While it may be more common in modern times to use an over the counter, or prescription, laxative to relieve your constipation, natural alternativeshistorically called physicks or colon cleanses – have been used successfully for thousands of years.

In fact, an article published in The Lancet by Luigi Capasso provides evidence of natural laxative usage by the Ice Man more than five thousand years ago.

There are a wide range of laxatives available to you at pharmacies; however, the majority of these laxatives are a chemical composition. Chemical laxatives are not designed to be taken long-term, and can pose a danger to your health when not taken correctly.

In point of fact, laxatives are often abused by people looking for a ‘quick fix’ to lose weight, or rid their bodies of unwanted calories that were consumed.

Innumerable health risks are associated with laxative abuse. Most notably, an overuse of laxatives can lead to a dependency. Consequently, over time the colon stops reacting to the stimulation that is produced by the laxative. Increasingly larger doses are then needed in order for a bowel movement to occur.

Overuse can also lead to dehydration. Being dehydrated is extremely dangerous, and can be tremendously detrimental to your health. Watch for symptoms of fainting, weakness and fatigue, tremors, or blurred vision when taking a chemical laxative for constipation.

Dehydration can also cause cognitive impairment. A study conducted by Janice E. Otterwell for the University of Calgary demonstrated that proper hydration is paramount to the learning process.

Furthermore, being dehydrated for an extended period can also cause damage to the kidneys.

A study conducted by Barry M. Popkin et. Al for the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina states that kidney’s function most optimally when there is an ample supply of water within the body.

It is therefore logical to conclude that an absence of water will cause decreased kidney function; as the kidneys are responsible for riding toxins from your body, decreased function is not ideal.

Despite the possible health risks associated with long-term use, short-term usage of prescription and over the counter laxatives are still recommended in cases where there are intense constipation symptoms; however, for regular or prolonged usage, natural laxatives are a much healthier and safer option.

Natural alternatives pose no risk of physical dependencies, cause no irritation to your intestines, do not cause weight gain, and will not cause any adverse side effects.

The following are a list of fifteen natural laxatives alternatives to the chemical laxative:

15 Natural laxatives for constipation

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar and red apples over rustic wooden background

Apple cider vinegar has long been peddled as a natural remedy for almost any ailment; from whitening teeth, and soothing sunburn to lowering blood sugar levels and helping you lose weight, apple cider vinegar is the antidote.

Apple cider vinegar is made by pressing, or crushing, the apples in order to squeeze the liquid out of them. Once the liquid has been released from the apple, yeast and bacteria are added to it in order to encourage the beginning of the alcoholic fermentation process.

Afterwards, a second fermentation process transpires, in which the alcohol gets turning into vinegar by acetobacter.

When turning to apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy, you want to make sure you purchase organic, raw, and unpasteurised vinegar.

For relief of constipation, combine one tablespoon of the apple cider vinegar with warm water, and drink it approximately thirty minutes before each meal.

The acetic acid found in the vinegar helps to increase your body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals, and thus alleviates your constipation.

Key Point: Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, including working as an effective laxative.

2. Prunes

Several Prunes with prunes jam

Prunes are plums that have been dried for preservation; they are an excellent mild laxative.

A study conducted by M. Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis et. Al states that prunes act so well as a laxative because of their high sorbitol content.

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that gets metabolised very slowly within the body. It helps to draw water into the large intestine, which causes the stimulation of a bowel movement.

Additionally, the sorbitol in prunes helps to soften the stool.

Prunes are also filled with soluble fibers, and insoluble fibers. Foods that contain soluble fibers help to slow down the digestion of the food you consume; foods that contain insoluble fibers help to move foods through your intestines much more quickly.

Key Point: Eating prunes, or drinking prune juice, works to draw water into the intestine to alleviate constipation.

3. Salt Water

Spoon of baking soda above a glass of water

Salt water works well as a laxative because the body is unable to absorb salt water; consequently, it travels right through your system and acts as a cleanse for the small intestine and the stomach.

To use salt water as your laxative, combine two teaspoons of sea salt with four cups of warm water, and drink the resultant mixture slowly.

In addition to salt water, plain filtered water acts as an excellent laxative. Your body cannot function properly when it is not properly hydrated.

Drinking the recommended eight glasses of eight ounces of water per day will ensure that your stomach, intestines, bowel, and colon are all functioning optimally.

