Gut Mucous a Marker of Health, and the Plants that Aid in Maintaining it

Gut Mucous a Marker of Health, and the Plants that Aid in Maintaining it

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Congratulations to the local university in discovering a way to test intestinal mucous without invasive procedures to the patient. However, simply seeing mucous in the stool with the naked eye, no microscope required, can be an indication of what is going on in the gut.

“MUC2 is like the silent star in our guts. It’s constantly working to protect us, and its proper functioning is crucial for our overall health,” Dr. Bergstrom says.

“However, our study shows mucus is actually a part of our stool, meaning we can get at it painlessly and at levels we could not before. Anytime we can do analysis non-invasively, it’s a win.”

“This mucus, typically ignored and flushed away, contains a trove of information about gut health.

MUC2, a glycoprotein with many sugar chains attached, forms a protective barrier in our intestines in the form of mucus, safeguarding our gut from harmful microbes and toxins and playing a crucial role in digestive health.

Understanding MUC2 better could lead to significant advancements in managing and preventing gut-related diseases, impacting the day-to-day wellbeing of millions.”

The world of natural health has discovered many plants, herbs and spices that aid in various gut-related issues from gastritis to flatulence, to diarhea, to constipation, to colitis, to dysentry, etc. It is well-known that mucilage-containing plants, or plants that positively impact mucousal linings or aid in the production of healthy levels of mucous in the gut, not only exist, but have been used for centuries, if not millennia down through the years.

The terms, Mucus and mucous are often used interchangeably, although some will say that mucus is the discharge while mucous is the means by which the discharge is secreted. As what follows are quotes from various books and articles, you will see the two spellings used interchangeably. I do not fix spellings within quotes.

From the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine:

Found in all plants, polysaccharides are multiple units of sugar molecules linked together. From an herbal point of view, the most important polysaccharides are the “sticky” mucilages and gums, which are commonly found in roots, bark, leaves, and seeds. Both mucilage and gum soak up large quantities of water, producing a sticky, jelly-like mass that can be used to soothe and protect irritated tissue, for example, dry irritated skin and sore or inflamed mucous membranes in the gut.

broadleaf plantainPlantain:
Common plantain quickly staunches blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. It is possible to use it as a substitute for comfrey (Symphytum officinale, p. 138) in treating bruises and broken bones. An ointment or lotion may be used to treat hemorrhoids, fistulae (abnormal passages in the skin), and ulcers. Taken internally, common plantain is diuretic, expectorant, and antimucus. It is commonly prescribed for conditions including gastritis, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery, irritable bowel syndrome, respiratory inflammation, loss of voice, and urinary tract bleeding.

Slippery Elm:
“… its action as an herb with large quantities of mucilage is well understood. When the herb comes into direct contact with inflamed surfaces such as the skin or the intestinal membranes, it soothes and coats the irritated tissue, protects it from injury, and draws out toxins or irritants.

When slippery elm is taken internally, it is thought likely that it causes a reflex stimulation of nerve endings in the stomach and intestines that leads to secretion of mucus by the membranes of the urinary tract.

It is also an ancient herb for digestive problems such as gastritis and acidity, helping to increase mucus

From the New Eden School of Natural Health and Herbal Studies, Herbology Manual:

Kelp is used in everything from soap to dog food. A compound of kelp is a thickener used in making jelly, toothpaste, salad dressing, and ice cream. The ash is used in the production of soap and glass. Kelp kills the herpes virus and reduces hair loss. It also maintains mucous membranes in the body and lowers cholesterol levels.

In New Eden’s Natural Health Approaches textbook, they list Vitamin A as protective of mucous membranes under the Colitis condition for nutritional and herbal treatments.

