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Herbs for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most difficult conditions to deal with. It’s hard to diagnose. It’s inconsistent. It’s annoying as heck for doctors to try to figure out.

Lab tests and other diagnostics rarely give a clear-cut picture. So it’s often viewed as a problem with physiological adaptation. The small intestine sends the message to slow things down because it needs more time to absorb nutrients.  This temporarily causes problems with elimination and transit time.

However, once toxicity accumulates to a certain point, the body tries to get rid of these things very quickly. And this cycle repeats.

IBS may be due to insufficient digestion, insufficient acid as an example, or it may be due to the consumption of damaging foods. Foods that hurt the small intestine.

So what can be done from a herbal medicine perspective?

Digestive support should be both bitter (from an action perspective) and warming. Demulcents are useful to soothe irritation and inflammation. Slippery elm, marshmallow, and aloe juice have been used traditionally for this purpose.

Nervines support the body in moving forward and being more relaxed. Laxatives, adaptogens, and alteratives may all be indicated, depending on the IBS case.

Here’s an example formula to consider:

Gentian 40mL

Archangelica 30mL

Meadowsweet 20mL

Ginger 10mL

Tincture: 1 tablespoon (15mL), ideally in a cup of warm water, taken after meals, especially lunch and dinner or larger meals.

If you have any questions about your particular IBS case, or just need digestive support in any capacity, please get in touch.

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The Dreaded SIBO

SIBO is the acronym for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Just like it sounds, it is what happens when there is unusual bacteria growing in the small intestine. These bacteria can process nutrients from food and create products like gas, which can then cause indigestion, irritable bowels, and prevent proper functioning of the digestive system.

So how does SIBO even happen in the first place?

One of the obstacles is that it is completely normal to have some bacteria in the intestines. Lots in fact. However, when certain organisms grow too high in number, they can skew the natural balance into SIBO. They can impair digestion and the regular functions of the intestines.

There are many normal and pathogenic bacteria associated with SIBO, including Streptococcus, E. Coli, Staphylococcus, and a laundry list of others.

The signs and symptoms of SIBO are: bloating, gas, constipation, weight loss, abdominal discomfort, and weakness. This set of symptoms doesn’t need to happen in everyone and for this reason can make SIBO hard to diagnose or assess quickly. It may take time to rule out other potential causes first.

There are many health conditions that increase the risk of SIBO. There are also medical procedures that can increase the risk of SIBO. So how do we get rid of SIBO and feel better? The conventional medical system usually suggests antibiotics. The obvious problem with this approach is that it will often kill healthy bacteria too. And of course, there’s no guarantee that once the slate is wiped clean, that the balance will be naturally restored.

It’s a good idea to consider probiotics if going this route. Also, there are many herbs that have antibiotic properties against the bacteria that cause SIBO. These include:

  • Goldenseal
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Andrographis

These herbs can be used in many forms, but most commonly in tincture form. There’s also a common formulation with a bit of an unusual name… I won’t share it here, you’ll have to ask us for that. But it’s named the way it is because it doesn’t have the greatest taste. It’s a combination of Goldenseal, Myrrh, and Thyme.

If you think you may have SIBO, please get yourself checked out. There’s no substitute for an assessment by a qualified health practitioner.

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Herbs and Foods for Constipation

Constipation occurs when bowel movements are not happening frequently or regularly, or are difficult to pass. Most people suffer from constipation periodically.  Sluggish bowels produce chronic bloating and gas and cause significant discomfort. It’s always best to start with diet. The following foods for constipation were selected because they are supported by research and people can easily add them as part of their routine.



There exist many herbs that act as laxatives. Rhamnus is one example. It helps to directly stimulate a bowel movement by activating the bowels. Other herbal laxatives may also help pull more water into the bowels, causing a bowel movement.


Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are rich in fiber and oil which both help relieve constipation.  Flax seeds are natural laxatives that can act as both a bowel lubricant and bulk laxative. They can be consumed whole, or ground. They can be frozen for preservation. Flaxseeds are rich in fiber: two tablespoons have roughly 4 g of fiber. Fiber-rich foods act as bulk laxatives because they absorb water and expands in the bowels.


Olive Oil

Olive oil has numerous health benefits research suggests it can help constipation.  One study showed hospitalized patients given olive oil received the same benefit as those taking the standard treatment. Olive oil acts as a bowel lubricant. When excess olive oil is consumed, it remains in bowels and helps to soften and lubricate the stool.



Drinking prune juice is the most common home remedy for constipation and it has research to support it. Prune consumption was found to be associated with increased bowel movement and improve stool consistency. Furthermore, eating prunes may do more than just relieve constipation. They are loaded with antioxidants. Prunes contain high amounts of sorbitol which has a natural laxative effect. Sorbitol is an “alcohol sugar” that is not readily absorbed and pulls water into the stool.


