Medicinal Herbs That Can Help Prevent Traveler's Diarrhea

Medicinal Herbs That Can Help Prevent Traveler's Diarrhea

Visitors to numerous tropical, subtropical, and underdeveloped nations face an increased likelihood of contracting a gastrointestinal disease during their time away from home. In most cases, bacteria, parasites, and viruses are to blame for these conditions. E. coli, staphylococci, Shigella and Salmonella species, Campylobacter jejuni, cryptosporidiosis, and hepatitis A are the tiny bacteria that are at the top of these fairly gut-wrenching charts (for all the wrong reasons...).

The most significant contributor to the problem is contaminated food, and water comes in a close second. The consumption of ice cream, beverages served in coconut shells that have been used before, raw fish, ice, and food purchased from street sellers all have the risk of making your experience less exciting and leaving you with fewer stories to tell your friends and family.

After a few days, the nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea that accompany acute infections typically go away on their own (unless, of course, you have gotten hepatitis A or something like giardia). If you've been feeling under the weather for a few days, it's best to make an appointment with your primary care physician.

There are, fortunately, medicines that you may take that will improve both your immune system and your digestive system, potentially providing your body with a better opportunity to adjust to the new environment it is in. The following herbs, which I will describe, would make a wonderful addition to a trail mix. The best way to consume them would be in the form of a tincture, which you can get prepared by visiting a local herbal dispensary if there is one in your region, or an alternative would be to see a local herbalist.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Astragalus is effective against a wide variety of microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria. It is beneficial to the immune system since it contains polysaccharides. The consumption of astragalus results in a rise in both the activity level of phagocytes and natural killer cells as well as the quantity of antibodies found in the blood.

Picrorrhiza (Picrorrhiza kurroa)

This is an Ayurvedic herb that is most effective when used in low dosages. Sensitive individuals may experience diarrhea and flatulence if they take bigger doses than recommended. Since it is an herb that is bitter in taste, it works to stimulate the digestive tract. Additionally, it inhibits the growth of malarial parasites, helps the immune system, and safeguards the liver. Picrorrhiza stimulates the activity of all components of the immune system, including the activity of B and T cells as well as phagocytes. In Ayurvedic medicine, this plant is used to treat conditions associated with the liver as well as immune system disorders.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)

Goldenseal is a gut antibiotic that, among other things, helps lower the amount of adherent E. coli in the body and stimulates some of the immune system's functions. It has been demonstrated, for instance, that berberine, which is one of its active constituents, can improve the activity of macrophages, which are responsible for the digestion of bacteria and viruses. Since barberry also includes berberine, further details on this exceptionally useful ingredient can be found further down. Goldenseal is an herb that is bitter in taste, which makes it beneficial to the digestive system. You should avoid using goldenseal, though, if you are pregnant or if you have hypertension.

Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris)

Berberine, one of the active elements of this herb, is an anti-protozoic that helps protect travelers against giardia, leishmania, and treponema pallidum. Berberine is one of the active constituents. Berberine is known to be effective against giardia, dysentery, and candida, in addition to the vibrio that causes cholera. This is yet another one of its significant benefits. Berberine and palmatine, two of the active ingredients, also have antibacterial properties.

And berbamine, which is also an alkaloid like berberine, is a powerful antibacterial agent that appears to function by boosting the number of white blood cells and platelets in the body. Because the herb contains palamtine, which is a uterine stimulant, it is not safe for pregnant women to consume it. In addition to being an antibiotic for the gastrointestinal tract, barberry has anti-malarial properties (although any respectable herbalist would advise consulting a medical professional in the event that you were to become infected with malaria).

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or augustifolia)

Echinacea is an immune stimulator. Its primary immune-stimulating ingredients are polysaccharides and alkamides (particularly isobutylamides), while its primary antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal contents are polyacetylenes. The polysaccharides and alkamides are both active constituents of this compound. In addition to having antiviral and antimicrobial properties, echinacea is known to stimulate the function of phagocytes, which are cells that are found in the immune system. 

It appears that echinacea achieves its effects in part by preventing the enzyme hyaluronidase from carrying out its normal function. Microorganisms make use of this enzyme to degrade the connective tissue that acts as a barrier between them and the rest of the body, preventing them from entering and spreading throughout the body. Because of these qualities, it is an ideal addition to a combination of travel remedies.

These treatments are not intended to operate as a preventative measure, like a vaccine would. They function according to the premise of providing your body with a better opportunity to maintain its health. However, there is no substitute for common sense. Always remember to wash your hands before you eat. Do not drink from broken seals on water bottles or from ice. 

Also, do not drink water on ice. You should probably drink out of old coconut shells rather than nice glasses. You shouldn't consume anything fresh that requires you to peel it beforehand. Do not consume ice cream or milk that has not been pasteurized. Be mindful about purchasing food from strangers on the street. There are those who do it, and they have no issues. However, they are associated with an increased likelihood of gastrointestinal distress. As a preventative measure, you should bring along some oral hydration salts. This is a smart idea.

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