A laxative is any substance that is used with the specific purpose of causing stools instantaneously. Laxatives or purgatives are mainly used to relieve constipation, indigestion and an upset stomach. Laxatives help the body clear undigested or partially digested food which is generally the root cause of all digestion related problems. At the same time, consuming a laxative in large quantities can cause diarrhea and loose motions; therefore, it is advisable to consume laxatives under medical supervision.
In Allopathic medicine, three classes of drugs are mainly used as laxatives, viz. stool softeners like docusate, osmotic agents like sorbitol, lactulose etc. and laxative stimulants like Anthraquinone and Diphenylmethane. Like all allopathic medicines, the use of these drugs leads to various side effects; this is especially true for the last two categories of laxatives mentioned above. The side effects range from muscle cramps and painful urination on the mild side to paralysis, tachycardia and respiratory problems on the severe side. Many intestinal ailments require the extended use of laxatives; the use of allopathic laxatives in such circumstances can cause very serious medical complications and thus it must be avoided at all costs.
The solution lies in the use of natural laxatives. The history of natural laxatives is almost as old as the history of human civilization itself. Various plants and food items having laxative properties have been described in the traditional medical systems of ancient civilizations like India, China and even Egypt. These substances have a mild laxative effect and can help clean up the gastrointestinal tract without causing any significant side effects. The various natural laxatives are described below.
1. Triphala (Sanskrit tri – “three” and phala – “fruit”) is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy containing Amala (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). It was first mentioned in the Sushrut Samhita; a medical treatise written before 1500 BC. Triphala helps relieve constipation by cleaning the colon and helping improve digestion. It is among the most popular and widely used Ayurvedic medicines currently.
2. A mixture of Chinese green tea, senna leaf and rhubarb root have been used for thousands of years to get rid of constipation and are useful natural laxatives. This potent mixture is commonly sold as Chinese herbal laxative tea. The combination has a mild laxative effect and it also helps in proper digestion and weight-loss.
3. Aloe Vera is a very popular folk remedy which has been used as a laxative for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians were the first to mention the purgative properties of Aloe Vera followed by the Romans and the Greeks. Modern research has shown that Aloin; a yellow-brown colored compound present in Aloe Vera leaves, has significant laxative properties. Today, consuming Aloe Vera leaves and taking Aloe Vera supplements is a very popular way to combat constipation and indigestion.
4. Along with the above mentioned natural laxatives, their are various other laxative foods including various other plants and food items, viz. Flax seeds, Licorice, Psyllium husks (plantain seeds), Prunes etc. are known to possess laxative properties.
The above mentioned natural laxatives can be successfully in order to provide a solution to how to relieve constipation and normalize digestion without facing any serious side-effects. On the other hand, since over-consumption of natural laxatives can lead to minor problems; it is always better to consult with a certified Naturopath before using any of these home remedies for constipation.
If you are considering using laxatives to lose weight you should consult my other page on this topic as to why this is not a good idea, even if you are using natural laxatives (which are at least healthier). This list of natural laxatives would also apply to infant constipation if you feel it is appropriate.