Category Archives: Herbs, Herbal Formulations

Reformulation Alert!- Methyl Hex 4, 2

First and foremost, Happy Autumn to all and thank you so much for your support, your reads and your comments. It has been an amazing experience writing and publishing this blog and I’m thrilled to step into the second year of BeWellWarrior. I aim to keep you armed with the latest on new supplements and wellness trends. And I welcome any questions or concerns you may want me to explore. For now, take a load off and have a look at this recent change to the beloved Methyl Hex 4, 2.

Several posts ago I wrote about the then new thermogenic Methyl Hex 4, 2. This fat burner claimed to increase our metabolic rates, enhance our focus and boost our mood all in a 1-2 pill per day dose. The ingredient most credited with these capabilities was Methylhexaneamine, a supposedly pharmaceutical grade of Geranium seed extract. I speak in past tense because SEI Pharmaceuticals has recently gone the route of other supplement makers and removed this potent ingredient from the formulation.

As previously posted, Geranium seed extract was revered for its nor epinephrine like behavior (elevation of heart rate, release of glucose, increased blood flow to muscles). The resulting energy earned the herb a reputation second only to the once renowned Ephedra. But, of course, in this age of increasing demands and seemingly ever decreasing time, folks, feeling pressured to keep up, once again went overboard.

When I say, “Folks…” I’m not just referring to the consumers but also to the product producers. They are pressured to create a competitive formula that is worthy of those all too familiar tags-most powerful, strongest, fastest working, longest lasting. Additionally, supplement takers have long been pushing back from the multiple pill doses and leaning towards the ultra concentrated 1-2 pill per day trend. It seems only logical manufacturers would need to push the upper limits of otherwise safe ingredients to achieve this potency and keep their customers.

The result is performance enhancing supplements so stimulating to the system that the body and brain begin to crave and inevitably depend on them to gain advantage, increase activity and ultimately productivity. Once that occurs, so does the supplement abuse and system imbalance, which in time may lead to serious injury and illness. This is usually when sports and other governing agencies start prohibiting the use of an ingredient and effectively pull the rug from beneath it, the apparent fate of this controversial ingredient.

English: Bacopa monnieri (syn. Bramia monnieri...
English: Bacopa monnieri (syn. Bramia monnieri, Gratiola monnieria, Herpestes monnieria, Herpestis fauriei, H. monniera, H. monnieria, Lysimachia monnieri, Moniera euneifolia)- Coastal Waterhyssop, Thyme-leafed gratiola, Water hyssop, Water Hyssop, Indian pennywort, Brahmi ब्राह्मी (Hindi), நீர்ப்pராமி Nirbrahmi (Tamil), Jalanevari (Gujarati)- in Hyderabad, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Methyl Hex 4,2 relies upon Bacopa Monnieri (famed for its memory boosting capacity), D-Aspartic Acid (known to increase insulin release and fat  burning) and Pilocarpus Pennatifolius/Jaborandi (used to increase the body’s heart rate, perspiration and urination) to elicit its energizing and metabolism enhancing effects. I recently sampled the new formula and definitely noticed the difference. The previous version produced a unique kind of brain buzz and uplifted mood with sustained concentration and energy. It was also very effective at suppressing my appetite. The new formulation did not leave me feeling as focused or energized and there wasn’t any noticeable impact on my mood or appetite. Mind you, I previously tried Methyl Hex for 7 days either with or immediately following a caffeinated beverage; and I only tried the new formulation once, hours after having a cup of coffee. The timing of the coffee is important because its inherent ability to perk up the brain and quickly increase energy definitely acts as a booster shot to any fat burner. None the less, I suspect the real difference is the absence of the Methylhexaneamine.

Other supplements expected to reformulate and pull this ingredient include USP Labs’ pre-workout Jack 3d and its extremely popular thermogenic Oxy Elite Pro. Currently you’ll find these products carrying another form of the Geranium extract known as 1,3-Dimethylamylamine HCI. However word on the street is this won’t be for much longer. If you are using any of these products now, I’d suggest pulling back a bit on your daily dosages and use frequency to enable your body to better adjust to the coming formulations. Additionally, these products all recommend a break after 8 weeks of consecutive use. Perhaps now is a good time to take that. In the interim, play it safe out there and as always…

Be Well Warriors!

