Herbal remedies for gallstones and other gallbladder problems

Drawing of the gallbladder by Janice Boling

Herbs can help promote gallbladder heath.

Rosemary, turmeric, dandelion, yellowroot, chicory, calendula, wild yam root, garlic, catnip, marshmallow, nettle, barberry bark, fennel seed, ginger, yellow dock, green tea, onions, and milk thistle are all known to support the gallbladder.

These herbs act like a tonic to keep the gallbladder healthy. They increase bile production, so should not be taken in therapeutic amounts if you have been diagnosed with gallstones.

Can Chamomile tea dissolve gallstones?

Yes! Regular doses of chamomile tea can dissolve some types of gallstones. A cup of strong chamomile tea should be taken three or four times a day for six to eight weeks. Hopefully this will work to get rid of your gallbladder stones and the pain that they cause.

Once your gallbladder is restored to good health, keep drinking chamomile on a regular basis. With its delicious flavor and gentle action, that shouldn't be hard to do.

If you need a good source for chamomile, Starwest Botanicals is the place to go for quality, value, and great customer service. As one of their brand affiliate product ambassadors, I have ordered from them many times, and am happy to recommend them to my friends.

If you have been reading my Every Green Herb blog for a while, then you know we grow lots of our own herbs, plus have access to surrounding forests and meadows. Still, there are times when we need things that can't be found locally, or won't grow here in the North Georgia Mountains.

I purchase herbal products from Starwest Botanicals, Rocky Mountain Oils, and Mountain Rose Herbs on a regular basis. Their herbs are a good value for the money and I have rarely been disappointed. If you can't find what you are looking for in the Every Green Herb online store, then try my favorite online shops. See my list of links to the best herbal brands.

Herbs and tintures from favorite suppliers

Are there other herbs that can dissolve gallstones?

If chamomile doesn't seem to help, there are other herbs that are also known to dissolve gallstones. Peppermint tea, alfalfa tea, fenugreek seed, and Joe-Pye weed tea are all used to support the gallbladder.

A recent study shows that eating lots of onions with fenugreek seeds can reduce the size of gallstones and keep new ones from forming. While you are shopping on the Starwest Botanical website, go ahead and get some fenugreek seed, too. Starwest's fenugreek seed capsules are made with premium quality certified organic fenugreek seeds, produced, packaged, and tested in the USA.They also sell bags of whole seeds if you would rather buy those.

(Fenugreek seeds should not be eaten if you are pregnant or have hormonal-sensitive cancers.)

woman having a gallbladder attack

What can help gallbladder pain during an attack?

Essential oils can help soothe a gallbladder attack. Don't wait until you are suffering with pain, begin remedy as soon as you notice a twinge of discomfort for best results. Soak a clean cloth with a few drops of Scotch pine essential oil in warm water. Apply as a compress over the painful area. Repeat as necessary.

Castor oil packs may also bring relief. Soak a cloth in castor oil and place over the painful area. Put a warm, wet towel on top of that. For extra heat, add a hot water bottle or plastic covered heating-pad set to low. Be careful not to burn the skin! Pain should subside within an hour. Remove the pack, and then reapply several times a day as needed.

If you need Scotch pine essential oil, visit Rocky Mountain Oils. They sell it for around $18 including shipping!

An old remedy for gallbladder problems

An old-fashioned remedy for removing gallstones calls for taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a teaspoon of honey, mixed into a glass of water or apple juice each morning. A teaspoon of olive oil should be taken upon rising and with meals. This treatment, known as a gallbladder cleanse, should not be done if pregnant or suffering from ulcers.

Use all gallbladder cleanses and flushes with caution.

In many cultures, gallstones are treated at home with a gallbladder flush. It involves taking a pint of olive oil mixed with the juice of a dozen lemons. The patient is given some of the mixture every 15 minutes for three hours. They are then instructed to sleep on their right side.

The flush is repeated until gallstones are passed. This intensive gallstone remedy can cause serious problems if your gallstones are not small enough to pass through your bile ducts.

Some people could experience life threatening symptoms from consuming a pint of olive oil and that much citrus in such a short time period. Always consult with your healthcare professional before undergoing any extreme herbal treatment!

There are several types of gallbladder stones.

Gallbladder full of stones
This gallbladder contains all three types of gallstones. Photo by Wiki Commons

SInce people have different types of gallstones, so what works for one might or might not work for another. Some gallbladder stones are made up of cholesterol and others are formed from the breakdown of red blood cells.

The cholesterol types are light beige and the other types are brown or black. Some gallstones are a mixture of both types!