From the Herbal PDR Small:

Black Pepper:
The drug stimulates the thermal receptors and increases secretion of saliva and gastric mucous. It has an antimicrobial effect. It influences liver and metabolic functions, and has an insecticidal effect.

purple cabbageCabbage protects the mucous membrane of the stomach from gastric hydrochloric acid. The gastroprotective effect of the juice is attributed to the regenerative ability of the mucous membrane that is caused by an anti-ulcer factor (vitamin U)

Internally, Flax is used for irritable colon, diverticulitis and as mucilage for gastritis and enteritis. A decoction is used for bladder catarrh and inflammation, gastritis.

Chamomile is used internally for inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract associated with gastrointestinal spasms, irritation of the oral pharygeal mucous membrane and upper respiratory tract.

In Folk medicine, the herb is used internally for diarrhea and flatulence.

Giant Milkweed has been used for dysentery, vomiting, toothache, syphilis, convulsions, warts, leprosy and digestion problems

Goldenseal is used as an antiseptic externally on wounds and herpes labialis. It is also used for gastritis and as an astringent. The berberine componant is used to treat acute diarrhea caused by numerous gastrointestinal pathogens. Berberine is also used as an adjunct treatment in various cancers and in neutropenia resulting from radiation and chemotherapy. Berberine has been used to treat trachoma, gastric ulcers and gallbladder disease.

Ground Ivy
In folk medicine, the drug is used internally for inflammation of gastrointestinal mucous membranes and diarrhea.

Witch Hazel leaf and bark are used internally in folk medicine for non-specific diarrheic ailments (such as inflammation of the mucous membrane of the large intestine and colon), hematemesis, hemoptysis and also for menstrual complaints.

Willow Herb is used internally for micturition problems associated with prostatic hyperplasia (Stages I to II), and for gastrointestinal disorders and mucous membrane lesions of the mouth. Native Americans use the drug for rectal bleeding;

Star Anise is a bronchial expectorant and antispasmodic for the gastrointestinal tract. The essential oils (star anise oil) and flavonoids act on the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract and the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract

Indian Medicine: Star Anise is used for dyspeptic complaints, flatulence, spasmodic colon pain, dysentery, facial paralysis, hemiparesis and rheumatoid arthritis

Because of the high saponin content, the Soapwort root is antibiotic, expectorant, antiphlogistic, cholesterol-lowering and spermicidal. The drug is expectorant because of its effect on the gastric mucosa.

Salep (orchis species)
The mucilage is rich in mucine and polysaccharides, which act as a demulcent and have protective and sequestering effects on mucous membranes.

Indian Medicine: Uses in Indian medicine’include diabetes. hemiplegia, chronic diarrhea, neurasthenia and general debility

Sage has antibacterial, fungistatic, virostatic, astringent, secretolytic, and perspiration-inhibiting effects. In animal experiments, the herb was found to be antihypertensive and choleretic.

In folk medicine, the drug is used internally for gastric disorders such as loss of appetite, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, enteritis, and excessive perspiration.

Psyllium is used for disorders where easy bowel movements with a loose stool is desirable (e.g., in patients with anal fissures and hemorrhoids; following anal/rectal surgery; and during pregnancy).

In Folk medicine, the herb is used internally for inflammation of the mucous membrane of the urogenital

Pleurisy root:
The plant plays a particularly important role in the medicine L of American Indians as a remedy for pleurisy. It is also used as a diaphoretic in treating pneumonia, inflammation of the mucous membranes, local or general atrophy, diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism and stomach ache.

Pleurisy Root is also used as a diaphoretic and expectorant. tract and gastrointestinal tract, and dysentery.

In China, Oregano is used for colds, fever, vomiting, dysentery, jaundice and malnutrition for children

…irritation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa and associated dry cough; mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa; as cataplasm for light inflammations and skin burns; and for insect bites. In folk medicine, marshmallow is employed for catarrh of the mouth, throat, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract, as well as for inflammation, ulcers, abscesses, burns, constipation and diarrhea.

The active agents are the leaves containing tannin, bitter substances, sugar, and mucous. Results of research carried out to date point to a possible liver-protective and antioxidative effect. There are no studies available for the astringent, diuretic and antiseptic effects attributed to the drug.

