Our Pages

- Herbal Medicine
- The Clinic
- Richard Whelan

- Alphabetically

- By Group
- Alphabetical

- Clinic Hours
Clinic Location

- Ancient wisdom in the modern world


Finding a good herbalist

Gallstones and the attacks of 'biliary colic' they cause can be truly horrible and, unfortunately, there are times when things have gone too far and surgery to remove the gallbladder is the only sensible option.

That said, there have also been many cases where it has been possible to dissolve and pass small stones and/or prevent future attacks. The dissolving or passing was able to be confirmed with before-and-after ultrasounds.

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

image showing how gallstones may be able to be passed into the gut


Herbs for Gallstones

What we are trying to do with herbal medicines for Gallstones is a twofold approach. Firstly, to increase the amount of bile created by the liver and secondly to assist the easy passage of that bile through the liver and gall-bladder.

An average adult produces incredible amounts of bile in a typical day, up to 1000mls or 1 litre. Bile is an important fluid, it is constantly being made in the liver and then stored in the gall-bladder. Bile is essential for the digestion of fats and the absorption of fat soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D and K. It also serves as the method by which the body removes waste products from the liver, including bilirubin, a substance created when red blood cells are recycled by the liver.

Gall stones are usually caused by the bile becoming too concentrated and not liquid enough which, if it happens often enough, eventually causes 'salts' within the bile to come out of solution and to start forming the nucleus of stones.

Therefore, we must be sure to produce plenty of bile and that the bile keeps flowing well rather than becoming stuck and concentrating into stones.

Certain herbs can bring about an increased production of bile as well as an increased flow of that bile. Doing this may be enough to help break down existing stones and then, if the stones are small and 'gravelly' enough, increasing the amount and flow of bile can carry that debris through the duct and away into the bowel to be safely and easily excreted.

Chelidonium majus (Celandine)


The following are some key herbs that can increase both the production and the flow of bile.


Celandine could be considered as the strongest of all the liver cleansing herbs and must be used with respect for its potency, a detailed write up on it here


Barberry is a close second in terms of its potency, more here

Dandelion root

Dandelion is one of those herbs that is so commonplace as to be completely underestimated. In fact, it is a true and reliable friend to the liver and there are many cases of people curing their gall bladder colic with its regular use, more here

Globe artichoke

This is a gentle herb that is well suited for long-term use if needed. It can be confidently used to stimulate better liver function without the any worry of being too strong and causing reactions, more here

Yellow Dock

Yellow dock is one of the best herbs for a person who has gall-bladder problems and a sluggish bowel at the same time. You cannot overestimate how powerful a therapeutic action it is to stimulate a person's liver function, if their bowel is not properly 'open for business' then they may struggle with the liver cleansing herbs, more here

Plantago husks

Similar to the Yellow dock but as a bulking fibre rather than a gently stimulating herb, Plantago husks are for a person who needs to improve their bowel health whilst they are working on clearing out the sludge from their gall-bladder. It can be a very important part of a successful treatment program for some people, more here

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)

Sample formula

In practice, we always use a combination of herbs for this kind of problem. The exact dose, the strength vs. gentleness of the formula, the length of treatment, all these are variables that matter a great deal and vary a lot between different people. So, simply by way of example:

Celandine 30 mls
Barberry 60 mls
Dandelion root 80 mls
Yellow dock 40 mls

To make a 200ml formula. Take 4 mls, diluted, twice a day approx 5-20 minutes before food. Add 2-4 tsps of Plantago husks once a day if a good bowel motion is not happening at least once and preferably twice a day within a few days of beginning treatment.

After 2 or 3 courses, which will take 2 or 3 months, so long as there have been no symptoms, it is appropriate to stop treatment and wait and see if things get worse again. Treatment programs such as this have seen many people stop getting gall bladder attacks and avoid surgeries.

Some key cleansing herbs

Diet & Detoxification

People in traditional cultures who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables hardly ever get gall-bladder problems. Gallstones are very much an increasing phenomenon of modern living and a refined diet. If you don’t have enough good fibre from fruit and vegetables in your diet then your chances of getting gallstones are much higher. If you do already have some stones developing, and apparently this is true for 1 in 5 of us, having plenty of plant fibre in the diet may help small stones to be safely excreted.

Detoxification is a big subject that has a lot of myths and misconceptions; if you want to read some more about it look here. It is essential to keep to a clean diet whilst working with the liver cleansing herbs, how to do that is written up in detail here


Sun-Burn & Olive oil flushes


Gallstones contain a centre that is noticeably dark and this obviously led one to very much ‘thinking outside the box’ scientist to wonder whether the same kind of cells that responded to sunlight by getting darker might somehow relate to gallstones. The results of his study were startling to say the least.

