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Glauber's salt is a laxative with a very strong effect. It is used for constipation or is used to completely empty the bowel before a surgical procedure, a medical examination, such as a colonoscopy, or at the start of a fasting cure.
Glauber's salt tastes very bitter. The chemical name is sodium sulfate decahydrate (Na2SO4 · 10H2O). The laxative effect, which is usually expected to start about thirty to ninety minutes after ingestion, is based on the principle of osmosis. Glauber's salt retains osmotic water in the intestine or draws liquid from the area surrounding the intestine, increasing the amount of fluid in the stool. The increased volume triggers a rapid emptying of the intestine.
Note: Long-term and / or frequent intake of Glauber's salt is strongly discouraged, as this can lead to edema (water retention) or increased high blood pressure (hypertension).
General note on laxatives: Laxatives should only be used for the short-term removal of constipation, as they can lead to habituation and the intake can be associated with some side effects. In the event of long-term constipation, consultation with a doctor is necessary in any case.
All important information about Glauber's salt and alternatives can be found in our short overview.
- effect: Glauber's salt binds larger amounts of fluid in the intestine due to the increased salt concentration, which leads to a considerable increase in the stool volume and results in diarrhea-like emptying of the intestine.
- application: Colon cleansing before a colonoscopy or surgery, short-term removal of stubborn constipation, bowel evacuation before a fasting cure
- Contraindications: Intestinal obstruction, hypersensitivity to sodium sulfate decahydrate, inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, heart failure, disturbances in the water and electrolyte balance. Pregnant women and children under six years of age are not allowed to take Glauber's salt.
- Side effects / interactions: Increased potassium loss with sensitivity to cardiac glycosides, limitation or loss of effectiveness of medication, loss of water and minerals, edema formation (water retention)
- preparation: Dissolve 20 to 30 grams of Glauber's salt in approx. 500 milliliters of water, possibly mix with a little juice to soften the bitter taste; prepared amount is drunk at once.
- Alternatives: Enema, psyllium husk, hen leaves, sauerkraut juice, plum juice
- Sodium sulfuricum: Use in naturopathy: Hömopathie, Schüßler salts
The name Glauber's salt goes back to the doctor and pharmacist Johann R. Glauber (1604-1670), who developed this product from sodium chloride and sulfuric acid, which he called "Sal mirabilis". Sodium sulfate can be made from natural minerals, but is also often a by-product in the chemical industry. Occurring in detergents, it serves as a filler and is also used in the glass, textile and paint industries. Glacial salt is also contained in medicinal springs, such as the Ferdinand spring in the Czech spa town of Marienbad.
How the Glauber's Salt Works
Glauber's salt works according to the mode of action of osmosis. This means that water from the blood is returned to the intestine and not removed from it, as is normal in a normal digestive process. This happens due to the high salt concentration, which is due to the Glauber's salt in the intestine. It binds the water in the intestine, increasing the volume, causing the intestine to move and empty more quickly, like diarrhea.
In medicine, Glauber's salt is used for colon cleansing before a colonoscopy. Even before a surgical intervention, this salt is included in the prescribed medication. Glauber's salt is also used for short-term removal of stubborn constipation and, because of its thoroughness, is also very popular for emptying the bowel before a fasting cure.
Who shouldn't use Glauber's salt
Glauber's salt must not be used for intestinal obstruction or hypersensitivity (allergy) to sodium sulfate decahydrate. In addition, it should not be used in children under the age of six.
Glauber's salt should not be used for inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure and disorders in the water and electrolyte balance. It should also not be used during pregnancy, as it can increase the tendency towards water retention (edema).
Glauber's salt is generally not suitable for regular use, as it can lead to constipation and lead to an increased loss of potassium in the body.
Side effects / interactions
The taste of the Glauber's salt is very bitter and can be described as unpleasant for many people. For some people, just trying to drink the Glauber's salt mixed with water can lead to vomiting. A mixture with a little fruit juice can help here without affecting the effect.
The effect of medication can be strongly influenced by the use of the laxative. Therefore, the intake of Glauber's salt should first be clarified with a doctor. The increased loss of potassium, for example, can lead to increased sensitivity to cardiac glycosides.
Particular attention should also be paid to the fact that medication should be taken at a sufficient distance from the Glauber's salt, since the laxative effect simply flushes it out before the active substance can be released.
Water and minerals can be lost if used more frequently. The amount of sodium in the body increases due to the increased use of Glauber's salt, which can lead to the development of water retention (edema).
For quick bowel emptying, 20 to 30 grams of Glauber's salt (approximately one to two tablespoons) are drunk in 500 milliliters of water. The exact amount varies depending on body weight. A little lemon or orange juice can be added to the drink to soften the bitter taste. The Glauber's salt drink is drunk all at once and can also be washed down with another glass of water.
