Peristalsis, or rhythmic intestinal movement, is needed to promote proper digestion and avoid constipation, which is an embarrassing and sometimes painful problem that happens to most people occasionally. While there are many over-the-counter medications available to treat constipation, some herbal remedies also promote peristalsis and relieve constipation. As with all natural remedies, consult a health care professional before using herbs for constipation.
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Senna is a naturally occurring stimulant laxative. Along with being available as an herbal supplement in most health food stores, it is also the primary component in many over-the-counter laxatives. Senna is generally considered more gentle than its counterparts aloe and cascara, but should only be taken for occasional relief of constipation without the advice of a physician.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that is most widely known for its skin soothing properties. In addition to gel -- used most often for skin disorders -- the aloe's leaves are lined with a bitter, waxy substance that is used to relieve constipation. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that aloe may produce cramping and discomfort and instead recommends the use of other gastrointestinal stimulant herbs.
Cascara sagrada, also known as buckthorn, is made from the dried bark of the cascara tree and was available for many years as a laxative in liquid form. Though it is still available as an ingredient in some herbal remedies, it was removed from the market as an over-the-counter agent by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 due to concerns over safety. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center also states that cascara should not be used by those with intestinal obstruction or undiagnosed gastrointestinal problems. It also should not be used by pregnant women or nursing mothers.
While not a traditional herbal medication, the use of bulk fiber is often the first line of treatment in cases of constipation. Fiber works to promote peristalsis by holding water in the intestines and ensuring that there is plenty of bulk in the stool to produce natural intestinal movement. Psyllium husks are the primary component in most fiber laxatives. Kelp is another bulk-producing agent that may help to relieve constipation. Bulk laxatives should always be consumed with plenty of water or otherwise they may actually trigger constipation.