The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid produced by the liver. It secretes this substance to aid in fat digestion. A series of tubes called bile ducts connect the gallbladder to the liver and small intestines. Gallstones are hard deposits of either cholesterol or calcium salts that block these bile ducts. Women are more likely to have gallstones; age and obesity are factors, as well. Many people have gallstones that produce no symptoms, while others are prone to gallstone attacks that can be quite painful. There are many natural remedies that help prevent and treat gallstones.
Herbs and pharmaceutical agents are assigned suggested doses based on one of their most important pharmacological properties, therapeutic range. Therapeutic range is the smallest dose that provides any medicinal benefit to the largest dose that is safe for consumption. Herbs are generally nontoxic and serious complications or overdose is unlikely. Stick to suggested amounts, as taking more is not likely to produce additional benefit, and can potentially cause negative side effects.
Herbal treatments for gallstones fall into two categories. There are treatments that can be used during an acute attack to ease symptoms. There are also treatments that should be used on a regular basis to alleviate gallbladder irritation and prevent the formation of stones.
Peppermint should be used during active attacks to relieve bile-duct spasms. Take 200 mg three times daily. Prickly ash plaster also relieves pain and bile duct spasms during an acute attack. Make a plaster by mixing the herb with warm water. Put this paste in a cloth pouch, or between two layers of cloth, and apply to the skin. Prickly ash plaster can be purchased from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, or from a Chinese herbal shop under the name tian he gu tong. Apply as needed.
The following herbs should not be used during an acute attack. Alfalfa tablets clean the liver and supply necessary vitamins and minerals. Take 1,000 mg with warm water twice a day to prevent gallstones. Boldo tea increases bile production and flushes small gallstones out of bile ducts. Drink 1 cup three times a day. Gentian bitters reduce your appetite and stimulate bile production. Take as directed on the label. Greater celandine also stimulates bile production and relieves spasms. Take 15 to 30 drops of tincture with ¼ cup of water three times a day. Milk thistle reduces the amount of cholesterol in the bile. Take 600 mg every day. Soy lechitin lowers cholesterol production in the liver. Take 2,000 mg in capsule form daily. Turmeric inhibits the formation of cholesterol crystals. Take 125 mg three times a day.
Constipation can lead to the formation of gallstones. Always treat this condition to reduce your risk of gallstones. Rapid weight loss and low calorie diets also increase the likelihood of this condition. A 1986 study published in the Annals of Allergy found that food allergies can contribute to gallbladder irritation. When subjects identified and eliminated offending foods, they experienced complete relief from gallbladder pain.