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 Herbal Actions: Cholagogue 
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 mild hepatitis.
  • 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.

Herbal Cholagogues

Black Root
Blue Flag
Dandelion root
Fringetree bark
Golden Seal
Greater Celandine
Mountain Grape
Wild Indigo
Wild Yam
Yellow Dock

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

Carminatives 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

Carminatives 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

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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