Houseleek is used internally to relieve severe diarrhea. Folk medicine uses include dysentery,
dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea, impairment of hearing and fever, worm infestation, uterine neuralgia, tonsillitis, headache and toothache.

From Dr Mercola’s article: 7 Spices That Can Help Reduce Bloating, written December 18, 2023, he lists several spices that don’t just deal with bloating, but with intestinal health as well.

Fennel — … the licorice-flavored seeds are considered a natural remedy for digestive disorders, including heartburn, bloating, gas and even chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

The Northwest School for Botanical Studies mentioned in his article also counts fennel as “one of the most effective digestive aids,”.  They are quoted as saying:

“It [fennel] is highly beneficial to reduce digestive cramping, gas, and bloating. The volatile oils contained in the seed stimulate the mucus membranes in the digestive tract, encouraging motility and peristalsis. The aromatic oils also exert smooth muscle antispasmodic and carminative actions.

The seed tincture or tea is effective for treating intestinal spasms that result from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac disease, and intestinal candidiasis.

Fennel’s properties pass through breast milk, reducing infant colic. Fennel seed has anti-nauseant properties, aiding recovery from stomach flu, food poisoning, digestive infections, and hangovers.”

gingerGinger — One study involving ginger extract found the supplement improved gastrointestinal motility, while other research showed ginger accelerates gastric emptying and stimulates antral — the lower part of the stomach — contractions.

Writing in Food Science & Nutrition, researchers explained, “Ginger as an important dietary agent which possesses carminative effect, decreases pressure on lower esophageal sphincter, reduces intestinal cramping, and prevents dyspepsia, flatulence, and bloating.” Some of ginger’s benefits for gastrointestinal motility are due to gingerol, a compound that increases the rate that food exits your stomach and continues on with digestion.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Eating ginger can cut down on fermentation, constipation and other causes of bloating and intestinal gas.

Cumin — … medicinally it’s long been used to aid digestion, support breastfeeding and treat health problems including fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

Cumin essential oil has even shown promise for relieving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including stomach pain and bloating.

“Cumin extract can be effective in improving all IBS symptoms,” the team concluded, adding that it’s also low in cost with widespread availability. Cumin also stimulates bile production, which supports healthy digestion.

Mercola’s article also lists black pepper for digestive issues.

While cinnamon may not aid in mucous-related gut issues, it has been noted to assist with gut health. In Mercola’s spice article he shares:

“In one study, consuming capsules of spices — specifically cinnamon, oregano, ginger, black pepper and cayenne pepper — favorably affected gut bacterial composition after two weeks”

Remember that Oregano was also mentioned by the Herbal PDR Small.

In the ebook: Top 17 Nutrients for gut Repair:

Meadowsweet is an herb in the rose family that has been used medicinally for centuries. Meadowsweet soothes the lining of the digestive tract and protects the mucus membranes.”

” It contains salicylates which help to reduce inflammation coupled with mucilage that protects the stomach from salicylic acid.
★ Soothes upset stomach
★ Relieves ulcers
★ Soothes and protects the mucus membranes of the digestive tract
★ Prevents bacterial infections
★ Provides antioxidant protection
★ Relieves colds and coughs
★ Reduces joint pain and inflammation”

(those stars are a direct copy/paste and don’t normally show up in my writing)

The above herbs and spices are rather useful to those who may be suffering various forms of gut ill health!  As Mercola and others have written in various leaky gut articles over the years, a simple change in diet can ensure a healthier gut moving forward.

Dr Culpeper, a look back into history from his book The Complete Herbal, is of the opinion that the spleen can have conditions that directly impact the intestinal system and can cause blockages.  He says:

…is the spleen usually afflicted for Atrabilis many times causes madness, and pure melancholy causeth obstructions of the bowels. . . Those medicines are also splenical by which melancholy humours are corrected  and so prepared, that they may more easily be evacuated. such as are taken inwardly, for they operate upon the stomach and bowels, but such as are outwardly applied to the region of the spleen.:

In other words, in his professional opinion, conditions of the spleen affect the bowel, so treating the spleen then, also treats the bowel.

