Why Liquid Herbs? - Proflax

Why Liquid Herbs?

As you have noticed, apart from Tummy Tastic, all of the Proflax blends are in liquid form.  

But why?  

We get asked this question all the time, so we thought we’d pop a blog together to let you know!

Also known as tinctures, they are made by soaking the bark, berries, leaves or roots of a plant in either alcohol or vinegar.  The active ingredients are pulled out of the plant parts, concentrating them as a liquid.  In the Proflax blends, the plant parts are macerated and then placed in an ethanol base.  The concentrated liquids are then expertly combined to produce our incredible products.  

The Digestion of Liquid Herbs

As you likely know, digestion has its own process.  In the dog, with the absence of many salivary enzymes, digestion doesn’t really start until the stomach.  Food is then passed to the small intestine, and then large intestine, before excreted as waste.  On its journey, food is broken down by acid, enzymes, and other compounds, before being absorbed and utilised throughout the body.

Herbs are extensively used all over the world, but the efficacy of several species relies on the release of biologically active compounds.  Most of the active components in herbs are incapable of passing the lipid membranes of body cells either because they have a markedly higher molecular size, or they have poor water solubility.  And so, they sadly suffer from low absorption and poor bioavailability.  However, when they are administered as a concentrated liquid, they yield much higher availability.  

Where liquid herbs become even more effective is when they are expertly combined.  

Certain enzymes in the body carry out the detoxification and elimination of most medications; but these enzymes can also be manipulated by certain plant compounds to aid absorption and metabolism as well.  For example, flavonoids, a chemical compound found in adaptogenic plants, have been seen to suppress certain enzymes responsible for eliminating compounds.  What this means is that by combining a plant containing flavonoids with another, it could enhance the intestinal absorption of said other.  A note of caution though, this is exactly why warnings should be adhered to.  Certain compounds (medications for example, or if there are toxicity concerns), may not need improved absorption and metabolism.  

The mixing of herbs, particularly liquid herbs, also allows for easier nanoparticle formation.

A nanoparticle is a small particle that is undetectable to the human eye, but it can exhibit significantly different physical and chemical properties to its larger material counterparts.  

Natural nanoparticles are more orally absorbable.  What this means is that absorption of the liquid herb can begin in the mouth and therefore get to work much quicker.  Nanoparticles also remain stable in intestinal fluid meaning they can then diffuse through the microvilli and into circulation.  Studies have shown that once these nanoparticles enter circulation, they keep their original size and reach their target tissue.  

These nanoparticles are particularly important because studies have demonstrated that large particles struggle to make it into circulation.  They are often engulfed by macrophages, thanks to the immune system spotting them and deciding to eliminate them. 

Nanoparticles have also been targeted as drug delivery systems by isolating the particles and then attaching certain medications to them to ensure they get to the tissue they need to (antitumour medications for example).  https://www.cell.com/molecular-therapy-family/molecular-therapy/fulltext/S1525-0016(16)45407-9?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1525001616454079%3Fshowall%3Dtrue 

Liquid Herbs and The Microbiota

The gut microbiota has been well established in its capacity to metabolise herbs to produce new absorbable active small molecules that demonstrate a range of beneficial effects in the body.    

For it to be able to do this, it needs to have a diverse community.  Ginseng, for example, has been seen to stimulate the growth of lactobacillus spp. and bacteroides spp. two strains of intestinal bacteria. So, herbs and the microbiota seem to have this two-way relationship; herbs modify the gut which then means it can metabolise them for use where the body needs them! https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332219320554#:~:text=The%20gut%20microbiota%20can%20metabolize,secretions%20play%20a%20therapeutic%20role. 

The Benefits of Liquid Herbs:

  • More orally absorbable
  • Demonstrate improved bioavailability
  • Easy to combine
  • Less for the body to break down/digest
  • Formation of nanoparticles – aiding entrance to circulation and they get to where they need to go
  • Easy to add to food if there are issues with tablets/swallowing
  • Quicker assimilation
  • Can be stored

There is evidence of herbs and plants for health some 60,000 years ago.  Written evidence exists in lists of herbal remedies from over 5,000 years ago.  Using herbs for health is not new and many modern pharmaceutical medications are in fact derived from plants.  Liquid herbs are more potent than in their pure form and this is why we choose to use them in the Proflax Blends.  As we noted earlier, when combined, they posses even more qualities.  Yet, they can also interact with certain medications due to their mechanism of action, so if you are wondering whether a particular blend is suitable for your dog, please feel free to get in touch and if your dog is taking any existing medications, check with your vet before administering.  

Written by Lisa Hannaby - Bsc. Psych. Hons, MSc Human Nutrition  

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