**Please check out the below links if you have used any of the above supplements and experienced adverse reactions.

Advertisements

Some Supplement Combos to Avoid

Recently I was asked to clarify which herbs could not be safely combined with other supplements. I thought, “sure, no problem,” knowing that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different herbs with countless compounds, properties and actions warranting another encyclopedia set’s worth of break down. And then it occurred to me that it would be of more benefit to just list some resources that I’ve relied upon to help me sift through the herbal options and determine the appropriate combinations to supplement.

Cover of "Prescription for Nutritional He...
Cover via Amazon

My most frequent go to are the books A Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch and Staying Healthy with Nutrition, published by Celestial Arts Publishing. The first provides both quick reference lists of select herbs and more detailed supplement recommendations for various conditions. Staying Healthy…is an A-Z guide of all vitamins and minerals plus a breakdown of different diets with suggested appropriate recipes. For a list of medications and their corresponding restrictions the Physicians’ Desk Reference is a must have, but make sure you are referring to the most updated edition as the pharmaceutical world is an ever-changing one.

As said before, a full list of supplemental conflicts could very well absorb your computer’s memory stores. Let me be clear though, not because they’re so many conflicts, just that many supplements. Generally speaking, herbs, vitamins, minerals and their active compounds are safe when used properly. But when used outside of their recommended dosages and durations, some issues can arise. And more often, these issues are not at all the same types of risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. Usually any risks associated with natural substances fall within the following categories:

  • Interference with the absorption of other vital nutrients
  • Development of allergic reactions due to over use and/or too prolonged use
  • Competition with, interference with, or duplication of the actions of other supplements or medications

Below is a brief list of common herbs, courtesy of A Prescription for Nutritional Healing, along with some corresponding condition, supplement, and medication combinations to avoid.

Astragalus fever (condition)
Burdock iron (supplement)
Chamomile other sedatives (medications)
Damiana iron
Dandelion diuretics (medications)
Don Quai diabetes (condition)
Echinacea auto immune disorders (condition)-for   prolonged periods of time
Ephedra anxiety, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, thyroid   disease (conditions);monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs
Fever Few blood thinners, pain killers (medications)
Garlic anticoagulants (medications)
Ginger anticoagulants
Ginkgo blood thinners, pain killers
Ginseng asthma, heart disorders, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, insomnia   (conditions)
Hops antidepressants (medications)
Horsetail vitamin B1-Thiamine
Juniper iron and other minerals
Kava Kava alcohol, anti-anxiety, antidepressants (conditions and medications)
Lady’s Mantle iron and other minerals
Peppermint iron
Uva Ursi pregnancy (condition)

Though the above should certainly not be used as a means of self medicating, it can make designing an appropriate and supportive nutritional supplement program a bit easier. Let your physician and health care professionals do the heavy lifting but take some time to do a little extra fact checking on your own.

Until next time…BeWell

Fertile Ground-Love for the Ladies

Hanging with my girls at a recent BBQ, the topic of female fertility came up. As we marveled at a 50+ woman who looked decades younger we segued into the progress that has been made in the anti-aging industries and pondered what a relief it would be if we could preserve our reproductive health as gracefully as we potentially can our beauty. As thirty something women, no matter how accomplished or professionally focused we may be, it can be very hard to avoid what my friend calls the “no baby crazies”. And though we may not be ready at this very moment those proverbial biological ticks can, at times, dong as loudly as the liberty bell, trample over an otherwise relaxed encounter and bear down on a blossoming relationship like a souped up Mack truck.

Now I know the world of nutritional healing has both its share of long guarded secret recipes as well as new and innovative approaches to slow the aging process, so I immediately focused my hunt on if and how we women could preserve our creative capabilities. Certainly the overall state of our reproductive health has to be analyzed first. Our bodies are beyond complex and so many factors come into play when making that determination. But, as that is literally an encyclopedia set’s worth of information, we will start with the assumption of an already healthy and fertile system.