Culpeper mentions a plant known as crosswort for clearing the obstructions of breast, stomach or bowels. Apparently decoctions are good to expectorate the phlegm out of the chest and for obstruction.

Culpeper also mentions House Leek saying it helps other fluxes of humours in the bowels.

NOTE: that in ancient European medicine, humours referred to either fluids or airborne exhale, understanding was in the context. A quick read of the idea on Wikipedia, reveals a very complex system by which medicine was understood at the time. For Culpeper, humours are often described by fluid colour.

Culpeper also mentions marshmallow for both healing and cleansing, saying

“The leaves of either of the sorts, both specified, and the roots also boiled in wine or water, or in broth with Parsley or Fennel roots, do help to open the body, and are very convenient in hot agues, or other distempers of the body, to apply the leaves so boiled warm to the belly. It not only voids hot, choleric, and other offensive humours, but eases the pains and torments of the belly coming thereby; and are therefore used in all clysters conducing to those purposes.”

The leaves and roots work the same effects. They help much also in the excoriations of the bowels, …

The syrup also and conserve made of the flowers, are very effectual for the same diseases, and to open the body, being costive.

You may remember that not long since there was a raging disease called the bloody-flux; the college of physicians not knowing what to make of it, called it the inside plague, for their wits were at Ne plus ultra about it: My son was taken with the same disease, and the excoriation of his bowels was exceeding great; myself being in the country, was sent for up, the only thing I gave him, was Mallows bruised and boiled both in milk and drink, in two days (the blessing of God being upon it) it cured him. And I here, to shew my thankfulness to God, in communicating it to his creatures, leave it to posterity.

He says that onions ease the belly and bowels.

He says parsley opens obstructions of the liver and spleen . . . and helps with flatulence or cholic when given as a distilled water.

Parnips are said to dissolve wind (cholic or gas) in the stomach and bowels.

He says about purslane juice:

It stays hot and choleric fluxes of the belly.
The seed bruised and boiled in wine, and given to children, expels the worms.
The juice also is singularly good in the inflammations and ulcers in the secret parts of man or woman, as also the bowels and hæmorrhoids, when they are ulcerous, or excoriations in them.

On roses, he says:

pink rosesThe decoction of red Roses made with wine and used, is very good for the head-ache, and pains in the eyes, ears, throat, and gums; as also for the fundament, the lower part of the belly and the matrix, being bathed or put into them…

Red Roses do strengthen the heart, the stomach and the liver, and the retentive faculty: They mitigate the pains that arise from heat, assuage inflammations, procure rest and sleep, stay both whites and reds in women, the gonorrhea, or running of the reins, and fluxes of the belly: the juice of them doth purge and cleanse the body from choler and phlegm.

The cordial powders, called Diarrhoden Abbatis and Aromaticum Rosarum, do comfort and strengthen the heart and stomach, procure an appetite, help digestion, stay vomiting, and are very good for those that have slippery bowels, to strengthen them, and to dry up their moisture.

The fruit of the wild briar, which are called Hips, being thoroughly ripe, and made into a conserve with sugar, besides the pleasantness of the taste, doth gently bind the belly, and stay defluctions from the head upon the stomach, drying up the moisture thereof, and helps digestion.

The briar ball is often used, being made into powder and drank, to break the stone, to provoke urine when it is stopped, and to ease and help the cholic; some appoint it to be burnt, and then taken for the same purpose. In the middle of the balls are often found certain white worms, which being dried and made into powder, and some of it drank, is found by experience of many to kill and drive forth the worms of the belly.

On rosemary he says:

It is a remedy for the windiness in the stomach, bowels and spleen, and expels it powerfully.

He says that winter and summer savory do the same.

