This is an action that has the specific effect of stimulating the flow of bile from the liver.
In orthodox pharmacology there is a differentiation between 'direct cholagogues' which actually increase the amount of secreted bile,
and 'indirect cholagogues' which simply increase the amount of bile being released by the gall bladder. This differentiation is not very important
in holistic herbal practice, especially as we are not going to use purified ox bile!
Most bitters and hepatics are also cholagogues. A
whole range of plant constituents will have that action on the liver tissue, but without it being forced or damaging. The secretion of bile is
of great help to the whole digestive and assimilative process, and as we are what we eat- we are what we digest. The role of bile is partially
that of facilitating fat digestion but also of being a natural laxative, and thus cleansing to the system. Without exploring the vast complexities
of liver function, it is worth noting that bile formation and flow are fundamental to it all. Thus, these herbs have a much deeper value than
'simply' the release of bile, they help ensure a strong and healthy liver and so enliven the whole being.
Indications for cholagogues
- for long term maintenance of dyskinesia of the bile duct and to stimulate normal contractions to deliver
bile to the small intestine.
- for disorders caused by insufficient or congested bile, such as intractable biliary constipation, jaundice and
- for the treatment of autonomic functional disorders in the epigastric area; for symptoms of indigestion to aid in the
digestion of fat-soluble substances.
- for helping the liver's detoxification work.
- for gallstones, unless they are lodged in the bile
duct and causing a great deal of pain.
Contra-indications of cholagogues
- painful gallstones; the increased contractile
activity could further constrict the bile duct leading to incredibly intense pain.
- acute bilious colic.
- obstructive jaundice; the
same reservations apply here as with painful gallstones.
- Acute cholecystitis unless gallstones have been ruled out; cholecystitis
can be caused by infection, but you should determine the cause before using a cholagogue.
- Acute viral hepatitis.
- Extremely toxic
liver disorders; a cholagogue may be too stressful for a liver that is damaged to this extent; but this must be weighed against the potential
benefit to be derived from the liver-protecting properties of the particular herb.
Carminatives that are also Alterative :
Blue Flag, Fringetree bark, Golden Seal, Mountain Grape, Wild Indigo, Yellow Dock
Carminatives that are also Anti-Catarrhal :
Boneset, Golden Seal, Wild Indigo
Carminatives that are also Anti-Inflammatory : Barberry, Blue Flag, Fumitory, Golden Seal,
Rosemary, Wild Yam
Carminatives that are also Anti-Microbial : Barberry, Golden Seal, Greater Celandine, Mountain Grape,
Rosemary, Sage, Wild Indigo
Carminatives that are also Anti-Spasmodic : Black Root, Rosemary, Sage, Wild Yam
Carminatives that are also Astringent : Rosemary, Sage
Carminatives that are also Bitter : Artichoke, Balmony, Barberry,
Boldo, Boneset, Butternut, Dandelion root, Fumitory, Gentian, Golden Seal, Mountain Grape, Wahoo, Wild Indigo
that are also Demulcent :
Carminatives that are also Diaphoretic : Barberry, Boneset, Rosemary, Wild Yam
Carminatives that are also Diuretic : Blue Flag, Boldo, Boneset, Fringetree bark, Fumitory, Wahoo
Carminatives that are
also Emmenagogue : Artichoke, Balmony, Barberry, Boldo, Boneset, Butternut, Dandelion root, Fumitory, Gentian, Golden Seal, Mountain
Grape, Rosemary, Wahoo, Wild Indigo
Carminatives that are also Laxative : all cholagogues are to some degree,
especially : Butternut, Dandelion root, Yellow Dock
Carminatives that are also Nervine : Rosemary
that are also Tonic : Balmony, Blue Flag, Boldo, Boneset, Dandelion root, Fringetree bark, Gentian, Golden Seal, Yellow Dock
Carminatives that are also Vulnerary : Golden Seal