Laying the Foundation

A diet rich in anti-oxidant foods and supplements is extremely important to overall reproductive health. These nutrients counteract potentially damaging effects of environmental and metabolic toxins. Protective super-foods like vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables along with anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and the absence of risky habits like cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol consumption (more than 1-2 drinks/day, 3-4 days/week) definitely provide ongoing nourishment to an already healthy system. Additionally, certain vitamins and minerals are especially significant to women.

B6 is believed to both regulate and extend the length of a woman’s Luteal Phase. The Luteal Phase is the portion of the menstrual cycle beginning the last day of ovulation and continuing through the first day of menstruation. The results are the formation of corpus luteum and the secretion of the progesterone hormone. The progesterone hormone prepares the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg and helps to sustain that egg through the first trimester of pregnancy. Consequently, a healthy Luteal Phase is critical to both conception and full term pregnancy. 300 mg/day of B6 is a good supplemental amount; and as vitamin B6 is water-soluble (any unused amounts are excreted by the body) a sustained release version is preferred over the quicker forms.

Getting a Head Start

I’ve previously written about the importance of a good multi-vitamin supplement and that could not be truer than for those looking to conceive in the near or far future. Many health professionals recommend taking pre-natal vitamins in place of generic formulations to get more targeted nutritional support that provides appropriate amounts of those nutrients critical to both an expecting mother and her growing child. The prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 mcgs of folic acid to insure the full development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord and more modest amounts of vitamin A to protect against the birth defects that have been linked to the excessive intake of this vitamin.

Another extremely important nutrient to the baby’s brain formation and functioning is docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This component of omega 3 fatty acid is obtained from cold water fish such as wild salmon, tuna and mackerel. Due to the risk associated with ingesting high levels of mercury when consuming large amounts of seafood, supplementing 300 mg of purified DHA per day may be the safest way to obtain adequate amounts of the nutrient.  Some prenatal multi-vitamins now also include DHA in their formulation.

Herbs for Her

It’s no surprise that my hunt uncovered two commonly used tonic herbs, Vitex or Chaste Tree Berry and Don Quai. Each of these has a long history of use by women to tone the reproductive organs and regulate hormonal activity. Consequently, both herbs are frequently recommended for female conditions ranging from PMS and menstrual irregularities to post partum care and menopause.

Studies on Vitex have revealed its ability to positively act upon the pituitary gland and thereby increase the duration of the Luteal Phase and resulting luteinizing hormone production and progesterone secretion. Did I mention we women were operating some complex machinery? In the simplest of terms, it can help enhance the processes and hormones that enable and sustain pregnancy while decreasing those that prevent it. Vitex should not be taken alongside fertility drugs and should not be used while pregnant. I currently take 400 mg/day and find it very helpful in regulating my cycle and soothing some of the discomfort experienced towards its end.

Don Quai or the so-called “female’s ginseng” has been used for centuries by traditional Chinese doctors to promote overall reproductive health and vitality, increase sexual desire and enhance energy. However, it contains certain compounds that act as estrogen does and may consequently increase risk levels and complications with estrogen related ailments like uterine fibroids, endometriosis and cancers of the reproductive system. Don Quai also contains the volatile oil safrole that may be cancer causing when taken for long periods of time. Therefore, it is safest to take a whole herb supplement or crude extraction instead of a highly processed and concentrated blend of the herb’s active chemicals. Crude preparations tend to keep a more volatile herb safe by maintaining the various compounds in proper proportion to one another, naturally protecting the consumers from danger. Studies have confirmed 3-15 grams/day of the crude herbal extract to be safe. I have personally experienced significant improvements from taking a daily 550 mg dose of the whole herb in capsule form. But because I do suffer with fibroids and adenomyosis, and have seen improvements in the latter condition, I will continue my supplementation at the lower level.

Like Vitex, Don Quai should not be combined with other fertility drugs and should not be taken by women who are already pregnant or nursing. Additionally, Don Quai contains the chemical coumarin that shortens blood clotting times and should therefore not be combined with aspirin or other blood thinning medications. My experience has also lead me to think that Don Quai has the potential to increase menstrual flow and should therefore be suspended in the days leading up to and on through a woman’s period. Both herbs are considered very safe when used as directed by the manufacturer or health care practitioner.

