The gallbladder is a pear shaped organ located under the liver. It concentrates and stores bile (a greenish-yellow fluid that is secreted by the liver) and then dispenses it to the small intestine as needed to digest dietary fats.
Gallbladder stones, gallbladder inflammation, and other gallbladder problems can cause severe pain. A gallbladder attack usually comes at night while the patient is sleeping but may occur at any time. The pain radiates from the front mid-center under the rib cage to the back right shoulder blades and lasts from one to five hours. Many times during an attack the patient is bent over, pacing back and forth. Rest is impossible and over the counter pain medicines bring no relief.
Herbs can help prevent and soothe gallbladder attacks. Rosemary, turmeric, dandelion, yellowroot, goldenseal, chicory, calendula, wild yam root, garlic, catnip, marshmallow, nettle, barberry bark, fennel seed, ginger, yellow dock, and milk thistle may help. Regular doses of chamomile, peppermint, alfalfa, or gravel root (Joe-Pye weed) tea taken over a period of four to six weeks may dissolve gallstones. Take up to five cups of tea a day until symptoms disappear.
Essential oil can help soothe a gallbladder attack. Soak a clean cloth with a few drops of Scotch pine essential oil in warm water. Apply as a compress over painful area. Repeat as necessary. Castor oil packs may also bring relief.
An old fashioned remedy for gallbladder problems calls for taking a glass of cider vinegar and honey in water each morning. A teaspoon of olive oil should be taken upon rising and with meals.
Gallbladder disease may be prevented by following a low fat diet, switching from shortening to olive oil, drinking plenty of water, adding fiber and vitamin C rich foods to the diet, eating smaller meals, and cutting back on sugar. Increasing consumption of artichokes, pears, apples, carrots, beets, cucumbers, cherries, grapefruits, greens, and lemons is also recommended.
Reflexology also helps improve gallbladder health. Massage the instep of the right foot with small circular motions as often as possible.
For centuries gallbladder problems were treated at home with a gallbladder flush. It involved taking a pint of olive oil mixed with the juice of a dozen lemons. The patient was given some of the mixture every 15 minutes for three hours. They were then instructed to sleep on their right side. The treatment was repeated frequently until gallstones were passed. (This intensive gallbladder flush can cause serious problems if stones are not small enough to pass through bile ducts.)
Surgery is often performed to remove diseased gallbladders and gallstones. Enzyme therapy is recommended for all patients that do not have a gallbladder. Also try drinking a bitter herbal tea before meals to increase bile secretions.
*Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy. Nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, diarrhea, jaundice, dark urine, and rapid heartbeat may also occur with gallbladder attacks. Please seek emergency care if these symptoms are present.
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