Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Diarrhea is defined by bowel movements that are loose and watery. It is a symptom rather than an illness and its causes can be anything from a pathogen to a food sensitivity to a long term issue like an inflamed or irritable bowel. Natural remedies for diarrhea can calm short term stomach troubles. If the issue persists though or frequently reoccurs professional medical care may be needed.
In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures sisters and authors Joan and Lydia Wilen discuss some of the natural remedies for diarrhea’s they’ve come across.
Diarrhea is a common condition that is often caused by overeating, a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection, mild food poisoning, emotional anxiety or extreme fatigue.
Even a quick and simple bout of diarrhea depletes the system of potassium, magnesium and even sodium, often leaving the sufferer tired, depressed and dehydrated. It’s important to keep drinking clear fluids during and after a siege in order to avoid depletion and dehydration.
CAUTION: If diarrhea persists, it may be a symptom of a more serious ailment. Get professional medical attention. Bloody diarrhea can be infectious and needs treatment immediately.
A West Indian remedy for diarrhea is a pinch of allspice in a cup of warm water or milk. A Pennsylvania Dutch remedy is two pinches of cinnamon in a cup of warm milk. A Brazilian remedy calls for two pinches of cinnamon and one pinch of powdered cloves in a cup of warm milk.
An adsorbent (that’s right, adsorbent) substance attaches things to its surface instead of absorbing them into itself. Activated charcoal is the most powerful adsorbent known.
Charcoal capsules or tablets can help stop certain types of diarrhea quickly by adsorbing the toxins that may cause the problem. Follow the instructions on the box.
NOTE: Be sure to heed the warning and drug interaction precaution— charcoal can interfere with antibiotics. Activated charcoal is not for everyday use, as it adsorbs the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy.
• We may as well “milk” this for all it’s worth with a Welsh remedy that requires a cup of boiled milk and a redhot fireplace poker.
Carefully place the red-hot poker into the cup of milk. Keep it there for 30 seconds. The poker supposedly charges the milk with iron, which is a homeopathic treatment of diarrhea. Be careful and drink the iron-charged milk slowly—it may be hot!
• The combination of cinnamon and cayenne pepper is known to be very effective in tightening the bowels quickly. In fact, it probably takes longer to prepare the tea than for it to work.
Bring two cups of water to a boil, then add 1 ⁄4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 ⁄8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. As soon as it’s cool enough to drink, have 1 ⁄4 cup every half hour.
• Add one teaspoon of powdered ginger to one cup of just-boiled water. To control diarrhea, drink three cups of the mixture throughout the day
• Grate an onion and squeeze it through cheesecloth so you get two tablespoons (one ounce) of onion juice. Take the onion juice every hour, along with one cup of peppermint tea.
• Raspberry-leaf tea is a popular folk remedy for children and adults. Combine one ounce of dried raspberry leaves with two cups of water (a piece of cinnamon stick is optional), and simmer in an enamel or glass saucepan for 25 minutes. Strain, cool and drink throughout the day.
• According to Hippocrates, the Greek physician and father of medicine, everyone should drink barley water daily to maintain good health. One of the benefits is its effectiveness in treating diarrhea.
Boil two ounces of pearled barley in six cups of water until there’s about half the water—three cups—left in the pot. Strain. If necessary, add honey and lemon to taste. Not only should you drink the barley water throughout the day, you should also eat the barley.
• Since biblical times, the common blackberry plant has been used to cure diarrhea and dysentery. And so the berry remedy, in one form or another, has been passed down through the generations. Don’t be surprised if your neighborhood bartender recommends some blackberry brandy
Dose: Drink one shot glass (two tablespoons) every four hour
CAUTION: Women who are pregnant or nursing should not consume alcohol.
• Blackberry juice or wine will also do fine.
Dose: Take six ounces blackberry juice every four hours—or two ounces (four tablespoons) blackberry wine every four hours.
• Scrape a peeled apple with a (preferably nonmetal) spoon and eat the scrapings. In fact, eat no other food but grated apple until the condition greatly subsides.
• Boil 1 ⁄2 cup of white rice in six cups of water for a half-hour. Strain and save the water, then sweeten with honey to taste.
Dose: Drink one cup of the rice water every other hour. Do not drink other liquids until the condition disappears.
Eating cooked rice with a dash of cinnamon is also helpful in controlling the problem.
• Bananas may help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine and replace some of the lost potassium.
Dose: Three times a day, eat one ripe banana that has been soaked in milk.
• Add one teaspoon of garlic (finely chopped) to one teaspoon of honey and swallow it down three times a day—two hours after each meal.
• Certain drinks are effective in treating diarrhea and help replenish the system’s supply of friendly intestinal bacteria. Have one to two glasses of buttermilk or sauerkraut juice or kefir (found in health food stores).
Or eat a portion or two of yogurt with active cultures, along with pickled beets, pickled cucumbers or raw sauerkraut.
The navel is an acupressure point for treating diarrhea. Using your thumb or the heel of your hand, press in and massage the area in a circular motion for about two minutes.
This remedy goes to prove that you can’t argue with success. A woman wrote to tell us that eating Archway coconut macaroons—two a day—put an end to her 12-year bout with diarrhea. She suffers from Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall. Chronic diarrhea is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of this condition. The woman asked that we include her remedy, hoping it will help others with this problem.
Upon further investigation, we found that Joe Graedon, MS, pharmacologist, adjunct assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, also reported on these cookies and the success many people had with them. One woman couldn’t find the Archway cookies, so she made her own coconut macaroons and they, too, worked like magic. While they don’t work for everyone, they may be worth a try.
NOTE: Take into consideration your dietary needs before trying the coconut macaroon remedy. The cookies are high in fat and contain sweeteners