I suppose each and every one of us at some point in our lifetimes has suffered from diarrhoea! Maybe not the chronic type but probably the mild one. Kudos to you if you haven’t yet! You probably might be thriving in another planet! Addressing the issue of diarrhea has become an area of concern since time immemorial. This water-borne disease has become endemic and a major threat to several parts of the world especially the tropical and subtropical regions. There is no doubt that many of us often rush off to the closest pharmacy or healthcare provider to purchase pharmaceutical drugs for treatment when we are surrounded by several medicinal plants and herbs from nature. I refer to these medicinal plants as nature’s gift to mankind!
The use of plants for treating diseases has become remarkably popular both traditionally and pharmaceutically. Interestingly, medicinal plants continue to play tremendous roles in human history. Ethnobotany, which is the scientific study of the traditional knowledge of use of plants for traditional, medical or religious purposes has been identified as an ideal means of discovering breathtaking medicines. But apart from being used for scientific purposes, the ball is still in our courts to be in a position to identify most of these plants for our personal usage. The good part of it is that we have most of these plants at our beck and call. However, it is just unfortunate that we oftentimes fail to identify these excellent gifts even when they are standing right in front of us.
The idea behind this article is to bridge the gap by showcasing some powerful plants that you can use for treating diarrhoea. In this case, when next you spot these plants anywhere, you can spontaneously exclaim that you know what the plant is meant for. Due to the ethnobiological knowledge and closer relationship with nature by people living in the underdeveloped and developing regions, they usually tend to avert and tackle diseases with herbal plants around them. Even though these herbal medicines do not work 100% at all times but to a larger extent, remarkable achievements have been derived from them.
Diarrhea is considered a worldwide killer disease however, it is among the symptoms of several other diseases. Diarrhea is a digestive condition in which faeces are passed from the bowels more frequently and in a liquid form. In an attempt to replace lost electrolytes and restore the normal functioning of the body, affected individuals are placed on antidiarrheal remedy. The leading cause of death from diarrhea is as a result of dehydration, whereby the body loses more water than it takes in. This sort of imbalance in the body tends to disrupt the normal salt and sugar levels in the blood thus interfering with the way the body functions.
Many factors contribute to diarrhea outbreak such as poor sanitation, consumption of infected food, intake of contaminated water and unclean environment. Diarrhea can also be caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses, gastroenteritis, specific medicines, ingested poison, food intolerance, colitis, vitamin A deficiency, consuming unripe fruits, food allergies, reaction to rancid nuts or oils, lack of fiber in the diet, excessive bowel movements, infected fomites, polluted environment, seasonal rainfall, contaminated surfaces, enzyme deficiency, infections from insects and flies etc.
In folk medicine, several herbs and plants have been identified effective for treating diarrhoea. It is worthy to note that diarrhoea can also be an indicator of more serious health conditions such as ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory diarrhoea and Crohn’s disease. On the other hand, diarrhoea can be a good means of rapidly eradicating toxins from the body. However, always endeavour to drink plenty of water during diarrhoea bouts to prevent dehydration and excessive loss of nutrients.
Relaxing herbs such as peppermint tea, rosemary, chamomile, lemon, orange, fennel tea and catnip are highly recommended to drink during the healing period. Moreover, affected patients should endeavour to eat little portions of food more frequently. Researchers like Laloo and Hemalatha (2011) investigated the utilisation of certain powerful plant species for treating and stopping diarrhoea. Some of these plants include; Cinnamomum tamala, Bauhinia Acuminata, Aegle marmelos, Guava (Psidium guajava L), Yarrow (Achilea millefolium), Soursop (Annona muricata), Carob tree (ceratonia siliqua), Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Picrorhiza Kurroa (Picrorhiza kurroa), Goldenseal (Hydrasis Canadensis L.), Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris), Psyllium (Plantago ovata), Chinese bayberry ( Myrica rubra Sieb. et Zucc.), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Moringa oleifera, Pongamia pinnata (Linn.) and Acorus calamus (Linn).
These powerful plants contain tannin, which is a naturally occurring polyphenol biomolecule found in plants, fruit skins, seeds, leaves, bark and wood. Tannin (tannoid) is an astringent that binds and precipitates proteins and many other organic compounds such as amino acids and alkaloids. The presence of tannin in these powerful plants plays a tremendous role in tightening and contracting the human tissue. This leads to fluid retention and abrupt stoppage to diarrhea.
