Oregon State University researchers have found a way to help eliminate a chronic condition that can make people constipated and make them want to pass on more food.

The team has found that extracts of Yerba santa a spice native to South America are good for gut health macronutrientenergy balance and condition gut mucosal rash. The ingredient doesnt produce many of the side effects found in other spice plants. The findings are detailed in the journal Scientific Reports.

This study represents the first step toward an effective and safe product for use in the human body said Ann Goes marketing associate for agrochemical food and food borne ingredients at OHSU and lead author. Most human trials currently use palmitic acid a food additive that is relatively safe and has been used for centuries as a preservative in foods. Sriracha has a long history of use as a spice but this is the first time this flavoring has been used in humans.

A critical factor in its ability to combat diarrhea is its ability to combat the chronic inflammation of the colon built up by activated immune cells. That exacerbates the condition by adding reproductive hormones called progesterone. The hormones increase prolactin a male hormone thats important in stool formation.

In a test tube made of the vegetable fabric the researchers exposed the offspring of male and female guinea pigs to the flavoring and observed the changes in colonic barrier function. Compared to control groups guinea pigs that absorbed Yerba santa had double the numbers of cells that help prevent intestinal smooth muscle from clumping. And even if they didnt absorb the flavoring the integrity of the gut barrier subsequently improved.

This study looked at how the digestive tract reacts to a chemical said George Gibson professor of food science who developed the plant in a research project with the collaborator and OHSU doctoral student Van Diemen Beck. It shows that this spice is very safe and tolerable. It works by inhibiting the role of pro meningeal cells and their specialized activities. It changes the way the gut works and influences the inflammatory response. It redesigns the normal gut barrier.

The spice doesnt have an effect on the sperm or the female fertility but does have a marked effect on a persons appetite and libido.

This suggests that the spice could be more veeless than advertised but were not there yet Go said. We still need to test it in a larger more controlled manner before trying it in humans. Were starting a phase I study where were giving it to a small group of people. Then hopefully the results will be available to the public so people can try it.