Key Point: Mixing sea salt with a cup of warm water is an easy way to relieve your constipation.

4. Coconut Water

Liquid and solid coconut oil on palm leaf

Tropical civilizations have been using coconut water as a natural laxative for centuries.

While drinking too much coconut water will not harm you, in some individuals it can cause watery bowel movements, or diarrhea.

If this occurs, begin cutting back on your consumption of the coconut water, until you find the dose that works best for you, and for your body.

Key Point: Coconut water is a safe, and delicious, means of relieving constipation.

5. Cayenne Pepper

Paprika powder in a bowl

Cayenne pepper is the powdered form of a hot chili pepper, and is touted as have many health benefits.

One such benefit is that cayenne pepper acts as a natural laxative. It helps to stimulate the digestive tract, which in turn increases the speed of digestion.

In addition, cayenne pepper contains alkaloids and glucose, which help to increase blood flow and thus help to relieve you of your indigestion, or constipation.

Key Point: If spicy foods don’t deter you, cayenne pepper is an excellent option for a natural laxative.

6. Coffee

Breakfast with coffee and croissant

Coffee has long been known to have laxative-like properties. That is because, similarly to other natural laxatives, coffee is a stimulant.

Like other stimulants coffee encourages the peristalsis, or the earth-worm-like movements of the muscles, in the intestinal tract. A quickening of the pace at which food is moved through your system is what sends coffee drinkers to the bathroom after having too much coffee.

However, if you limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee, the peristalsis that is stimulated will be just enough to stimulate a bowel movement.

While coffee is not recommended for cases of severe constipation, it can be extremely effective if you are experiencing only mild to moderate discomfort.

Key Point: If you are experiencing mild discomfort due to constipation, drink a cup of coffee.

7. Lemon Juice

Still life with lemon juice and sliced lemons on color mat, closeup

Lemon juice, similar to apple cider vinegar, is touted as a remedy for many bodily ailments and discomforts.

Proponents of natural medicine and alternative health claim that lemon juice can help you achieve healthier looking skin, help to control your blood pressure, help to lessen your menstrual cramps, and even help you lose weight.

The citric acid in lemon juice is a stimulant. As such, consuming lemon juice helps to move the food along your digestive tract. It also acts as a detoxifier, cleansing out the bowel, alleviating constipation and the bloating and gassiness that often accompany it.

To take lemon juice as a laxative, simply mix lemon juice in either cold or warm water, to taste.

Key Point: Lemon juice not only acts as a laxative, but a cleanser as well.

8. Flaxseeds or Flaxseed

Bowl of brown flax seed and linseed oil

Flaxseeds come from the flax plant, which is one of the most ancient fiber crops.

Flaxseed can be used as a laxative in seed form, as well as in oil form. Flaxseed oil works well as a laxative because it coats the insides of your intestines, as well as the stool.

This acts as a sort of lubricant, and consequently you will begin to have more frequent bowel movements.

Furthermore, it contains alpha-linolenic acid, which helps to relieve inflammation, which can be a chief cause of constipation.

According to the University of Maryland’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide, flaxseed can be an effective laxative for children.

They recommend consulting your physician in order to determine the proper dosage, but they give an example of ground one teaspoon of flaxseed (or one teaspoon of flaxseed oil) as a treatment for constipation.

Ideally, when choosing the oil as your laxative, you want to take it in conjunction with a juice that contains lots of fiber; for example, pulpy orange juice.

Mix together one tablespoon of flaxseed oil, with one eight ounce glass of pulpy orange juice, and drink it slowly.

The laxative can take up to five hours before it takes effect, so be sure not to ingest more than one glass of the orange juice-flaxseed oi mixture in that time frame, until you can determine how it will affect you.

Key Point: Flaxseed oil and flaxseeds are easy-to-take, effective laxatives, especially in the case of children. 

9. Tomatoes

red fresh tomatoes and garlic lying on counter

Consumed in their original form, or as a juice, tomatoes contain a large amount of fiber which is great for preventing constipation.

Having a diet that is rich in fiber will help to ensure a normal stool texture. This is important, because the main way of easing constipation is to soften the stools.

In fact, a study conducted by K. Shankardass, M.D. et. Al for the Chedoke-McMaster Hospitals in Hamilton, Ontario demonstrated that adding fiber to a diet helped to improve the bowel function of the participants.

