FlorEssence Herbal Tonic as a Gastrointestinal Normalizer
Suzanne Diamond, B.Sc., M.Sc., (Botany)
Flor•Essence is a traditional herbal tonic
that is now being researched for its many benefits. It includes eight
herbs: Burdock root, Turkish Rhubarb root, Sheep Sorrel, Slippery Elm
bark, Watercress, Blessed Thistle, Red Clover, and Kelp. Of these, six are food-type herbs and have been traditionally utilized by our European
ancestors and the First Nation's peoples of North America, and two are bitter-type herbs that are classified as foods, but are taken in smaller amounts as digestive aids.
A summary of the most recent experimental
and clinical data on the digestive properties of each of the eight herbs
is provided below.
The root contains at least five powerful flavonoid-type antioxidants and
several polyphenols that are more powerful antioxidants than vitamin C.
As much as 75% of the carbohydrate content in the plant is stored in
the root as a complex fructan, gamma-glucoside-fructose ester, known as
Modification of intestinal microflora by
inulin: A clinical study found increased intake of oligo-fructose and
inulin significantly increased bifido-bacteria and decreased numbers of
potential pathogens'. An increase in oligosaccharides was reported to
lead to a selective qualitative change in ceco-colonic microbial flora
(ie, bifidogenisic change).
Inulin is not digested in the stomach but
fermented almost exclusively by colonic bifido-bacteria and bacteriodes.
The complete fermentation increases fecal bacterial biomass, decreases
colonic pH, and increases fermentation products such as short chain
fatty acids that positively affect the metabolism of lipids. Beneficial
intestinal bacteria have been found to support the immune system.
2. Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella L.)
At least ten native tribes of Canada and the United States have used this plant as a food and medicine. Sorrel contains vitamin C, A, B complex, D, E, K P, and U. Several key trace elements and minerals are abundant in the herb, including: calcium, iron, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, copper, iodine, manganese, and zinc. The leaves and stems contain beneficial carotenoids, chlorophyll, and organic acids (ie, malic, oxalic, tannic, tartaric, and citric).
Demulcent action: The mucilage of slippery elm bark resists hydrolysis primarily by the stomach's acids and enzymes; therefore, it acts as a demulcent and emollient to the digestive system and soothes the throat, nasal passages, and lungs. The bark's viscous fiber has several direct and indirect beneficial effects: 1) reduces bowel transit time; 2) absorbs toxins from the bowel; 3) increases fecal bulk and dilutes stool materials thereby reducing stool contact with the intestinal mucosa, and 4) enhances beneficial colonic bacteria and provides an excellent substrate for bacterial fermentation.
3. Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus rubra Muhl.)
The inner bark is very rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of polysaccharides including pentoses, methylpentoses, and hexoses which form soothing gelatinous fiber upon hydration. After hydrolysis these give galactose, and traces of glucose and fructose.
Watercress contains large amounts of mustard oil glycosides called glucosinolates, specifically gluconasturtiin, which is then hydrolyzed to 2- phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC). PEITCs give watercress its characteristic aroma and produces the characteristic tingling sensation on the tongue. Watercress is a rich source of vitamins A and C, and trace minerals including sulfur, iodine, calcium, and manganese.
Nutritional supplement and digestive aid: In Europe, watercress is popular as a blood cleanser and part of several phytopharmaceutical choleretic preparations (a choleretic increases the flow of bile into the intestines). The fresh leaves are a superior food medicine containing high levels of vitamins A, C, and iodine.
Choleretic and hypolipidemic action: Through its bitter properties, blessed thistle increases the flow of gastric juices relieving dyspepsia, indigestion and headaches associated with liver congestion. British and German Pharmacopoeias recognize that 'bitters', including blessed thistle, stimulate bile flow and cleanse the liver.
The primary active ingredient of blessed thistle is a bitter tasting compound called cnicin, a sesquiterpene lactone. The seed contains several lignans that are phytoestrogen precursors for the key mammalian lignans: enterolactone and enterodiol which are present in humans and animals. Cnicin aids digestion and has considerable cytotoxic, antimicrobial and phytotoxic activity.
In Europe "bitter vegetable drugs" are considered medicinal agents and used to stimulate appetite, aid digestion, and promote health. Studies confirm that bitters increase gastric juice and bile acid secretions by increasing the flow of saliva through stimulation of specific receptors on the mucous membrane lining of the mouth.
6. Red Clover Herb (Trifolium pratense L.)
Red clover is a legume that contains large amounts of the phytoestrogen,
genistein. Research on dietary legumes, indicate that phytoestrogens
are necessary for a balanced diet and beneficial for health promotion.
The phytoestrogen content varies from 1.0% to 2.5% of dry matter. The
biological study of white clover showed a clear estrogenic effect not
visible through chemical analysis.
Detoxification: Red clover tea is
recognized traditionally for facilitating the elimination of wastes and
toxins through the kidneys, skin, and bowels. This herb also increases
the activity of phagocytes, the scavenger cells of the immune system
that remove micro-organisms and debris from blood and mucous.
Anthraquinones are the active ingredient in the root, including emodin.
Emodin at different concentrations has many benefits including:
anti-inflammatory at 15mg/Kg, antiseptic; antispasmodic; cathartic,
cytotoxic with a CD50 of 2.6ug/ml; immuno-suppressive; vasorelaxant and
viricidal. The root also contains a high tannin content.
Digestive ailments: Turkish rhubarb root
has been used traditionally to improve both digestion and loss of
appetite. The bitter root tea increases the flow of saliva and gastric
secretions and functions as a safe and effective laxative. The plant is a
component of many choleretic drugs because of its laxative properties.
The laxative sermosides A and B, as glycosides, are inactive precursors
in which the sugar moiety acts as a transport group. The glycosides are
hydrolyzed in the organism into their aglycones at least in part by the
action of bacterial enzymes; by influencing the water and electrolyte
transport in the colon, these aglycones are responsible for the laxative
Kelp contains abundant minerals and significant quantities of iodine,
calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and silicon. Total
iodine varies between 0.1 to 0.8%. Kelp should not exceed arsenic levels
above 3.0 ppm and lead levels above 10.0 ppm based on the
internationally recognized Food Chemicals Codex.
Demulcent action: The alginates in kelp
largely resist hydrolysis by the stomach acids and enzymes, and
therefore act as a demulcent and emollient to the digestive system and
increase the amount of fermentable material in the colon. The
short-chain fatty acids produced are used as an energy source by
colonocytes and may inhibit hepatic cholesterol synthesis and bring the
associated health benefits of enhanced beneficial intestinal microflora,
such as inulin from burdock root or the mucilage from slippery elm
bark. As with other soluble fibers, the alginates have a soothing and
cleansing effect on the digestive tract and are known to assist in
resisting absorption of toxic metals like mercury, cadmium, plutonium
Superabsorbent laxative action: Superabsorbent laxatives, such as the alginates from kelp, are a type of bulk forming
laxative which increase in bulk more than 20 times their original volume
by absorbing water. This large swell volume is much greater than other
types of bulk laxatives such as psyllium, cellulose and bran, which
swell very little, compared to alginates. Compared to other bulk
laxatives, kelp alginates are more effective than other bulk laxatives
for dealing with habitual constipation and gastric bloating because they
increase swell volume acting specifically in intestinal juices rather
than water or gastric juices. In addition, alginates reduce intestinal
transit time, soothe the intestinal mucosa, have acceptable taste and