Astringent (Constricting)

If you’ve ever had a cup of tea or glass of wine, then you have personally experienced astringency. The tightening of the tissue of the mouth is the astringent action of the plant at work. Astringents (sometimes called Styptics) are remedies that contain constituents that have a binding action on mucous membranes, skin, and other exposed tissues.

Usually this effect is due to a group of complex chemicals called tannins. They have the effect of precipitating protein molecules (how animal skin is turned into leather). Astringents have a role in a wide range of problems in many parts of the body, but are of special importance in wound healing and conditions of the digestive system.

Their therapeutic benefits include:

A reduction of irritation on the surface of tissues due to a form of numbing
A reduction in surface inflammation.
A barrier against infection is created which is of great help in wounds and burns

Long-term internal use or too much in the diet can be detrimental to health, as there may be an eventual inhibition of proper food absorption across the gut wall.

Herbs that are drying, drawing, and constricting help to create a barrier. Look for that “puckered” feeling with cold and dry symptoms. Astringents are both from the Air (Vata) and Earth (Kapha) elements. An astringent acts to contract and tighten, or constrict body tissues, usually locally after topical medicinal application, similar to styptic. This constricting action can help eliminate secretions and hemorrhaging. Astringent foods cause the mouth to feel dry and constricted. Topical astringents can be used to help pull out splinters and tone the skin. Internally, astringents work to help tone mucus membranes and dry up conditions of excess, like occasional diarrhea or too much urine.

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