All types of gallstones can cause a variety of symptoms including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, gray stools, vomiting, and diarrhea. When gallstones get really big, like in the picture above, herbal remedies are not the best option. In severe cases, surgery should be performed as soon as possible.

When do I need to see a doctor about my gallbladder?

When your gallbladder is acting up, get help as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain that lasts over 5 hours
  • Severe stabbing pain
  • Fever, chills, and sweating
  • Yellow eyes or skin
  • Excessive nausea or vomiting
  • Brown urine or pale-colored stools

Gallbladder attacks can be moderate or severe.

Gallbladder pain radiates from the front mid-center, under the rib cage to the back right shoulder blades. An attack usually lasts from one to five hours. It can be constant or come in waves.

When my gallbladder was giving me trouble back in the 1980's, the pain was horrible. I remember pacing back and forth, all humped over, and unable to find relief.

My attacks always came late at night after eating a fatty meal of fried or greasy food. Back then, I didn't know anything about herbal medicine. Thank God, I have learned a few things since then.

What other diseases cause gallbladder pain?

The gallbladder can become inflamed, infected, and even septic. In these cases, there are no gallstones to show up on x-rays. Instead of stones, the gallbladder decays and turns into a mass of green tissue. You will probably need additional tests to discover this type of gallbladder problem.

My gallbladder was removed. Can it still cause me pain?

Yes, it can. One of my most painful gallbladder attacks hit me twenty years after my gallbladder was removed. It began while I was bending over to pull weeds from the garden and felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife.

I thought I was dying with a heart attack. Tony rushed me to the emergency room where the doctors diagnosed me with an inflamed gallbladder stem. A shot of strong pain medicine gave me immediate relief, but cost almost a thousand dollars! After that episode, I started being much more careful about what I ate.

What are the risk factors for gallbladder disease?

Some risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Being over forty years old
  • Being obese
  • People who lose weight too quickly
  • People with Crohn's Disease
  • Being of Mexican American or Native American decent
  • People with family history of gallbladder disease
  • People with diabetes
  • People with cirrhosis of the liver
  • People with a history of bile duct infections
  • People with sickle-cell anemia

How can I keep my gallbladder healthy?

Gallbladder disease may be prevented by eating less saturated fat, switching from cheap vegetable oils to cold-pressed oils, drinking plenty of water, adding fiber and vitamin C rich foods to your diet, eating smaller meals, choosing lean meats over fatty ones, avoiding fast foods, and cutting back on sugar.

Be sure to add artichokes, pears, apples, carrots, beets, cucumbers, cherries, berries, grapefruits, greens, red peppers, onions, garlic, lemons, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to your diet. All fresh vegetables and fruits are good for gallbladder health.

Fruit basket with apples, pears, and bananas
Fresh fruit and vegetables are essential to gallbladder health.

Is diet important once my gallbladder has been surgically removed?

Diet is always important! The same foods listed above are also recommended for everyone, with or without a gallbladder. Just because your gallbladder is gone, does not mean you should go back to eating fried and processed foods.

Use massage and reflexology to help treat the gallbladder.

There are alternative methods of treating gallbladder problems. Reflexology can bring amazing results.

For gallbladder health, massage the instep of the right foot with small circular motions as often as possible. It works even better if you have someone do it for you. If you have never tried reflexology, it might be time for you to start.

Foot reflexology chart showing the gallbladder
Photo from Wiki Commons

Eat raw pineapple before scheduled surgeries.

If your gallstones are large, or won't dissolve with herbal remedies, then you might have to have it removed. Surgery is often the only solution for a severely diseased gallbladder, whether gallstones are present or not.

Here is a tip for any time that you have a scheduled surgery such as a gallbladder operation. Three days before your surgery, eat a fresh pineapple. The live enzymes in this fruit will help the incision to heal faster. Eating fresh pineapple also help tissues heal more quickly after tooth extractions and other traumas.

* Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines.

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Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. Every month I will send you a short update on what is happening here on the farm including seasonal recipes, tips for home-remedies, advice on growing herbs, and more.

Thanks so much for reading my blog. Jan.

Herb Articles by Janice Boling

"The best way to really learn about herbal medicine is to smell different herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if at all possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix so give your herbs time to work." Janice Boling -- herbalist, web designer, artist, and writer

I love to hear from my readers and my customers. The best way to reach me is by email at hometown30512@yahoo.com -- I answer emails several times daily.

* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

** Most of my posts in this blog were first published by the North Georgia News in my weekly column titled Every Green Herb.

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