18 Powerful Medicinal Plants for Treating Diarrhea
1. Cinnamomum tamala (Buch.-Ham.) is a commonly used medicinal plant for treating diarrhea. It belongs to the Lauraceae family and is commonly known as Talisha, Pat-taakulu by Telugu, Talisapatri, tejpatta by Bengali and Hindi, Tamalapatram by Malayalam, Tezpat by Urdu, Tejpat by Manipuri people and Patraka by Kannada. The leaves of Cinnamomum tamala are distinguished by their flavourful pepperish and clove-like taste. The leaves are highly medicinal and are used for treating various ailments.
Hossain et al., (2012) evaluated the crude ethanolic extract of the leaves of Cinnamomum tamala for any phytochemical and pharmacological properties such as antidiarrhoeal, antimicrobial and cytotoxic effects. Their findings reveal that Cinnamomum tamala is antidiarrhoeal, antimicrobial and cytotoxic in nature. This suggests why the leaves are popularly used in folk medicines for preparing herbal medicines for treating diarrhoea. Cinnamomum tamala leaves can be squeezed and decocted for stopping diarrhoea.
2. Bauhinia Acuminata is an evergreen large shrub that belongs to the family of Fabaceae. This shrub thrives mainly in the Southeast Asia such as Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia. It grows approximately 2 to 3 meters tall with leaves of 1.5 to 4 cm long petioles. The blades are broadly ovate and divided about 1/3 their length. The broad leaves measure approximately 6 to 15 centimeters long with the apical cleft up to 5 cm deep.
Bauhinia Acuminata bears fragrant flowers that measure between 8 to 12 centimeters in diameter. The flowers comprise of ten yellow-tipped stamens, five white petals and one green stigma. Studies reveal that Bauhinia Acuminata leaves contain many essential chemical compounds such as ursolic acid, phthalic acid, phthalic acid esters, gallic acid and palmitic acid. Islam et al., (2014) evaluated the antidiarrheal and the antimicrobial properties of the Bauhinia Acuminataplant. The result shows that B. acuminate leaves extract are suitable for treating diarrhoea.
3. Aegle marmelos is a medium sized, slow-growing tree that measures between 25 to 30 feet tall. A. marmelos belongs to the family of Rutaceae and is popularly known as wood apple. A. marmelos contains several essential phytochemicals that constitute its efficacy for medicinal purposes. Almost every parts of this fruit such as the fruits, leaves, seeds, stems, roots and barks can be used for tackling diseases.
It is an important medicinal plant for treating diarrhea and dysentery. Its antidiarrheal properties have been confirmed by several researchers. Joshi et al., (2009) reported the in vitro antidiarrheal activity of dried fruit pulps of A. marmelos. The antidiarrheal activity was performed by MIC (Minimum Inhibitory Concentrations) method against the causative organisms of diarrhea. The ethanolic extracts of A. marmelos proved effective against S. flexneri, Shigella boydii, S. sonnei and moderate against S. dysenteriae. Read more about some exceptional benefits of Aegle marmelos here.
4. Guava (Psidium guajava L) is an evergreen fruit-bearing tree that belongs to the family of Myrtaceae. Guava is originally from South America, Central America and the Caribbean before spreading to other parts of the world. Different countries have different names for example, the Surinamese call it goejaba or guave, the Dutch call it goeajaaba or guyaba, Hawaiians refer to it as kuawa or guava, in Guam it is referred to as abas, Malayas call it jambu batu or guava, Portuguese people refer to it as goaibeira or goiaba while the French people call it goyavier or goyave.
There are several varieties of guava such as Apple guava, Allahabadi Surkha, Allahabad Safeda, Chittidar, Lucknow 49, Seedless, Hafshi, Harijha, Fruits of sebia and Arka Mridula. Guava is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fibre, flavonoids, tannins, saponins, phenols, pectin, carotenoids, triterpenes, lectins, essential oils, vitamin A and fatty acids. The traditional use of guava for treating gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and other digestive problems has been proven in various clinical studies. Both the leaves, fruits and bark of guava tree have been considered effective for medicinal purposes.
Kamath et al., (2014) proved that guava is effective on infantile rotavirus enteritis. The lectin chemicals present in guava are effective for binding E.coli thus preventing its attachment to the intestinal wall (Rodriguez et al., 2001). This thus helps to prevent infection and diarrhoea bouts caused by the diarrhea-causing organism E.coli.
Guava leaves extract also helps to soothe the intestinal smooth muscle thus hindering the chemical processes present in diarrhoea. This soothing nature of the guava leaves extracts facilitates the easy re-absorption of water in the intestines. The efficacy of guava leaves extract in diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and dysentery treatment is also attributed to its antibacterial properties. To treat diarrhoea, the bark and leaves of guava can be decocted and taken.