Two hundred and six white-skinned individuals were involved in the study and it was found that those who liked to sunbathe had on average twice the risk of getting gallstones than those who didn’t. In the people who frequently got sunburnt after long periods of sunbathing, the risk of developing gallstones was a remarkable 25.6 times greater than those who did not like to lie in the sun!

This is simple conjecture but it may be something to do with how sunlight relates to the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland. In any case it is certainly thought that a lack of melatonin might contribute to gallbladder stones, as melatonin is known to increase the conversion of saturated cholesterols to liquid bile...

Olive oil flushes

A popular remedy and much promoted ‘cure’ for a gallstone is the ‘olive oil liver flush’. There are several variations of this with epsom salts and cider vinegar but they generally revolve around drinking a great deal (i.e. a cupful or more) of olive oil and chasing this up with large amounts of lemon juice.

People tell of passing huge stones and huge numbers of stones (upwards of a hundred is a common report) whilst doing this olive oil flush and oh if only it were true! Sadly, the truth does get in the way of a good story here. This will come as disturbing news to people that have diligently collected their ‘stones’ but those are not gallstones but rather a direct result of the treatment itself. The Olive oil and lemon juice become 'saponified' along with material in the bowel and form little pellets which eventually pass out.

The consumption of such large quantities of any kind of oil by its nature can cause a major contraction of the gallbladder. That can be a serious problem if there really is a stone in there which is just big enough to get in and block the duct. In that case we are back to the agonies of biliary colic and you may have to think about getting in touch with the emergency medicine services.  

The following from an online discussion between professional herbalists on the olive oil flush

~ From: JM
I am suspicious of gallstones that dissolve or that liquefy when passing. I have done several gall bladder flushes myself using a formula from a book titled "Encyclopaedia of Digestive Disorders" by F. Roberts, of Roberts’s formula fame. The flush involved taking divided doses of olive oil and lemon juice every fifteen minutes over a two hour period to stimulate the gall bladder to contract and release stones. The effects were very dramatic - one time causing drastic elimination out both ends simultaneously. It also made me lose my taste for olive oil for many years.

I also worked as a massage therapist in a clinic where a similar flush was used for detox and cleansing. The "stones" people would pass needed to be kept in the freezer or they would melt. I then read in a book the suggestion that these "stones" were a product of saponification, the olive oil mixing with the alkaline bile salts creating a soap (similar to mixing lye and fat).

At naturopathic college I obtained a real gallstone from the gall bladder of the cadaver we worked on in anatomy lab. It was as hard as a rock and it would not dissolve in olive oil and lemon juice, even after several months. I didn't try dissolving it in coke or ortho-phosphoric acid.

I believe it's possible that a gall bladder flush may cause stones to be eliminated, but these stones will sink to the bottom of the toilet. The "stones" that float and that are easily squashed are most likely soap. I have heard of people passing hundreds of such "stones" which would imply that they must have a huge gall bladder.

~ From: MM
In the early 1980s, after recommending and teaching Robert's protocol, a PhD physiologist STRONGLY suggested that these "stones" were probably artifacts of the therapy. The next time someone passed some, I took them in a cooler to a local Santa Fe medical lab I had a working relationship with. They showed only traces of chenic and cholic bile salts, and had no discernable cholesterol content. Their educated guess was that they were saponified fatty acids...probably linoleic or oleic acid salts. They were DEFINITELY not "gallstones". I have not recommended this grim regimen since.

One of the great scams amongst 19th century medicine shows was this HUGE capsule, made out of a colored and sealed gelatin capsule. It cost $1, and was GUARANTEED to pass a tapeworm. Indeed, everyone who took one raved about this long "worm" they passed.
The capsule contained a long coiled spiral of a thin strand of gutta percha (crude rubber), dusted in Lycopodium. This was the "worm".

Robert's protocol, similarly, seems to result in the consistent passing of "stones" consisting of saponified olive oil, acted on as well as possible by the stressed digestive apparatus.

That doesn't mean that the shocked pancreas and gall bladder don't, on occasion, vomit out a small cholesterol stone. But, as anyone who has worked with cholelithiasis will vouch, this is risky stuff, since an obstruction by a REAL stone of the biliary duct or common duct from the gall bladder spasms may be just as likely. Most gallstones exist WITHOUT symptoms. Most obstructions require surgery.

Rumex crispus (Yellow Dock)

Constitutional Health Note:

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here

I can't treat you unless I see you in person and, as you can see, there's nothing here for sale,
this living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd