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
food-type herbs have been traditionally utilized by our European
ancestors and the First Nation's peoples of North America, and two
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 oligofructose and
inulin significantly increased bifidobacteria 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 bifidobacteria and bacteroides.
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.
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.
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.
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 Phannacopoeias recognize that
'bitters', including blessed thistle, stimulate bile flow and cleanse
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.
The inner bark is very rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of
polysaccharides including pentoses, methylpentoses and hexoses which
form a soothing gelatinous fiber upon hydration. After hydrolysis these
polysaccharides give galactose and traces of glucose and fructose.
Demulcent action: The mucilage of slippery
elm bark resists hydrolysis primarily by the stomachs 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.
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,
sulphur, copper, iodine, manganese, and zinc. The leaves and stems
contain beneficial carotenoids, chlorophyll, and organic acids (ie,
malic, oxalic, tannic, tartaric and citric).
Laxative effect: At low doses, most Rumex
species are useful for treating diarrhea; however, at higher doses, they
are mild laxatives due to the presence of anthraquinones, that directly
effect the neuromuscular tissue and stimulate peristalsis. At higher
dosages, the anthraquinones increase the mucous production of colonic
mucosa cells and stimulate secretion of water into the intestinal lumen,
thereby exerting a laxative effect. The high content of tannins also
can provide astringent action.
Anthraquinones are the active ingredient in the root, including emodin.
Emodin at different concentrations has many benefits including:
antiinflammatory 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
hydrolysed 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
Hydrasorbent laxative action: Hydrasorbent
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
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 produce the characteristic tingling sensation
on the tongue. Watercress is a rich source of vitamins A and C, and
trace minerals including sulphur, 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.