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The Practical Herbalist


When it comes to understanding what is going on inside the body, traditional medical systems had a simple answer. You pay attention to what comes out of the body. As a result Traditional Chinese Medicine has lots of colorful and detailed descriptions of the nature of the bowel movement.

Regular movement of stool through the system is of course very important. The quality of that stool indicates how well the the digestive system is functioning. Various herbal formulas are formulated to address the functions of different sections of the digestive tract. Most Americans address the lack of movement or constipation with adding fiber to the diet. Chinese medicine recognizes that this is appropriate for some types of constipation, but not all. When the system is too dry, the stool is seen to need more lubrication. In this case seed oils are most commonly used. These types of oils tend to remain in the digestive system and help lubricate the movement of stool through the large intestine. There is a classic herbal formula for this called wu ren wan, or five seed pill. The formula simply contains five different seeds, almond, peach pit, pine seed, bush cherry pits and thuja (a type of evergreen related to cedar).

These seeds, and realistically all oil bearing seeds, are helpful when the stool is dry and hard. For the pasty sticky type of constipation, fiber and quite often ginger will help. This is because this type of constipation is caused by what is called “cold” digestion. Another unique type of constipation is a situation where the stool forms into round balls. This is caused by a dynamic that is generally not relieved by other measures. There are herbal formulas that can help this type. Usually there is often some anger or irritability associated with this type of stool. The quality of the stool may be an odd topic for people to talk about, but it is essential for understanding what is going on in the digestive tract.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066