5. Yarrow, which is botanically known as Achilea millefolium is a perennial plant that produces one or multiple stems. It grows between 0.2 to 1m tall and bears leaves that have different degrees of hairiness (pubescence). It usually grows in the form of a rhizome with the leaves distributed evenly along the stem. The leaves measure between 5 to 20 cm long and can be tripinnate or bipinnate in appearance.
The feathery leaves are spirally arranged on the stems and the flowers are white, pink or pale purple in colour. It usually grows erect, up to 3500m above sea level with hairy stems under 3 feet. Yarrow is mainly found along roadsides, in sunny slopes and meadows. Yarrow thrives mainly in North America, Europe, southern Australia and northern Asia. Yarrow contains tannins thus effective for stopping diarrhoea and dysentery. Lakshmi et al., (2011) agree that yarrow’s sterile and anti-inflammatory features make it effective for treating diarrhoea. The yellow yarrow flowers can be infused and taken for treating diarrhoea.
6. Soursop is botanically known as Annona muricata and belongs to the Annonaceae family. Soursop, which is also known as guanabana or graviola is an evergreen plant found mainly in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Interestingly, soursop has been recorded as among the list of valuable fruits that are highly beneficial to human health. Both the soursop drink and pulp have been reported to contain reasonable amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are health promoting. Both the leaves, stems and barks are equally medicinal in nature.
Different countries have different names for soursop for example, Spanish calls it guanabana, Igbos call it sawonsop or shawansop, Yoruba people call it ebo, Hausa people call it tuwon biri while the French people call it corosol. Soursop contains dietary fibre thus effective for relieving constipation. Both the fruit and leaves can be used for treating gastrointestinal diseases such as stomach pains and diarrhoea. The leaves can be squeezed and decocted in hot water, which is taken as an herbal remedy for stopping diarrhoea. Read more about other incredible benefits of soursop here.
7. Carob tree is botanically known as Ceratonia siliqua and popularly known as locust bean or St John’s-bread. It belongs to the pea family of Fabaceae. This flowering evergreen shrub on the contrary, is not an African locust bean. Carob tree thrives mainly in the Middle-East, Mediterranean region, Northern Africa, Southern Europe, Western Asia, the Canary Islands, Macaronesia. Both the carob fruits, leaves, flowers, roots, wood and bark are suitable for human and animal consumption.
According to Lahssini et al., (2015), carob is mostly planted for its edible pods that can be ground into carob powder. This carob powder is often used in place of cocoa powder for producing carob bars and other health-food products. Carob is an excellent source of tannins, which are astringents present in certain plants. These astringents exhibit a binding effect on the mucous membranes of the intestinal tract thus effective for treating diarrhea. It can be used as well for treating infants and little children suffering from diarrhea. When consumed, the gum in the carob pods acts as a thickening agent that helps the body to retain water and fasten watery stools together. To treat diarrhea, the bark of the carob tree can be decocted and used as herbal remedy.
8. Agrimony is botanically known as Agrimonia eupatoria and belongs to the Rose family of Rosaceae. In the olden days, agrimony was normally used for foot baths and tired feet. Its long history of medicinal use has been applied for diarrhoea treatment and other health disorders. There are more than 12 species of agrimony and this herb thrives mostly in Asia, Europe and Northern America. Agrimonia eupatoria or common agrimony is the most common species in Europe while the hairy Agrimony and Agrimonia gryposepala are more common in Northern America.
It normally grows approximately 1 to 2 feet height, especially during the sunny weather. However, it requires proper irrigation to avoid drying off as a result of the sun. Both the leaves and seeds can be brewed as a local tea for treating disorders related to gastrointestinal health conditions. Agrimony plant is normally used in folk medicine for treating different ailments. According to Kačániová et al., (2015), the use of agrimony as an herbal remedy for treating diarrhoea is attributed to its high tannin content. Many other researchers have also proven this plant effective for treating diarrhoea.
9. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus membranaceus is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae. It is an important herb for traditional treating of several diseases. Balachandar et al., (2012) investigated if Astragalus membranaceus can inhibit bacterial growth in vitro. The methanolic and ethanolic extracts of Astragalus membranaceus were prepared using dried roots. The extracts were examined to determine their phytochemical constituents.
