What Is It?
Naturopathic doctors have long recommended a classic herbal digestive combination (variously known as Robert’s or Bastyr’s Formula) for controlling the intestinal pain and inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both inflammatory bowel diseases.
According to lore, the “Robert” of the original Robert’s Formula was a sailor with a sensitive stomach who combined the most effective of the natural remedies recommended by herbalists he visited during his travels. He was so impressed by the results of his personal combination that he began to recommend his “formula” to others.
Each of the herbs in Robert’s Formula has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Several of them (including marshmallow and slippery elm) are famed for their high concentration of mucilage, a sticky substance that can soothe and protect inflamed linings of the gastrointestinal tract.
Other herbs within the formula provide additional medicinal benefits: Echinacea is an immune-system stimulant; goldenseal and wild indigo (Baptisia) are natural antibacterials. Geranium helps control gastrointestinal bleeding, while poke root (Phytolacca) and cabbage powder help heal ulcers.
A variation of this formula, called Bastyr’s Formula, was created and named for pioneering naturopath John Bastyr (1912-1995). It includes the addition of the B vitamin niacinamide (an anti-inflammatory), pancreatin (a digestive enzyme), and duodenal substance (an animal extract to promote tissue healing).
Because of its purported ability to heal and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, an herbal digestive formula is also recommended by naturopaths to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In addition, some arthritis sufferers looking for an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–which can cause notable stomach irritation–have reportedly found relief with this traditional blend. By switching (or supplementing) the NSAID regimen with an herbal digestive formula, the user benefits from the pain- and inflammation-reducing properties of the herbs at the same time that their natural mucilage works to coat, soothe, and protect the stomach.
The revised (Bastyr) formula contains the following combination (and proportion) of healing herbs:
Eight parts of the following herbs:
Althea officinalis (marshmallow root), which soothes, coats, and protects mucous membranes
Echinacea angustifolia, famed for its ability to boost the immune system and even fight bacteria
Ulmus fulva, (slippery elm), with widely recognized soothing and coating properties
Geranium maculatum (American cranesbill), traditionally used to stop gastrointestinal bleeding
Phytolacca americana (poke root), which helps heal sores and ulcers along the smooth mucous surfaces of the intestinal tract
Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), which has antibacterial properties
Cabbage powder, included because of its apparent power to heal ulcers along the gastrointestinal tract
Four parts of the following:
Baptista tinctora, for its reported ability to fight infections in the intestines
Two parts of the following:
Pancreatine, to promote healthy digestion
Duodenal substance, which is a small amount of actual dehydrated duodenum (usually from a sheep’s intestine). In naturopathic theory, taking a small amount of healthy tissue will promote the healing of a diseased one.
One part of the following:
Niacinamide, an anti-inflammatory compound related to the B vitamin niacin
During a flare-up, take two capsules of Robert’s (or Bastyr’s) Formula three times a day, between meals. After a remission occurs, the dose can be reduced to one capsule twice a day.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with this traditional herbal blend.
Given the many ingredients in the blend, it’s important to read the label carefully and discuss taking the product with your doctor if you have any questions.
A number of the herbs in this formula (slippery elm, goldenseal, echinacea) are discussed elsewhere on the WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library web site; for more detailed information, see the separate listings.
Because of the presence of duodenal tissue, Bastyr Formula is not vegetarian.
Crohn’s Disease 3 capsules with each meal till flare-up subsides; after a remission, reduce to 1 capsule twice a day. Often sold as Robert’s Formula or Bastyr Formula.
David Edelberg, MD