Candleberry offers IBS sufferers relief
When I learned about bayberry bark, it was from the old Jethro Kloss herbal tome Back to Eden. J. Kloss put bayberry bark in his Composition Powder formula to help normalize the excess mucus that shows up with colds and flus and also to bring on a sweat to help cool fevers. So, it makes good sense to use it for other conditions where mucus abounds, especially where inflammation seems to be a reason and an astringent herb (one that dries, tightens or tones) might be in order. I’ve seen this in IBS sufferers. So, when a friend confirmed that it calmed the symptoms of IBS for him, it was a light bulb moment for us both.
Sure enough, I looked back through my school texts and other wise herbals and there it was. Dr. Christopher observed that bayberry was excellent at “thoroughly cleansing and restoring the mucous secretions to normal function.” [“Dr. John Christopher’s School of Natural Healing”, first printed in 1971]. Since then, I reserve this herb for people with ‘boggy’ membranes that overproduce mucus.
And where are the mucus membranes in your body? In the eyes, nose, mouth, lungs, and digestive tract, including the large intestine (bowel). People with IBS often complain of mucus discharge in their stools and alternating constipation and diarrhea, not to mention a good deal of pain. And, surprise, many of them have similar ‘gooey’ problems in their respiratory tracts and noses! Usually, the excess watery secretions are a response to some kind of stress, whether that’s a specific food or drink, emotional episode or even environmental change. In fact, it’s well-known, but not well-understood, that depression and anxiety often co-exist with irritable bowel symptoms, and that improving one condition improves the other.
Scientists don’t know why IBS symptoms exist, and medications merely control episodes. Stop the medicine and symptoms often return. Not so with herbal remedies. Used over a few months or longer, tonic herbs like bayberry can actually help tone up the overproducing mucus membranes, restoring strength and ‘collecting’ tissue together.
Bayberry bark (actually the root bark, to be specific) isn’t a remedy for everyone with a runny nose or extra phlegm. Those can be signs that call for different herbal properties with less astringing action or a gentler touch. Taking it as a ‘simple’ remedy, by itself, can be tricky business for the unschooled. Dosing is everything in herbal medicine. Herbalist Matthew Wood is well-known for his very effective use of 3 drops of herb several times a day. And that’s a good place to start with any unknown herb. Or better yet, see a qualified professional herbalist for a combination of plant medicines best suited for you.