Harsh laxatives aren't your only recourse for dealing with constipation. Add more water and high-fiber foods to your diet, exercise more and consider herbal treatments, such as dandelion tea. Always check with your doctor before trying any home treatments and to rule out more serious conditions.
With constipation, you may simply realize that you have fewer than three bowel movements a week, or you may feel distinctly uncomfortable. Hard stools, bloating and the need to strain are among the other symptoms. In more severe cases, you may even need to see a doctor to help you "go." The direct cause of constipation is a slowdown of foods moving through your digestive tract, but a number of factors may lead to that sluggishness. Among them are low-fiber diets, side effects of medication, not drinking enough water, inadequate exercise and underlying medical conditions. Pregnant women often experience constipation, as do older people and those who find their normal schedules disrupted.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the common dandelion carries a history of treating a range of digestion issues, including both constipation and diarrhea. Chinese, European and Native American herbalists are among those known to have prescribed dandelion to enhance digestion. People still use dandelion to treat constipation, according to the UMMC. Dandelion root not only has mild laxative and diuretic qualities, but it also appears to promote healthy bacterial function in the digestive tract. Additionally, the plant provides vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins A, B, C and D.
Although dandelion leaves and flowers contain therapeutic qualities, dandelion root is the best choice for treating constipation, according to the UMMC. Look for dandelion root tea at health food stores or dig your own. Look for the characteristic yellow flower head and "lion teeth" spiky leaves. Use a spade or garden fork to loosen the dirt around each dandelion before lifting the plant, including its roots, from the earth. Discard the leaves and flowers. Dry the roots in a dehydrator or let them sit on newspapers in a darkened space until they no longer have any moisture.
Boil the woody parts of plants, such as dandelion roots, rather than simply pouring boiling water over them, as you would with tea leaves. Put 1 tsp. of chopped, dried dandelion root in a pot containing about 8 oz. boiling water. Boil for five to 10 minutes, then pour the water through a fine mesh sieve to remove the plant material. Drink the resulting dandelion tea. Make about 3 cups of dandelion tea each day during bouts of constipation.