Laxatives are medicines that induce bowel movements or soften or loosen up the stool. They may also be called cathartics or purgatives. They are used to treat constipation or to empty the bowel of fecal matter before colonoscopy or surgery.
Most laxatives work by either stimulating the bowel (stimulants), softening the stool (stool softeners), increasing the stool bulk or encouraging the stool to draw in more water (bulking agents), lubricating the stool to allow and easier passage out of the colon (lubricants), or by promoting the influx of water into the bowel (hyperosmotics).
Subscribe to receive email notifications whenever new articles are published.
Drugs.com provides accurate and independent information on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products. This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Data sources include Micromedex® (updated Apr 11th, 2017), Cerner Multum™ (updated Apr 6th, 2017), Wolters Kluwer™ (updated Apr 11th, 2017) and others. To view content sources and attributions, please refer to our editorial policy.