If you often suffer from constipation, you are, most probably aware of laxatives. In fact, you might know about some quick fix laxatives that you buy from drugstores. But did you know that a laxative can be anything- a food, a drink, some oil, a compound and not only the medication that induces bowel movements. A laxative loosens the stool. Any natural thing which loosens stool can be called natural laxative. Because the quick fix laxatives worsen the problem of constipation in the long run, the natural laxatives are being liked by many people these days. If you too want to be relieved every morning without thinking about the scaring constipation issue, you may also try having natural laxatives. But before you know about some of the best natural laxatives, let’s know what do laxatives do and how do they work!
How do Different Types of Laxatives Work
There are different types of laxatives. Yes natural laxatives too are available in various kinds and they work differently to loosen up your stool so that you get rid of constipation. Majority of natural laxatives are formed of foods. However, different foods too work differently. Other than foods, some oils, herbs and other natural things to work as laxatives. Here’s a brief description about such natural laxative types and their way of working.
Fibrous Foods as Natural Laxatives
You can call them dietary fiber. They are also called bulk-forming agents or bulking agents. You may also hear roughage as their one of many names. They work as laxative by making the stool bulkier so that it retains more water. This keeps the stool softer and you don’t face constipation. The foods with fiber work on both, the small as well as the large intestine and thus usually take about 12 to 72 hours to become effective. Some of the examples of such dietary fiber laxatives are vegetables like broccoli and spinach. I will tell you about more such foods in the next section of this article where I will talk about the best natural laxatives.
Plant Based Foods as Natural Laxatives
Apart from the foods that have too many fibers, the other plant based foods may also act as natural laxatives in some people. However, it wholly depends upon how a person’s body reacts to that food. Some of such plant based foods that may act as laxative for you include almonds, aloe vera, artichokes, bananas, beets, blueberry, chicory, cranberry, coconut, coffee, cornmeal, dandelion, dates, dried apricots, figs, grapes, kale, mangoes, papayas, parsley, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, prunes, rhubarb, soybeans, strawberry, tomato, walnuts, watercress, winter squash, yams, olive oil etc.
Hydrating Agents as Natural Laxatives
When you don’t drink enough water, your stool gets hardened. There are many other reasons for dehydration of body but whenever there is lack of water, particularly in the places where it is essential for stool to get softened, you will get constipation. There are certain natural ingredients like Epsom salt and milk of magnesia that hydrate your intestines so that they concentrate more water and keep the stool softened.
Natural Stimulants as Laxatives
Stimulants or better called irritants get to work in your colon. These irritants stimulate the wave of contractions passing along your colon. This in turn propels the stools along and you get rid of it. Aloe vera and Castor oil are some of the examples of such stimulant laxatives.
Lubricants as Natural Laxatives
You may call them emollient too. They function in your colon and make the stool enough slippery to move down your intestine easily and at a faster rate. They may take anywhere around six to eight hours to be effective and that’s pretty fast. Mineral oil can be categorized as such natural lubricant laxative.
The Best Natural Laxatives
So, now when we know about the different types of laxatives and how do they work naturally, we have all the rights to know about the best natural laxatives and how to use them.
1. Eat More Fiber- It is the Best Natural Laxative!
Everybody talks about dietary fiber when it comes to relieve constipation because it is one of the best natural laxatives! You just read, in the previous section, about how fibrous foods make stool bulkier and help it retain more water so that it remains soft. If you do not exactly know what dietary fiber is, be aware that all the edible parts of plants or carbohydrates that you cannot digest are dietary fiber. Thus, fiber is present there in all plant foods too like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. In fact, one of the types of dietary fibers called chitin is also found in the shells of such seafoods as crab, lobster, and shrimp. If you don’t want to have them though, just have more fruits, veggies, grains and roughage. Just don’t try to process them more than you require. Avoid refined and artificial foods, they give you constipation. Here is a list of some foods with high content of fiber. Eat them as natural laxatives.
- Wheat bran
- Whole grains (opt for whole grain breads, cereals and pastas)
- Fruits and vegetables (as far as possible, eat them with skin as the skin contains insoluble fiber that makes your stool bulkier and soft)
2. Olive Oil- Consume this Natural Laxative Daily
Olive oil is not just healthy, it is a laxative too! Well that may not sound a logical comparison but yes, olive oil is one of the best natural laxatives. It stimulates the digestive system that helps better functioning of colon. If taken regularly, olive oil not only relieves constipation but even prevents it from coming back.
- Olive oil- 1 tsp
- Lemon juice (optional)- 1 tsp
- In the morning, on an empty stomach, have a teaspoon of olive oil.
- If you cannot stand the taste of pure oil, add some lemon juice to this and then have it.
- You may do so till you get rid of constipation or can make this a habit so that you never get constipation.
