Just put one foot in from front of the other. No, you do not need a dog. Without a dog, you do not have to worry about his/her intestinal leavings nor having to dispose of them! Drink plenty of fluids. Water is best; it will flush your kidneys better than anything but drink some form of liquid and drink plenty of it. Even sweet tea is better than nothing! Just do not buy into those little packets of stuff that changes the taste of the water…read the number one ingredient, whether it is saccharin, corn syrup or sugar guess what that causes? Oh that right, you guys are so smart! You already know that! Start every day with a routine, hot liquids, walk, and bathroom. Even hot water with lemon will work. The trick is to train your intestines and not let them train you into putting something in your intestines to make you go!

Herbal medicines have been around since prehistoric times. They are not bad, they are not the answer for everything either. Use a little of your favorite herbs and a LOT of common sense, how is that for a Nurse Kratchet compromise?




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    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      I KNOW :) fotf-lol but hey you can either do a dry boring lecture or make it fun and interesting...which will you remember?

      you may still not take the advice but me, Nurse Kratchet extraordinaire!!! man you will remember!!!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great images lol. Sorry I know it is a serious subject and you have tackled it well