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You'll find a list of all my blog posts in the blog archive.

Astringents vs. anti-inflammatories

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There's a difference.

Astringents are topically anti-inflammatory, but anti-inflammatories aren't usually astringent.

An astringent is a local anti-inflammatory. You can use astringents for all inflammations of the skin - topically. You can also use astringents for all inflammations in the mouth and through the whole digestive tract: they act locally, they can't get beyond the mucous membranes or skin. They are anti-inflammatory because they tan both skin and mucous membranes; they dry them up, leaving no growing space for possible unfriendly neighborhood microbes. They'll also shrink any inflamed tissues, because as tanning agents, they remove moisture from tissues. Astringents are very straightforward.

An anti-inflammatory works systemically, in the whole body. If you drink a tea of an astringent you can't ever expect it to work on, say, a bladder infection or a cough. If you drink a tea of an anti-inflammatory you can expect it to work as an anti-inflammatory throughout the body.

There are of course herbs which are specifics for different places in the body. But if you have a cough, but don't have any of the cough herbs, a general anti-inflammatory will help you some, too.

Related entries: YARFAs - YAMFAIs - Tannins


It's important to remember that astringents aren't only topical -- an astringent can work in the digestive tract, or the urinary tract. It's action in the body will be astringent (tightening), though, not necessarily anti-inflammatory.

If astringents work in the urinary tract they don't work as astringents. The tannins etc. simply can't get there ... unless of course you use a catheter.

Are you equating astringent action with tannins? There are many other chemicals in plants that have astringent action in different parts of the body. (Definition of astringent is: a substance that "causes contraction of body tissues" [wordnet.princeton.edu].) An example of an astringent acting in the urinary tract: Uva Ursi infusion contains arbutin; in the urinary tract, the arbutin becomes hydroquinone; hydroquinone is an astringent, tightening the urinary tract. (Thus Uva Ursi's traditional use is cases of bedwetting.)

...that is, "in cases of bedwetting". (Ah, typos.) And I just noticed that your post said "tannins etc" not just "tannins." So my first few sentences aren't as relevant....

I'm equating the astringency of YARFAs with tannins etc., yes.
As to arbutin, the sugar is stripped off glycosides (including hydroquinone glycosides) in the gut, which is why too much arbutin gives you gut upset ("hydroquinone poisoning"). Next, uva ursi doesn't work in all types of urinary tract infections, which points to another action, not astringency.

So the real question is...is my red wine tightening my gut or not??!!

Dunno. It's tasty anyway, so sip away.

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