Phytochemicals such as flavonoids, alkaloids, terpenoids, cardiac glycosides and saponins were identified to be present in the extracts. The ethanolic extracts showed maximum inhibition than ethanolic extracts. Their findings show that the roots of Astragalus membranaceus are effective against diarrheal pathogens. Moreover due to the antiviral and antibacterial properties of astragalus, this herb is considered effective for treating diarrhoea.
10. Picrorrhiza kurroa is a small perennial herb that is botanically known as Scrophulariaceae. This herb thrives mainly in the hilly parts of India and Nepal. Swathi et al., (2014) evaluated and compared the anti-diarrhoeal properties of Picrorrhiza kurroa royle ex. Benth. They used castor oil induced diarrhoea and castor oil induced enteropooling models. The test extract was tested on the number of faecal droppings for 4 hours. This was followed by the weighing of the intestine in castor oil induced diarrhoea and castor oil induced enteropooling methods respectively. 250mg/kg and 500mg/kg doses of the test extracts were used to test the anti-diarrhoeal properties of this plant.
Loperamide was used to compare the test results. The study revealed that the methanolic rhizome extract of Picrorrhiza kurroa has significant anti-diarrhoeal abilities. This herb is very bitter and it stimulates the digestive processes and the immune system. Precautions should be taken when using this medicinal herb for diarrhoea treatment. Only a low dosage should be given at a time as higher dosages can worsen the diarrhoea and cause flatulence.
11. Goldenseal is botanically known as Hydrasis Canadensis L. and commonly known as yellowroot, goldenseal, eyebalm, yellow pucoon, eyeroot, golden root, orange root, ground raspberry, Indian dye, jaundice root and Indian turmeric. Goldenseal is a perennial herb that belongs to the buttercup family of Ranunculaceae. It is originally from southeastern Canada and the eastern United States before spreading to other parts of the world.
Yellowroot can be distinguished by its yellow knotted, thick, rootstock with purplish stem. The rhizome has a knotty appearance stem scars and it usually grows in patches in hilly slopes, along stream banks and in an open woodland. Goldenseal roots can be chewed or decocted and taken to relieve stomach upset (Cavender, 2003). Yellow pucoon contains an intestinal antibiotic properties thus helps to reduce clingy E.coli while stimulating the immune system. A major active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine, which has been proven effective for increasing the activities of macrophages that digest viruses and bacteria.
12. Barberry or botanically termed Berberis Vulgaris, is an essential plant used in folk medicine for tackling many ailments. It is an evergreen and deciduous shrub that thrives mainly in the temperate and subtropical parts of the world. Every part of the barberry plant such as the fruits, roots, barks and leaves can be used for preparing herbal medicines. Barberry shrub is spiny in appearance and grows between 1 to 3 m tall. It is distinguished by its obviate leaves that bear pendulous yellow flowers. Barberry can be found in Europe, South America, North America, Asia and Africa.
Barberry has a calmative effect on stomach heat. According to Javadzadeh and Fallah (2012), barberry leaves can be used for treating diarrhoea and gastric ulcer. The antidiarrheal effect of this plant is attributed to its constituents of various forms of alkaloids. Barberry is also a rich source of berberine that has been proven to contain antiprotozoal properties. As a result, it is effective for treating and inhibiting protozoans that cause diarrhoea.
13. Psyllium, which is botanically referred to as Plantago ovata and commonly known as Plantago ovata, Ispaghula Psyllium and Plantago ispaghula belongs to the members of the plant genus Plantago. Psyllium seeds are commonly used for producing mucilage, which is a gelatinous substance from plants that contains protein and polysaccharides. Psyllium contains a soluble fibre known as arabinoxylan ( hemicellulose). Psyllium is commonly used as a laxative as well as a dietary fibre for easing the symptoms of constipation, diarrhoea and stomach ache. It can also be used as a bulk-forming laxative regulating the functioning of the large intestines. Some people also use Psyllium as a food thickener. Psyllium mucilage basically absorbs excess water while stimulating a normal bowel movement.
It is also used for preventing and treating bowel diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Psyllium can retain water and as such helps to slow down colon transit and the gastric emptying time in individuals suffering from faecal incontinence or diarrhoea. According to Bliss et al., (2001), psyllium efficacy as an herbal remedy for treating diarrhoea and relieving constipation is attributed to its high fibre and mucilage content.
14. Chinese bayberry or Myrica rubra Sieb. et Zucc, is a subtropical fruit tree that is originally from China and other Asian countries. This fruit tree is also known as yangmei, mountain peach, Chinese strawberry, Japanese Bayberry, waxberry, red bayberry or yumberry. This edible fruit is distinguished by its sweet, red to dark purple colour. It has an attractive colour and prides for its high economic value.