The effect usually occurs after half an hour to an hour. However, this can also take up to three or more hours. In addition, the laxative effect can occur in episodes indefinitely after ingestion. If Glauber's salt has been ingested, it is best to have a toilet in the immediate vicinity in the next few hours and to leave the house.
Of course, it can also be that the Glauber's salt has no or only a weak effect. A consultation with a doctor may be indicated here and, if necessary, the dosage may be adjusted or a more suitable laxative used.
Alternatives to Glauber's salt
The enema is one of the alternatives to Glauber's salt. An enema consists of a container, into which lukewarm water is poured, a hose and an end piece with a tap, which is inserted into the anus. The container is hung up slightly higher so that the water can flow through the anus into the intestine with the help of gravity. The large amount of fluid provokes rapid emptying of the intestine. The main difference to Glauber's salt, however, is that the enema only reaches part of the intestine.
Certain are also to be noted here Contraindications: Vomiting or abdominal pain with an unclear cause, acute abdominal diseases such as inflammation of the peritoneum or intestinal obstruction, early pregnancy or in the event of impending miscarriage, after operations on the colon or with bleeding in the digestive tract. Of course, the consultation of a doctor is essential in these cases!
Psyllium husks can also be very helpful for constipation. These are stirred into water and drunk with sufficient liquid. The psyllium husks swell strongly in the intestine due to the mucilages they contain, and they can bind two hundred times their own weight in water.
The increased stool volume stimulates digestion particularly well. In addition, the seeds contain a lot of oil, which works as a lubricant in the intestine and causes the stool to be transported quickly, thus supporting the laxative effect of the psyllium husk. The effect can occur relatively quickly, but it can also take up to a few days for a noticeable effect to occur.
The side effects after taking psyllium husk are usually limited to gastrointestinal complaints, such as bloating and cramps, which often pass quickly.
There are also a few for a natural remedy such as psyllium husk Hintsthat you should definitely pay attention to! When taking Indian psyllium seeds, it is important to drink enough, because this is the only way they can optimally develop their effect. It is recommended to drink one to two glasses of water immediately after application and a total of at least 1.5 liters in the form of water, teas or diluted fruit juices throughout the day. This is the only way to swell the mucilage sufficiently; in the worst case, if there is not enough liquid available, they can stick to the intestinal wall, which can lead to an intestinal obstruction.
Psyllium can also interfere with the absorption of other medicines through the intestine. Therefore, do not take your medication directly with the psyllium husks.
If you have ever had an intestinal obstruction, suffer from narrowing of the esophagus, stomach or intestines or if there is acute inflammation in the gastrointestinal area, then you should not use this herbal laxative. Even if you are not allowed to drink excessively due to certain heart or kidney diseases, you should discuss with a doctor whether you can use psyllium. Some people are allergic to Indian psyllium.
Senna leaves (Cassia angustifolia)
Senna leaves (Cassia angustifolia) are used in natural medicine for long-standing constipation to empty the bowels. The so-called anthranoids are contained here as active ingredients. In the large intestine, these are broken down by bacteria. In their active form, they cause less water and salts to be absorbed by the body through the intestinal mucosa. Instead, they remain in the large intestine and, by increasing the volume of the stool and softening the stool, ensure faster emptying of the intestine.
Here too, uncomfortable cramps in the gastrointestinal area can occur. In addition, the urine can turn yellowish to reddish brown. Contraindications include intestinal obstruction and inflammatory bowel diseases. If it is taken too frequently, this can also lead to disturbances in the water and electrolyte balance. Senna leaves are not suitable for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of ten.
Sauerkraut juice or prune juice
Slightly gentler methods are drinking sauerkraut juice or prune juice in the morning on an empty stomach. This does not result in such massive drains as can be observed with Glauber's salt, but these methods are somewhat gentler and can also serve their purpose.
Active lactic acid bacteria are said to be responsible for the digestive effect of sauerkraut juice; In the case of dried plum juice, the scientists see sugar alcohol sorbitol as jointly responsible for the laxative effect.
Sodium sulfuricum: use in naturopathy
Sodium sulfuricum, also called sodium sulfate, part of the Glauber's salt, is also used in naturopathy. In classic homeopathy, for example, this is known as a remedy for acute intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, inflammation in the ear, nose and throat area and pain in the joints.
In the area of Schüßler salt therapy, Schüßler salt number 10 (sodium sulfuricum) is used, for example, to excrete "slags" and toxins, stimulate the metabolism, against diarrhea and liver diseases. (dk, sw)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
David Kunert, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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