3. Blackstrap Molasses- the Sweet natural laxative!
Blackstrap molasses has in it all the trace minerals that get removed from the sugar cane during refinement for producing sugar. It has magnesium, iron, copper, and calcium but that’s not all. It has manganese, potassium and vitamin B6 too. Did you know that magnesium citrate is used by doctors to treat occasional constipation? Yes they use it as laxative. So, why not use natural laxative magnesium present in blackstrap molasses to treat your constipation!
- Blackstrap molasses- 1 tsp initially; 1-2 tbsp eventually
- Warm water or tea (optional)- 1 cup
- Whenever you feel the need to take a laxative, consume 1 tsp of blackstrap molasses. If that doesn’t work, have some more upto 1tbsp. You may have upto 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses at a time.
- If you are not a person who likes so much of sweet, add this molasses to a cup of warm water or even your tea and have it.
- It is better to take blackstrap molasses in morning if you are having it as a laxative though you can have it anytime during the day.
4. Grab your Coffee- It’s a Stimulant Natural Laxative
Yes, coffee not only stimulates your brain but also your bowel! Whether or not due to caffeine, is not known. But what is known is that coffee is one of the best natural laxatives you can have. It stimulates the movement of your colonic muscles and promotes peristalsis. Peristalsis is the coordinated contraction and relaxation of your intestinal muscles and it is the cause of your bowel movements. And what more, coffee works very fast. So fast that due to the increased peristalsis, your colon doesn’t get enough time to reabsorb water from the fecal matter which is essential for well-formed stools. So, you need to be prepared for loose stool if you choose coffee as your natural laxative! Just have a strong coffee and forget about constipation.
A word of caution: It is said that too much coffee can dehydrate your body by making you urinate frequently. It is a diuretic too. Research studies, however, say that coffee may have diuretic effects only when consumed in very large amounts, more than 500 to 600 mg a day. A cup or two of coffee won’t do harm to our body! Just don’t over consume it.
5. Aloe Vera – A Gel that’s a Natural Laxative!
Aloe vera gel has powerful laxative compounds. For this reason only, various products are made with it to treat constipation. Some of such products include aloin, aloe-emodin, and barbaloin. The aloe latex contains anthraquinone glycosides that are said to have laxative effects.
- Aloe vera gel- 2 tbsp
- Water/ Fruit juice- 1 cup
- Take the aloe gel and mix it well with water or fruit juice.
- Have this in the morning.
- If you are buying aloe vera juice instead of getting aloe gel, you don’t need to add water or juice to this. Just have 1 cup of aloe juice in the morning or whenever you feel the need to take laxative.
6. Mineral Oil – the Best Lubricating Natural Laxative
Mineral oil is a lubricant laxative which means; it coats and softens the stool so that it moves out smoothly. This way it helps the stool to slide through the digestive system and relieve constipation in as less as six to eight hours. For laxative purpose, mineral oil needs to be consumed orally. However, don’t use mineral oil as laxative too frequently. This leads to deficiency of vitamins in the body, especially of vitamin K. This oil contributes in decreasing the absorption of vitamin K which is crucial in blood clotting functions. If you are taking blood thinners, you should not at all take mineral oil. Choose some other natural laxative instead.
How to take mineral oil for constipation
- Mineral oil- 1-3 tbsp
- Have 1 tbsp of mineral oil orally.
- If you don’t get relief from constipation, take 1 more tbsp after about 6-8 hours.
- Repeat again after 6-8 hours, if no relief.
- Don’t take more than thrice.
Warning- Pregnant and breast feeding women should not have this oil. If you are on blood thinning medication or suffer from heart diseases, consult your doctor before taking mineral oil.
7. Castor Oil- A Stimulant Laxative
Castor oil is one of the best stimulant laxatives that works in your small intestine. Castor oil directly works on the mucosa in your intestines and changes the water and electrolyte secretion there. To be more precise, this oil lubricates your bowels without absorbing any moisture from the walls of your intestines. During the process, it cleans the fecal matter. There is one more theory about how Castor oil works as such a fine laxative. When you swallows Castor oil, the ricinoleic acid present in the oil binds to one of the cellular receptors called EP3 molecules. These molecules are there in the smooth muscle cells on the walls of your small intestine. This binding action causes contractions and thus Castor oil promotes bowel movement.
How to take Castor oil for constipation
- Castor oil- 1 tsp
- Fruit juice (optional)- 1 cup
- In the morning, on en empty stomach, have a tsp of Castor oil.
- If you cannot have it like this, mix it with some fruit juice like apple or prune or orange juice and then have it.
- You may then expect to have bowel movement within 4-6 hours.
This is a very safe laxative that you can even give to kids. Just give them 1/2 a teaspoon of it instead of 1 tsp.
8. Psyllium Husk is Excellent Natural Laxative
Obtained from the plant ‘Plantago Ovata’, psyllium husk, popularly called Isabgol in India, has been used by Ayurveda since ages as a natural laxative. It is essentially fiber derived from the husk of the psyllium plant’s seeds. It is an insoluble fiber and this makes it bulk forming laxative. Thus, when you consume psyllium husk, it helps the stool soak up water in your intestine and makes bowel movements easier.