Bayberry fruit is an excellent source of cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) that accounts for approximately 85 % of the anthocyanins in the fruit. This plant is remarkable for its high medicinal value and as such used commonly in folk medicines for treating diseases. Studies reveal that bayberry extracts contain antioxidants that can counter the effects of diarrhoea and other ailments. Chongde et al., (2013) isolated and characterised the compounds of bayberry for a better clarity on the chemical mechanisms behind the biological activities of the extracts.
15. Peppermint or Mentha piperita or M. balsamea Willd is a sterile, hybrid mint plant, formed from the crossing of watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The plant is native to the Middle East and Europe. Peppermint thrives well in a moist, shaded places and spreads over the ground. Originally, peppermint is used for flavouring and spicing foods. It is also used for commercial production of toothpaste, mouthwashes, cosmetics, soaps and several other products.
Peppermint is a rich constituent of menthol, menthone, carboxyl esters, volatile oil, menthyl acetate, menthofuran and 1,8-cineol. Peppermint oil contains traces of pinene, limonene, caryophyllene and pulegone. But most importantly, peppermint is recognised for its high medicinal properties. Due to its soothing effects, peppermint is normally used in folk medicine for relieving pains, aches, flatulence, diarrhoea, nausea, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint plant (Mentha piperita L.) is highly recommended for treating diarrhoea (Abaas et al., 2015). The beneficial effect of peppermint leaves is attributed to its volatile oil.
16. Moringa oleifera Lam. or the horseradish tree is the main genus in the flowering plant family of Moringaceae. It is a small to medium sized tree, that comprises of thirteen species from tropical and subtropical climates. It is originally from Africa and Asia and the name is derived from the term murungai or muringa.
Moringa is known to contain at least 13 different species that ranges in size from small herbs to giant trees. The most popular specie is Moringa oleifera, which is originally from the foothills of the Himalayas in India before spreading to other parts of African countries. Also another popular African specie is Moringa stenopetala. Ethanobotanical studies reveal that the moringa roots are bitter in nature and are highly beneficial to human race.
Every part of the plant are used in traditional medicine for preventing and treating diseases. Its healing properties are attributed to its constituents of phytochemicals such as glycoside compounds (glucosinolates and isothiocyanates). According to Saralaya et al., (2010), Moringa oleifera Lam root extracts can be used for treating diarrhoea. Find out about many of the amazing benefits of Moringa oleifera Lam here.
17. Pongamia pinnata (Linn.) Pierre, which is also known as Millettia Pinnata, Indian beech tree, karach, naktamāla, pungai, Pongam oil tree or Honge tree, is a medium-sized evergreen glabrous tree with a short bole and a spreading crown. It is a deciduous, legume tree that grows between 15 to 25 metres in height. Pongam can grow and survive on most soil types such as sandy, clayed or stony ones but preferably on wet soil. It can tolerate salinity, which suggests why it also grows on seashores and waterways with its roots in salt or fresh water. Although the oil and residue of the plant are harmful and can cause nausea and vomiting if consumed, the fruits, seeds and sprouts can be used for preparing herbal remedies.
Pongamia pinnata is often used in folk medicines and Ayurveda preventing and treating several diseases such as diarrhoea. Kumar et al., (2015) attested that the plant leaves extract is effective for treating abdominal enlargement and diarrhoea. The leaves of Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre can be squeezed and decocted for preparing herbal medicines for treating diarrhoea.
18. Acorus calamus Linn is a semi‐aquatic, perennial and pungent plant that thrives in both temperate and sub-temperate parts of the world. Acorus calamus Linn is a tall wetland monocot that belongs to the family of Acoraceae in the genus Acorus. It is also known as bitter pepper root, calamus, vayambu, sedge, or the sweet flag, sweet cinnamon, beewort, calamus root, flag root, sweet myrtle, gladdon, changpo, myrtle flag, myrtle grass, myrtle root, sweet rush, vasambu, sweet grass, myrtle sedge, pine root, sweet sedge, rat root, sea sedge, sweet cane, changpu, bojho, shoubu, jatila, and sweet root.
This plant grows up to 6 feet tall and the scented leaves rhizomes are mostly used for medicinal purposes. The root oil of Acorus calamus is very strong and aromatic with bitterish taste. Calamus is mostly used to aid easy digestion of food, reduce acidity in the stomach, ease heartburn and dyspepsia. Meena et al., (2010) agree that the rhizomes of Acorus calamus Linn can be used for treating chronic diarrhoea.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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