As always, seek advice from a qualified health practitioner.

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Herbal Treatments for Morning Sickness

It is common to experience some nausea and vomiting in the morning, during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Although it is called morning sickness, a pregnant woman can experience nausea any time of the day. Have you ever tried ginger?

Ginger is important herb in both Asian cuisine and traditional medicine. It is used in herbal medicine to help promote digestion and reduce nausea. Studies show it relieves mild to moderate symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. How should you take it? Dried ginger can be taken in a dose range of 1-6g per day.

How safe is it? Ginger is generally very safe and has minimal side effects. It may cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms.

Another potential option is peppermint. Peppermint in the form of oil can be sniffed to help reduce nausea symptoms. As a bonus, it is non-invasive and inexpensive.

Acupuncture and acupressure are other alternative therapies that you can use along with herbal medicine to help alleviate morning sickness. Feel free to visit one of our practitioners or our acupuncture clinic for an individualized treatment plan.

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15 Herbs to Support and Improve Your Digestion

Our digestive system is arguably the most important organ responsible for many key functions in the body. From producing inflammation/allergy responses to processing key neurotransmitters like serotonin, the digestive process, when unbalanced, can cause a myriad of health issues.

Luckily, there are a number of herbs that can both keep your digestive system functioning smoothly as well as help heal a gut that’s had the proverbial wrench thrown into it. There’s no question that dietary and lifestyle habits play a major role (e.g., sugar, wheat, dairy, and stress levels), but when the hardware is damaged, or when trying to prevent damage, there are a few helpful herbal go-tos you can count on.

Here are 15 medicinal herbs that have been organized into three categories: Bitters, Calmers, and Healers

Bitters help stimulate digestion and are typically taken 5-30 minutes before a meal in tincture form. Keep the solution under the tongue for 30 seconds, which will stimulate saliva production. The digestive enzyme amylase is then released, needed for the breakdown of starches into sugars. Bitters also stimulate the secretion of bile from the gall bladder, helping to break down fats into fatty acids. Ultimately, they keep your digestive system on track where long-term use can help restore an underactive digestive system. Examples of bitters include:

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
Barberry root (Berberis vulgaris)
Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)

The formal name for these herbs is carminatives. They help prevent gas formation in the intestinal tract, which can be extremely uncomfortable when eating foods that don’t agree with our system. We’ve all experienced bloating and cramping after eating the wrong foods – the beauty of these herbs are that most of them can be incorporated into the cooking process or added to a warm tea during your meal. Examples of calming herbs include:

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Cardamom (Elettaria cardomomum)
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

These herbs often contain mucilage, similar in consistency to the mucous we produce, their thick and gooey consistency helps to coat the epithelial lining (skin) of our internal organs. In the same way that aloe vera helps soothe inflamed wounds topically on our skin, they also help soothe us on the inside. This helps move things along through our system and protects us against friction and inflammation along the way. Some examples of these are:

Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus fulva)
Aloe Leaf (Aloe vera)
Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis)
Mullein Leaf (Verbascum sp.)
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)

While most medicinal herbs have traditionally been perceived as weeds, as such, they grow plentifully and have many benefits they can provide us with. Many of the herbs mentioned above can easily be grown in both indoor and outdoor gardens and are very forgiving to even the most inexperienced gardener. With 75% of modern pharmaceuticals coming from derivatives of plant sources, it’s no wonder more and more of us are returning back to the original source to help us in out personal healing journeys.

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Herbs for Ulcers

Ulcers can be located at multiple locations in the gastrointestinal tract. Peptic ulcers typically include gastric and duodenal ulcers found in the stomach and small intestine.


The symptoms are burning pain in the chest that can be associated with nausea and stabbing pain. Serious ulcers can cause internal bleeding resulting in dark stool or vomit.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and H. pylori infections are the two most common causes of ulcers but stress and alcohol are other factors that can increase the risk of ulcers.


Many herbs for ulcers can help improve symptoms and help provide support towards the healing process.


Demulcents soothe and protect inflamed mucous membranes.  The stomach itself is very susceptible to stomach acid so it produces mucous to buffer and protect the lining of the stomach. Demulcents can help restore the protective coating of the mucous membranes.


Astringent herbs help to close the wound and create a protective layer.  This prevents further damage and allows the internal layers to heal.


Antacid herbs can reduce stomach acid and thereby reduce further damage to the stomach and give the ulcer an opportunity to heal.


Vulnerary herbs modulate inflammation to stimulate mechanisms involved in wound healing.


An example formula or example herbs include: Plantago, Filipendula, Matricaria, Glycyrrhiza, and Althea. Of course, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a qualified health practitioner. This ensures proper assessment and safety, as well as appropriate treatment recommendations.