Herbal Medicine to Dissolve Gall Stones
I have gallstones. They have come and gone for years. They act up when I ignore my good eating habits and choose to indulge in cake, bagels and cream cheese and red meat. A stitch in the right side of my abdomen right under my rib cage lets me know I have taken my self-indulgence too far and a new stone has formed.
Ten percent of North Americans have gallstones. Most are women. By 60 approximately 20 to 40% of women have gallstones.
Exactly why some people develop gallstones is unknown. Several factors attribute to the development of stones: sudden weight loss, diet of saturated and trans-fats, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, genetics and the usual culprits of health challenges: lack of exercise, obesity (although many slim people develop gallstones) and stress. Many people with a high-fat diet, low exercise and on birth control pills suffer from gallstones.
My doctor suggests surgery. I am extremely reluctant to undergo surgery, having heard several stories of failed surgery, continued pain, loose bowels, inability to digest fats. So I take a different route.
Here’s what I do
I eat good fats daily. This includes coconut oil, olive oil and salmon oil. Fat encourages the release of bile from the gallbladder. Some suspect that a build-up of stagnant bile in the gallbladder is a cause of stones. Studies show that people on a low-fat diet are more likely to develop stones. Therefore, I eat fat.
I eat plenty of vegetables in soups, salads and as a side dish. I eat vegetables with every meal. My number one snack is an apple. Both grains and meat aggravate the gallstones, so I avoid them. For protein, I eat eggs, legumes and nuts.
I walk, go to a yoga class and swim. Exercise massages the organs in the abdomen. Massage releases tension. Relaxation opens up flow and movement in the abdomen, including the gallbladder and the biliary duct through which the stone must pass.
To begin I formulate a tincture of the following plants.
The first I choose a plant called celandine (Chelidonium majus). Celandine is a member of the poppy family and does quite well in my garden. It works on the stones in two ways. First, celandine is a bitter plant. Bitter herbs stimulate the release of bile from the liver and gallbladder. This helps keep everything flowing. Secondly, celandine dissolves stones.
To accompany celandine I add fumitory (Fumaria officinalis). Fumitory dilates the biliary duct. Big stones can become stuck in the biliary duct’s narrow tubing. A stuck stone is dangerous and can cause pancreatitis: a condition in which the pancreatic enzymes (commonly called digestive enzymes) begin to eat the pancreas. For this reason I advise people to refrain from gallbladder flushes that do not dissolve stones and dilate the biliary duct.
Next, I like to add liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Liquorice cools, soothes and moistens. Gallstones make my liver and stomach feel hot, dry and tight. Liquorice is an anti-inflammatory herb effective in calming abdominal inflammation.
Then I add some lovage (Levisticum officinale). Headaches often accompany gallstone attacks. Gallstones create significant tension on the right side of the abdomen. This tension travels up the back to the shoulder and lodges itself behind the right eye. Lovage eases this tension better than any other herb I have used. The volatile oils in lovage relax the musculature around the gallbladder and quickly resolve a headache.
Lastly, I use echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia). Lingering gallstones or passing gallstones can irritate the tissues lining the gallbladder and biliary duct. Infection can then settle in and that is a serious matter. Echinacea helps prevent infection from getting hold while the tissues heal.
Sage and Fennel
Then I drink several cups herbal tea made with fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris) and sage (Salvia off.) Both these plants relax tension in the gallbladder and encourage the liver to release bile.
While taking these herbs, the gallstone symptoms come and go, until eventually, they disappear all together. After that it is up to me to turn down bagels with cream cheese.