- Psyllium husk- 1-2 tsp
- Warm water or warm milk- 1 glass
- After your dinner, take a glass of warm water or warm milk and add 1-2 tsp of psyllium husk to this. You may give a gap of about 1 hour after having dinner. The key is to have it before bedtime.
- Mix well and drink this warm solution with grainy texture.
- You will find it super easy in the morning when you go for your bowel movement.
9. Prune Juice- the Tasty Natural Laxatives
This is one of the traditionally tried natural laxative, the prune juice. The condition is that prune juice should be unfiltered, the one which still has natural fibers of the prunes it is made from. And if you are not a believer of traditional remedies, a research conducted in 2011 has also approved prunes to be good for treating constipation. In this research, 40 adults with chronic constipation were studied for the effect of prunes versus ispaghula or the psyllium. And it found that briefly, on average, about 6 prunes twice daily seemed to be better at relieving constipation than 11 g psyllium taken twice daily.
• Prune Juice- 1-3 cups
• Prunes- about 20 of them
- Have a cup of unfiltered prune juice still having some fiber in it, right in the morning on an empty stomach.
- If you don’t find relief even after 4-6 hours, have another cup of such prune juice.
- You may have yet another cup of juice if you still have constipation. Don’t have more than that though.
- Alternatively, have 6-7 prunes at a time, two to three times a day.
10. Try Beverley-Travis Natural Laxative Mixture
If you are hearing this name for the first time, you may find it a little awkward. But when you get to know this mixture, you would love it for being so simple and yet so effective. It is nothing but a mixture of certain fruits but let’s have the recipe after a while. First let’s know, from where did this natural laxative mixture came. Baverley Travis mixture is the result of a research trial conducted on older people in a care home. The study found that the Beverley-Travis Natural Laxative Mixture, when given 2 tablespoons twice daily, proves to be an easy and more effective for normal bowel movement than the prescribed laxatives. And now have the recipe to make this natural laxative mixture.
- Raisins- 1 cup
- Pitted prunes- 1 cup
- Figs- 1 cup
- Dates- 1 cup
- Currants- 1 cup
- Prune juice concentrate- 1 cup
- Combine all the ingredients and grind them using a grinder or a blender
- You will get a mixture having a paste like consistency.
- Store this mixture in refrigerator when not using.
- To use, take two tablespoons of this mixture and have it twice a day.
- You may take less or more depending upon the consistency and frequency of your bowel movements.
11. Ripe Bael Fruit- Delicious Natural Laxative
Bael fruit, sometimes called wood apple, is traditionally used in India and other neighboring countries for various medicinal purposes of which constipation is one. Bael fruit can be called one of finest of all natural laxatives. It excellently cleans and tones up the bowels. Only the ripe bael fruit is useful as laxative. It is aromatic and has astringent properties. It is so good a laxative that if you have been suffering from improper bowel movement since long, consumption of bael fruit for two to three months will clean off even the old accumulated fecal matter.
Ways to take Bael fruit for constipation
- Make bael fruit sherbet. For this, take half fruit and scoop out its fibrous pulp. Remove the seeds and mash gently with hands as it has tendency to go bitter. Now take a glass of water and add 1-2 tbsp of the mashed pulp to this water. Mix well. If you desire, you may also add some sugar to this. Stir well so that all of the sugar dissolves. Now have this juice, preferably in the morning.
- You may also have the plain fruit pulp after removing the seeds. Have 2-3 tablespoon of ripe bael fruit pulp before dinner.
Always remember to have ripe bael fruit if you are looking for laxative. The unripe or half ripe bael fruit is a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery.
12. Epsom Salt as a Natural Laxative
Epsom Salt is basically magnesium sulfate. Magnesium sulfate is used by doctors as a laxative to treat occasional constipation. Magnesium is one of the many minerals that are essential for our various bodily functions. Magnesium particularly is required for supporting our muscles and nerve system. It also increases the amount of water in our intestines which helps stimulate bowel movement. If you remember reading the first section of this article about different types of natural laxatives, you will now know why Epsom salt was categorized as hydrating laxative, because it hydrates the intestines helping in making the stool soft.
- Epsom salt- 1 tsp
- Water- 1 glass
- Lemon juice (optional)- 1-2 tsp
- Add the Epsom salt to the water and mix well.
- Add lemon juice if using and give it a good stir.
- Have this solution.
- You may have a bowel movement anytime between 1 to 6 hours.
- If you don’t get any result from it, go for a second glass but have it at least after 4 hours.
- Don’t have more than 2 glasses a day.
Precaution: If you are on blood pressure medicines or are a heart patient, consult your doctor before increasing any kind of salt in your daily intake quota. Pregnant women should not follow any remedy without consulting their doctor.