Herbal laxatives are usually taken orally, that is, they are medicines taken by mouth. Herbal laxatives are taken to encourage bowel movements and to relieve constipation.

Several different types of herbal laxatives are available today. As type varies, so does their function. Since directions for use are different for each type, it is important to know which type of herbal laxative you are taking. Here are some of the different types of herbal laxatives currently being sold in the market:

Types of Herbal Laxatives

* Bulk-Formers

Herbal laxatives of this type are not digested. They absorb liquid in the intestine, swelling, and expanding until they are saturated. This results in soft, bulky stool, making it easier to eliminate. The presence of the bulky mass stimulates the bowel normally.

* Hyperosmotics

Hyperosmotic herbal laxatives are so-called because they encourage bowel movements by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues. Its action is similar to that of bulk-formers in that it results in soft stool mass and increased bowel action. There are three types of this type of herbal laxatives. These are the saline, often called salts, the lactulose, and the polymer types.

* Lubricants

One perfect example of this herbal laxative is mineral oil. It encourages bowel movements by coating the bowel and the stool mass with a waterproof film. In this way, moisture is retained, keeping the stool soft and making passage easier.

* Stimulants

Stimulant herbal laxatives are also known as contact laxatives. This is because they encourage bowel movements by acting on the intestinal wall. This type of herbal laxatives increase the contractions of the muscles, moving the stool mass along.

* Stool Softeners (Emollients)

This type of herbal laxatives helps liquids mix into the stool. In this way, it prevents dry, hard stool masses from forming. The action of this herbal laxative is more on allowing the patient to have a bowel movement than causing bowel movement to occur.

* Combinations

Many products being sold combine one or more types of herbal laxatives to increase their potency. For instance, one product may be a stool softener and at the same time a stimulant. Generally, side effects are more common with combination types of herbal laxatives than standalone ones.

Herbal Laxatives are Short-Term

Although they provide relief, herbal laxatives are meant for short-term use only. One should not forget the importance of diet, fluids, and exercise in preventing constipation. A recommended diet for proper bowel movement contains roughage (whole-grain bread and cereals, bran, fruit, and green, leafy vegetables), with 6 to 8 full glasses (8 ounces each) of liquids each day, and daily exercise.

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