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The word "demulcent" comes from the Latin verb, "demulcere" meaning to soothe or "to caress." Dumulcent herbs work internally to help soothe and protect the mucous membranes in the body, they have a direct action on the lining of the intestines, soothing and reducing irritation by direct contact. A soothing, usually oily substance is used to relieve pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes and protects mucous membrane from further irritation. Demulcents such as pectin, glycerin, honey and syrup are common ingredients in cough mixtures and will coat the throat and relieve the irritation causing the cough. Diabetics need to be careful with these forms of demulcents as they tend to contain high sugar content.
Dumulcent herbs often have a high content of mucilage, and help soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissues. Mucilage has a very smooth and slippery consistency, it soothes, protects, and heals any mucosal lining it comes in contact with in the body. Because of its sticky texture it can pick up toxins and waste material, carry them out of the body and aid in constipation relief. Slippery elm bark has gained popularity for coating and soothing irritated or inflamed mucous membranes. The inner bark is rich with mucilage and when ingested forms a protective layer along the throat, digestive tract, and other areas. Additionally, astringent compounds in the herb called tannins help tighten and constrict tissue. Slippery elm bark presently has the approval of the Food and Drug Administration as a nonprescription demulcent.
A Demulcent is useful to reduce irritation in the intestine, reduce sensitivity of the digestive system to gastric juices, and help to ease the digestive spasms that often cause colic.
Herbs with demulcent properties include