In the Irish School of Herbal Medicine, where I did my training to be a Master Herbalist (well I will be, when I have finished writing my thesis on addiction and herbal medicine, which is taking longer than anticipated!!!) our motto is ‘cleanse and nourish’. When we talk about cleanse we begin with the bowels or the colon, also known as the large intestines. The colon’s job is to facilitate the absorption of water into the blood stream and eliminate undigested food. A number of conditions can interfere with that process, including colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
Colitis refers to a group of conditions that involve inflammation of the small and or large intestine. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease of the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Because the inflammation causes the colon to empty more frequently, the most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is diarrhoea, some times accompanied by abdominal cramps. Blood may also appear in teh stools, especially with ulcerative colitis. Fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss may accompany these symptoms.
Food allergies and sensitivities and poor diets are highly suspicious causes of colon problems. Wheat and cow’s milk (my father would not like me saying that, as he was a dairy farmer!!) are particularly troublesome allergens. Stress is also likely to initiate or aggravate colon problems. Bacteria and parasites are also common causes of colon problems. Because the colon is filled with bacteria, both good and no so good, many colon prolbmes are directly or indirectly caused by bacteria.
Increased fiber and lots of water are our passports to better colon health. To restore health and energy, eat a low sugar, low fat, vegetarian diet rich in high fiber grains, fruits and vegetables. And to avoid aggravating the colon, elimate most dairy products, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and bakers yeast. Drinking lots of water (between meals) is important, especially if you are increasing your fiber intake.
Chamomile tea is the herb of choice because its many beneficial properties; it alleviates colitis, relieves gas and cramping and cleanses the colon. Ginger and licorice root are also good colon cleansers. Other herbs with calming effects include dandelion, red clover, yarrow, fennel, and cats claw.