Here in North America, older writings share the following:

Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians, Canada thistle was used as a bowel tonic and Wild strawberry was used particularly for children with bowel or bladder weakness.

grapevineEdible and Medicinal Plants of Canada AND Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians mention use of grapes. Specifically, the sap from the vine of the Riverbank grape being used for stomach and bowel issues. The modern book says the Riverbank grape mentioned by the Ojibwe, is the precursor to modern grape varieties that are disease and cold resistant.

Grapes show up again in the Botanical Lore of the California Indians, for the same and similar uses.

Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees shares that Ladyslipper was used as a docoction for use against worms in children. Authors of this book mentioned Bowman’s root as a good tea for bowel complaints.

There are gut cleanses available at various health food stores, to help kickstart healing your gut so that it works the way God intended it to.  Some cleanses can be done without fasting, other cleanses require at least a 3 day fast and can potentially cause a temporary health crisis where the body is tossing everything out all at once through every means possible, creating the sensation that you just caught every bug under the sun.  If the health crisis symptoms are bad enough, you may need to help the body flush everything out, then resume the cleanse once the body has calmed down.  For those with really unhealthy systems, this can take up to 3 months or more to finally complete.  It is a good idea to be monitored by a Natural Health Practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor if doing a three day or more cleanse.

Examples of plants, herbs and spices that can aid in a gut and/or body cleanse are as follows:

From the Enclycopedia of Herbal Medicine:

Burdock: The root and the seeds help to cleanse the body of waste products, and the root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals.

Flaxseed: Whole seeds gently support elimination and cleanse the colon. Cracked or ground seeds need to be used for other medicinal benefits.

Carob: Carob pods are nutritious and, due to their high sugar content, sweet-tasting and mildly laxative. A decoction of the pulp can be used as an  antidiarrheal, gently helping to cleanse and relieve irritation within the gut.

Psyllium seeds and husks cleanse the colon and encourage normal bowel habits.

From Gerard’s Herbal now, a look back into history, we read:

DandelionDandelion . . . doth withal cleanse, and open by reason of the bitterness which it hath joined with it: and therefore it is good for those things for which Succory is. Boiled, it strengthens the weak stomach, and eaten raw it stops the belly, and helps the dysentery, especially being boiled with lentils;

In discussing Wild Lettuce, Gerard quotes Dioscorides:

…the juice hereof drunk in oxycrate in the quantity of 2 obuli, (which make some one scruple) purgeth waterish humours by stool;

A better quote might be from the latest English translation from Dioscorides saying:

Twenty grains of the juice (taken in a drink with posca (hot drink)) purges away watery matter through the bowels.

In Gerard’s discussion on Aloe, he says:

This Aloes I say, taken in a small quantity after supper (or rather before) in a stewed prune, or in water the quantity of two drams in the morning, is a most sovereign medicine to comfort the stomach, and to cleanse and drive forth all superfluous humours.

On Wild Saffron:

The same boiled in wine and drunk hot, healeth the griping pains of the belly, killeth and expelleth worms, causeth sweat, provoketh urine, and driveth out gravel; cleanseth the stomach, and is very good against the fever quartan.

On what Gerard calls Garden Lupine:

But whilst the natural bitterness doth as yet remain, it hath power to cleanse and to consume or waste away; it killeth worms in the belly, being both applied in manner of an ointment and given with honey to lick on, and also drunk with water and vinegar. C. Moreover, the decoction thereof inwardly taken, voideth the worms;

New Eden’s Natural Health Approaches textbook says that Psyllium husk combined with bentonite clay is a good gut cleanse.

Culpeper in his book The Complete Herbal,  mentions the following about plantain:

The juice of Plantain clarified and drank for divers days together, either of itself, or in other drink, prevails wonderfully against all torments or exoriations in the intestines or bowels…

Many foods that can be used medicinally against various conditions of the gut, can be used to prevent those conditions in the first place just as a matter of daily inclusion in the usual diet.  However, if your doctor ever sends your stool sample to the lab and comes back telling you about a certain condition, there’s a strong possibility that God created a herb that addresses that condition.

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