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12 Herbs For Crohns Disease
Although most patients with Crohn’s disease are given antibiotic and steroid therapies to arrest their symptoms, this inflammatory bowel disease can also be effectively treated with traditional remedies. In the treatment of Crohn’s disease, herbs generally protect the lining of the intestines from further damage and reduce the symptoms of the disease even while healing the mucosal. This article discusses the 12 most important herbs proven to help relieve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Slippery elm or Ulmus rubra is an elm tree native to North America.
The mucilage obtained from the inner bark of the tree is used as a demulcent to soothe injured and inflamed skin. It has a rich history among Native Americans who used it as healing salve for soothing wounds, burns and skin disease.
When taken by mouth, the mucilage of slippery elm can also provide relief for cough, sore throat and stomach problems including diarrhea.
Once mixed with water, the mucilage forms a gel that coats the intestinal mucosa and prevents further irritation and damage by toxins. In addition, slippery elm promotes the production of mucus in the gastrointestinal tract by stimulating certain nerves.
The secreted mucus also protects the gastrointestinal tract from injury caused by toxins and irritants.
Besides the mucilage, slippery elm is also available as a dietary supplement in the form of dried, powdered leaves.
The powdered leaves of slippery elm can be used to prepare a tea or a gruel. Both of these are also medicinal preparations used to soothe the digestive tract. The recommended dosage of the leaf powder is 60 – 320 mg mixed with water and taken daily in 3 – 4 divided doses.
Herbal preparations made from the roots and bark of the tree can also be used to calm and heal the digestive tract. These are usually mixed with water and taken two times daily, in the morning and at night.
Slippery elm is useful in the treatment of Crohn’s disease because of its demulcent and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it can help heal the lesions and deep ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce gastric irritation while reducing the inflammation in the soft tissues of the intestinal mucosa.
As an anti-diarrhea herb, slippery elm can also help prevent nutritional deficiency and electrolyte imbalance in Crohn’s disease. However, the same properties of the mucilaginous extract of slippery elm can reduce the absorption of certain medications.
Marshmallow or Althaea officinalis is a food, ornamental and medicinal plant native to Africa.
Poultices made from the leaves are used to heal skin injuries by reducing local inflammation. The mucilage extracted from the roots and the leaves of the plant forms a smooth gel when mixed with water.
Therefore, like the mucilage of slippery elm, marshmallow mucilage is used to reduce irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that the plant can be used to treat sore throat and ulcers.
Studies have shown that the soothing effect of marshmallow on the gastrointestinal and bronchial mucosa makes the herb useful in treatment of asthma, cough, bronchitis, sore throat, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
In the management of Crohn’s disease, marshmallow promotes the healing of the inflamed lesions in the gastrointestinal tract by coating the mucosa with a protective gel, removing irritants and reducing inflammation.
Oral formulations of marshmallow include tinctures, tea and capsules.
Marshmallow is safe and no direct side effects are linked with the herb. However, it does lower blood sugar levels and, therefore, should not be combined with drugs used in the management of diabetes.
The herb should also not be used along with lithium because it increases the level of lithium in the body.
Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a plant belonging in the ginger family. It is grown for its rhizomes which have culinary and medicinal uses.
The major medicinal compound in turmeric is curcumin. This compound is also responsible for the bright orange-yellow color of the herb and its powder.
Curcumin is the subject of a number of studies. Preliminary research shows that turmeric provides some benefits in the management of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric can also help in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Its antibacterial and antifungal activities can help reduce the microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, the anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin should help reduce local inflammation in the soft tissues of gut mucosa.
For Crohn’s disease, 1 – 2 g of turmeric should be taken daily.
Cat’s claw or Uncaria tormentosa is a woody vine native to South America especially the Amazon forest.
It is traditionally used to treat intestinal disorders and reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory property of cat’s claw has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The same anti-inflammatory property can also help reduce intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease although the efficacy of the herb in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease is not well-studied.
Besides its anti-inflammatory property, cat’s claw also has antioxidant activity. Therefore, it can also reduce damage to the intestinal mucosa from toxins and free radicals.
The recommended dose of cat’s claw in the management of Crohn’s disease is 250 mg per day.
However, cat’s claw should be used with caution because it boosts the immune system and may, therefore, worsen the exaggerated immune response associated with Crohn’s disease. This also means that it should not be combined with drugs that suppress the immune system.
In addition, it should not be used along with blood-thinning medications (because it also has anticoagulant effect), diuretics (because it is also a diuretic) and blood pressure medications (because it lowers blood pressure).
Boswellia serrata is also known as Salai guggal in Ayurveda medicine. It has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that have been found comparable to those of sulfasalazine.
Although boswellia is commonly used to treat arthritis, its anti-inflammatory effect makes it useful in the management of Crohn’s disease too. In fact, it is traditionally used to treat inflammation in different parts of the body especially in the gastrointestinal tract.
Preliminary research confirms that boswellia is a potential remedy for Crohn’s disease.
The recommended dose of boswellia is 1200 mg taken 3 times daily. However, boswellia should be taken with caution because it is known to react negatively with some medications.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a flowering plant and the root is the part of the plant used in medicinal preparations.
Valerian root is known for its anxiolytic and sedative properties. The most common indications for valerian is insomnia and anxiety disorder. However, the herb is also known as a muscle relaxant and commonly used to relieve gastrointestinal pain.
Its ability to relax muscles, especially the smooth muscles of intestines, is the main reason why valerian is recommended for patients with Crohn’s disease. In addition, valerian can reduce the production of gas in the intestines.
By reducing bloating and gas, valerian can help create the required environment for intestinal healing.
Valerian root extract can be made into tea and tincture. Because valerian can cause drowsiness, those taking it must not do tasks that require them to be alert.
Psyllium refers to the soluble fiber obtained from husks of the seeds of the shrub, Plantago ovata.
When psyllium fiber absorbs water, it swells into a gelatinous mass that can provide relief for diarrhea and constipation. Psyllium can also help regulate blood sugar levels and lower blood cholesterol.
In addition, it relieves the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease.
When taken in the right dosage, psyllium can relieve diarrhea and one study found that the herb can help keep Crohn’s disease in remission.
However, at high doses, psyllium may act as a laxative and, therefore, worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
In addition, psyllium should not be given to Crohn’s disease patients with obstructions in their gastrointestinal tracts. To avoid psyllium itself obstructing the gastrointestinal tract, it must be taken with lots of water.
Flaxseed or linseed is obtained from the annual plant known as flax. Its fiber is traditionally used to make garment but it also has medicinal uses.
Flaxseed fiber is used as a laxative, to lower blood cholesterol and to reduce the risks of certain cancers.
Just like psyllium, the fiber content of flaxseed can help provide relief for some symptoms of Crohn’s disease. However, care should be taken not to irritate the mucosa, obstruct the gut or worsen diarrhea.
Besides fiber, flaxseed also contains the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and lignans.
Although ALA is not as potent as the other omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), it can also help reduce inflammation and promote the repair of the gastrointestinal tract.
Flaxseed should not be combined with blood-thinning medications, contraceptive pills or drugs for diabetes.
Green tea is obtained from the slightly oxidized leaves of Camellia sinenis.
Green tea is noted for its high concentration of polyphenols. These are natural antioxidants that can help mop free radicals that may damage the mucosal layer of the gastrointestinal layer.
Studies have shown that green tea can significantly reduce the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. In addition, green tea lowers the risk of colon cancer. This is important because patients with Crohn’s disease have higher risks of colon cancer than the general population.
Ginkgo is the herb obtained from the maidenhair tree or Ginkgo biloba. It is one of the most popular herbs used in traditional medicine.
The antioxidant properties of ginkgo is useful in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. It can protect the intestinal mucosa against oxidative damage caused by harmful free radicals.
However, ginkgo should be taken with caution since it may worsen some of symptoms of Crohn’s disease such as diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Goldenseal or Hydrastis canadensis is a perennial herb native to North America. It is noted for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also an antiseptic, astringent and laxative. Goldenseal is often mixed with other herbs to improve their potencies.
Although it is commonly given as a topical antimicrobial herb, the herb is also taken oral as a digestion aid.
Regarding its antimicrobial activity, studies show that goldenseal does not only act directly against bacteria but also indirectly through the increased secretion of antimicrobial immunoglobulins.
It also acts as a tonic and astringent on mucous membranes. Therefore, goldenseal stimulates increased mucous production in the intestinal tract when the flow of mucous is deficient. On the other hand, it dries up the mucosal surface when there is excessive secretion of mucous.
By increasing the flow of mucous in the intestinal tract, goldenseal increases the amount of the antimicrobial immunoglobulin, IgA, released to the mucosa.
Therefore, besides washing off bacteria in the gut and preventing them from attaching to intestinal wall, it reduces bacterial population in the gut by stimulating the release of antimicrobial antibodies.
Two of the bioactive phytochemicals in goldenseal are berberine and hydrastine. These phytochemicals have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Because goldenseal has a strong affinity for mucosa surfaces, it should be avoided when gastrointestinal inflammation is extensive in order to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.
Peppermint or Mentha x piperita is a mint plant native to Europe but now grown all over the world.
Peppermint is known for its menthol content. Other important volatile oils in the plant include menthone, cineole, eucalyptol and pinene.
Peppermint is used to treat skin irritations because it activates cold-sensitive receptors in the skin. It also activates a family of related receptors in the soft tissues of the mucosa. Therefore, it can help remove irritants from the gastrointestinal tract and, therefore, reduce inflammation in intestinal mucosa.
Peppermint is also useful for treating certain symptoms of Crohn’s disease. These symptoms include diarrhea, indigestion, cramps and depression.
This mint plant also has antibacterial and antifungal effects. These effects can help reduce the bacterial and fungal colonization of the gut. In addition, the herb reduces the damage done by microbial toxins and the inflammatory response of the immune system.
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