Using Astringent Herbs for Diarrhea, Cystitis, Gastroenteritis and More!
Did you know you possess an incredibly easy and reliable tool to navigate through the world of herbs? It’s true: deciphering an herb’s healing abilities is as simple as it’s taste.
Astringent, bitter, sweet, salty, pungent — each herbal flavor provides unique specific healing actions that you can use to facilitate better health and wellness for you and your family!
This time of year astringent, bitter and pungent herbs are my go-to for health. Why?
Astringent herbs are useful for conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory ailments.
Bitter herbs stimulate digestion, a process quite sluggish with all the holiday fudge. Right? Right.
Pungent herbs are the antimicrobial fighters invaluable for overcoming those cold and flu bugs.
These three “tastes of herbs” are easily recognizable, and understanding their benefits will help you feel more confident using them for home health. All you need to get started is your taste buds and a few basic concepts!
Let’s talk about astringency, first…
Astringent herbs are plants that exhibit – you guessed it – astringent actions when you eat them. What is the astrigent taste? Consider a over-steeped cup of green tea or an unripe banana. Just the thought makes your mouth draw up! That’s astrigency. Each of those familiar foods causes the tissues of your mouth draw up and dry out. The tissue is tightening up and concurrently inhibiting the flow of saliva. The sensation you’re left with is an astrigent one.
Astringent herbs contain high amounts of tannins, a complex group of chemicals that we’re most familiar with in leather-making. Indeed, when ingested these tannins likewise produce a kind of leathery protective coating on the surface of body tissue. They likewise constrict local blood vessels and decrease inflammation.
Astringent herbs are invaluable for digestive and respiratory ailments. If you think about it, both of those body systems are characterized by soft tissue prone to “leaky” disorders: sinus congestion, runny, drippy nose, mouth ulcers, receding gums, and don’t forget diarrhea and loose stools (yes, there is a difference between the two).
Says herbalist Jim McDonald,
“Laxity or weakness in tissues calls for astringents, as astringents help to cause the tissues to constrict and tighten up…. Prolapse is a form of laxity (think about the way a balloon looks that’s been blown up for a week and then deflated). Other tissues may get “spongy” when they lose tone (such as the gums or prostates).” (1)
When it comes to the astringent plant families, the Rose Family (Rosaceae) takes the lead. In fact, the whole Rosaceae family possesses astringent properties (which is why herbalist Michael Moore coined the term “Yet Another Rose Family Astringent” or “YARFA”). Here are three rose species you should know:
Rubus villosus – Blackberry
Agrimonia eupatoria – Agrimony
Each of these plants are great to keep around in your herbal apothecary and offer several therapeutic benefits such as reduced irritation and inflammation of tissues and also barrier against infection.
Raspberry leaf is quite mild and tastes quite similarly to green tea when infused. The herb has an affinity for relieving tissue irritability specifically in the reproductive system of both men and women. As an aside, it’s also an excellent tonic for this system, too. (2) Raspberry has a long history of use for mouth issues such as ulcers, bleeding/inflamed gums and sore throats. And I think this herb shines as a useful remedy for children’s diarrhea! BTW, Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), another astringent herb, is also very valuable for diarrhea in children.
Taking things up a notch, Blackberry leaf or root is an excellent and safe remedy for intestinal inflammation caused by diarrhea and loose stools, albeit stronger than raspberry. While it is safe for children, I recommend trying Raspberry leaf first.
A personal favorite of mine, Agrimony possesses both astringent and bitter properties which makes it valuable for digestive issues such as indigestion and diarrhea, too. It has been shown to affect the genitourinary tract as well, serving as a diuretic and worth consideration for incontinence and even cystitis. It’s valuable anti-inflammatory effects have been noted (3) for gastroenteritis to cystitis and loose stools and it’s suitable for children and adults alike!
One last thought…
Due to the tannins in astringent herbs, long-term, consistent use is not advised. Even too much strong green tea ingested daily can negatively impact the digestive system and contribute to improper food absorption. Enjoy these fine herbs during times of healing, but don’t use them indefinitely.
As always, I recommend a holistic approach to health that seeks first and foremost to get to the root issue of a problem. Inflammation is just one indication that the body is out of balance and is working to overcome a problem. Solving the problem is the only way to attain permanent healing. I can help!
Some further reading, if you’re interested:
Astringent (Kiva Rose)
Astringents (David Hoffmann)
Rose Family Astringents (Henriette Kress)