Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, affects some 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. For each one of these people, finding relief is a goal. And while there are prescription drugs available, there are many herbs that may also provide relief.
The symptoms of IBS can be unpleasant and disrupt your daily life. They may include:
- abdominal cramps
Foods and other triggers can exacerbate these symptoms, so many people find lifestyle changes one of the best ways to manage their IBS.
Still, for those with severe symptoms, drugs may be prescribed, including antidepressants, antispasmodics, antibiotics, and those made specifically for IBS.
And for folks that prefer to manage their IBS without the use of prescription drugs, there are many herbs that may provide symptom relief. Read on to learn more about herbs that may be helpful to you.
Herbs for constipation
Constipation is one of the most common complaints of people with IBS. Eating a high fiber diet and staying hydrated may help relieve mild constipation, but these herbs can also help.
An Ayurvedic blend of various herbs, triphala can be found through numerous online vendors in powder or capsule formulas. A 2006 study found that triphala can have a laxative effect and positively affect the amount, frequency, and consistency of stools.
Also known as amla or Indian gooseberry, amalaki is used in triphala. It’s believed that the vitamin C content in the herb contributes to its laxative properties. It can be found by itself in both powder and capsule forms.
You may have had it in desserts, but rhubarb can also be found in supplement form. A 2011 study found that the herb has both anti-diarrheal and laxative properties. Long-term use of rhubarb for digestive health isn’t recommended.
Herbs for diarrhea
Like constipation, diarrhea is a common symptom of IBS. Because of the urgent nature of this symptom, it can be the most disruptive.
Often used in tea form to promote relaxation, chamomile has many potential uses. It can provide relief for flatulence and diarrhea, and can be taken in many forms — tea, capsules, powder, or even grown yourself.
The leaves of a blackberry plant act as an astringent to help relieve diarrhea. While they’re most commonly taken in tea form, you can also find blackberry leaf extract in liquid form.
Oregano is a common kitchen herb that packs a wallop of health benefits. It’s most often taken as oregano oil, which can be put in capsules to reduce the chances of indigestion. It may relieve diarrhea and several other digestive symptoms.
Herbs for bloating
Like many IBS symptoms, bloating and gas are both uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing. Fortunately, an herb commonly used in the kitchen may provide relief.
You may have fennel seeds in your kitchen for cooking, but the essential oil of the spice could provide IBS relief. Researchers say it works by regulating the smooth muscles of the intestine. In addition to reducing gas, it may treat intestinal spasms and cramping.
Herbs for overall gut
In addition to herbs that may effectively treat specific symptoms, there are numerous natural solutions that can lessen a range of symptoms, or simply promote overall digestive health.
Ginger is an inexpensive digestive aid that can be kept in your kitchen and be easily made into tea or chewed plain, if the spiciness doesn’t bother you. You can also find it in dehydrated form or capsules. The root has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and can combat nausea and heartburn.
Slippery elm bark
Slippery elm bark supplements, which can be found online in capsules or powder formulas, are taken for a wide variety of ailments. For people with IBS, slippery elm bark may work to reduce various symptoms.
You may know aloe vera for its healing succulent leaves, but it may also help your IBS. You can find aloe vera juice, one of the more common forms of aloe supplements, at most health food stores. Some research shows that it reduces gas, abdominal cramping, and pain.
Artichoke leaf extract
Though you can find artichokes in your local grocery store, supplementing with liquid or capsule form of artichoke leaf extract may improve your IBS symptoms. In a study from 2001, 96 percent of participants rated artichoke leaf extract as being better or comparable to therapies they’d previously used to treat their IBS.
When living with a chronic condition like IBS, it’s easy to feel discouraged. However, with lifestyle changes and herbal remedies, you may be able to reduce the discomfort and improve your digestive health.
Don’t forget that herbs aren’t monitored by the FDA and there might be concerns about purity, dosage, or quality. Be sure to do some research on trusted brands and talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.