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In medicine, a cathartic is a substance which accelerates defecation. This is in contrast to a laxative, which is a substance which eases defecation, usually by softening the stool.[1] It is possible for a substance to be both a laxative and a cathartic. However, agents such as psyllium seed husks increase the bulk of the stool.[2]

Cathartics such as sorbitol, magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, or sodium sulfate were previously used as a form of gastrointestinal decontamination following poisoning via ingestion. They are no longer generally recommended for poisonings.[3]

Cathartics were used in the Fort Lewis, WA area in the influenza epidemic of 1918. An original report by Elizabeth J. Davies, a public heath nurse, mentions cathartics, pneumonia jackets and copious amount of drinks as treatments for influenza patients.

References

  1. ^ MeSH Cathartics
  2. ^ The MSDS HyperGlossary: Catharsis
  3. ^ "Position paper: cathartics". Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology 42 (3): 243–53. 2004. PMID 15362590.  

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