Key Point: Tomatoes, because they are rich in fiber, are an excellent addition to your diet when trying to prevent constipation.

10. Blackstrap Molasses

Treacle

Blackstrap molasses differs from normal molasses because the sugar cane juice gets boiled down not once, not twice, but three times. In addition, blackstrap molasses contains magnesium, which acts as a stimulant.

According to the book Management of Advanced Diseases, Fourth Edition, written by Polly Edmonds et. Al, stimulants are very useful against resistant constipation. 

To use blackstrap molasses as your laxative, mix one teaspoon of the molasses with warm water, adjusting the amount of water to taste.

The mixture takes approximately one to four hours to begin working.

Key Point: Blackstrap molasses is a tasty and healthy way to rid you of constipation.

11. Castor Oil

Castor oil seeds-ricinus communis

Castor oil is a vegetable oil that is made from the extract of the castor bean. It has long been used as a natural laxative, and is effective for the same reason that many natural laxatives are – castor oil is a stimulant.

A study conducted by Jonathan D. Siegel, M.D and Jack A. Di Palma, M.D., states that castor oil is a safe laxative. 

However, a further study conducted by Sorin Tunaru et. Al demonstrated that castor oil is in fact not recommended for pregnant women, as it can cause uterine contractions.

According to WebMD, in order for castor oil to be most effective, it should be taken on an empty stomach; however, you may take juice with it in order to improve the taste, if you wish.

Key Point: Castor oil is an excellent constipation reliever, but should not be taken by women who are pregnant.

12. Abdominal Massage

Young beauty woman having done abdominal massage

Abdominal massage, while never having reached the same level of popularity as other natural laxatives, is an incredibly effective option.

The idea behind abdominal massage is it will help to stimulate peristalsis by massaging the abdominal area, and the intestinal area, with differing pressures and in varying motions.

Once peristalsis has been stimulated, it will help to increase the frequency of your bowel movements.

In fact, a study conducted at the Dong-eui Medical Center in Korea, by S.Y. Jeon and H.M. Jung concluded that abdominal massage did lessen the severity of constipation and help to increase the frequency of bowel movements.

Key Point: Abdominal massage is a safe, and relaxing, way of lessening the severity of your constipation, without having to ingest anything.

13. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera

Aloe Vera is a succulent plant. Aloe can be ingested in gel or juice form, and can also be purchased in capsules.

Caution is to be taken when using Aloe Vera as a laxative, however. You want to use the gel, and not the latex that can be found underneath the leaves.

The latex can be harmful to your kidneys in too large of a dosage; consequently, the FDA ruled that it should be removed from all over-the-counter laxatives.

When drinking aloe juice, for example, to alleviate your constipation, it is to be taken twice daily in a dose of two cups each time; one dose in the morning when you wake up, and once in the evening before you go to sleep for the night.

Key Point: With all the natural laxative options out there, it may be best to skip over Aloe Vera if you are unfamiliar with the plant.

14. Dates

Delicious dates in small bowl on wooden surface

Dates have also long been recognized as a laxative food. Dates, like prunes, are high in soluble fiber which helps to slow down the digestion of the food you consume.

Dates are also high in magnesium, similar to blackstrap molasses. Therefore, dates, like many other natural laxatives, act as a stimulant for your digestive tract.

In order for dates to be an effective laxative, they need to be soaked overnight in water, and eaten the next morning.

Key Point: Dates are packed with nutrients needed to promote a healthy digestive tract.

15. Garlic

Fresh vegetables on table close up

Garlic is another natural remedy that has been used for hundreds of years. Among its many touted health benefits, garlic is an effective laxative.

Garlic contains selenium and allicin which are two compounds that can help to trigger liver enzymes, which will in turn detoxify your system. Furthermore, garlic contains potassium.

A review published by Lynda Frassetto from the University of California states that increasing potassium intake [has] favorable effects on muscle function, overall muscle health”.

This is important because your food is moved through your intestines by muscles. If they are deprived of the proper nutrients to keep them performing optimally, this is when constipation can occur.

Key Point: Incorporating more garlic into your diet may help to prevent constipation from occurring in the first place.

Final Thoughts…

Natural alternatives to laxatives have overwhelmingly demonstrated themselves to be a much healthier and safer option for relieving your constipation symptoms.

Which natural alternatives do you use? Are there options that you feel work better for you than others?

Share your stories with us in the comments section below!

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