Constipation and Botanical Medicines: An Overview

Phytother Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):1488-93. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5410. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Constipation affects 14% of the adult population globally, mainly women, and significantly impacts on health-related quality of life. The causes of constipation are mainly three: lifestyle related (functional constipation), disease related, and drug induced. Constipation can generate considerable suffering, including abdominal pain and distension, anorexia, and nausea. The value of some therapeutic measures such as increased fluid intake, physical activity, diet rich in fiber, and nutritional supplements recommended for the relief of constipation is still questionable. The treatment of constipation can be carried out not only with traditional drugs but also with herbal medicines or with nutraceuticals, which are used to prevent or treat the disorder. We have reviewed the most common botanical laxatives such as senna, cascara, frangula, aloe, and rhubarb and their use in the treatment of constipation.

Keywords: anthraquinone; botanical medicine; constipation; nutraceutical.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / drug therapy
  • Adult
  • Aloe
  • Anthraquinones / therapeutic use
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laxatives / therapeutic use
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Quality of Life
  • Rheum
  • Senna Extract
  • Sennosides


  • Anthraquinones
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Laxatives
  • Sennosides
  • Senna Extract