As I close out, I can actually feel my no baby crazies cooling down. Although I believe our bodies definitely do have a mind of their own, I also have faith in nature’s bounty, and think with her wisdom and our thoughtful application anything is possible. The following article may also be helpful.

http://www.conceiveonline.com/articles/pros-and-cons-fertility-supplements

Let’s keep caring for ourselves ladies! Until next time…

BeWell   

Sources:

Balch,Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of
Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

http://thefertilityshop.com/fertility_herbs_vitamins.htm

Side Stepping the Stroke Slope

Stroke- “the interruption of blood flow to the brain”*– can result in conditions as correctable as slurred speech to those as irreversible as paralysis and, sadly, death. Not all strokes are alike in cause. The less common hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding within the brain and the more common ischemic stroke is caused by clotting within a vessel supplying blood to the brain or by a clot that has traveled from another part of the body to the brain.

Though not applicable to all sufferers, there is an ever-growing theory that, though seemingly an unpredictable occurrence, the likelihood of a stroke can be predetermined from a list of five causative conditions. This group, called “Syndrome X” or the “Metabolic Syndrome”, consists of five hazardous health characteristics-abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides levels, high blood pressure, and low high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. When we find ourselves struggling with any three of the five, we in turn find ourselves teetering along the edge of a very slippery slope.

The below chart lists each individual risk with methods of preventing its onset and, if necessary, improving the already existing condition.

Abdominal Obesity
Prevention:

  • Include   adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola to reduce cortisol production
  • Walk,   run, swim, cycle and/or dance 3-5 times/week for 20-45 minutes to maintain   healthy overall body fat percentage.
  • Increase   the amount of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), decrease saturated fats, and avoid   trans fats in the diet.
Improvement:

  • High –linoleic Safflower oil increases the belly fat   hormone adiponectin that increases both fatty acid breakdown and blood   glucose regulation.
  • CLA, conjugated linoleic acid helps the body break down fatty –   acids that would otherwise be stored by the body.
  • L-Carnitine helps bodies utilize stored fat for energy.
High Blood Sugar
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods on the lower end of the Glycemic Index.
  • Limit   the consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Try   sweetening with natural sugar alternatives like agave nectar and stevia.
Improvement:

  • Include   the mineral Chromium Picolinate and   the herbs Bitter Melon and Cinnamon to   help the body better metabolize sugars and maintain blood sugar balance.
  • Help reduce sugar cravings with Gymnema Sylvestre.
High Blood Pressure
Prevention:

  • Incorporate   stress management techniques such as physical and/or intellectual exercise,   yoga, meditation or prayer.
  • Maintain   proper electrolyte (sodium, potassium, magnesium) balance within the body.
  • Reduce   dietary intakes of fried, fast and processed foods.
Improvement:

  • Grapeseed extract helps the body maintain healthy blood   pressure levels.
  • Pycnogenol helps to strengthen blood vessel integrity.
High Triglyceride Levels
Prevention:

  • Avoid   overeating, especially late at night when we’re less active.
  • Reduce   intakes of alcoholic beverages.
  • Maintain   a diet low in sugar and fat.
Improvement:

  • Treat   inflammatory ailments with non-steroidal and non-diuretic medications when   possible.
  • If   overweight, reduce bodyweight by as little as 5-10 lbs to help lower   triglyceride levels.
  • Eliminate   cigarette smoking.
High LDL and/or Low HDL Cholesterol  
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods low in cholesterol and unhealthy fat.
  • Include   fiber containing foods in the diet.
  • Increase   HDL levels by keeping moderate aerobic exercise in your life.
Improvement:

  • Phytosterols, plant sterols, compete with less healthy   animal sterols for absorption and thereby help lower total cholesterol   levels.
  • Policosanol, derived from sugar cane, has shown promise   in lowering LDL while increasing HDL levels.

Not at all surprising are the above recurring themes- getting regular exercise, eating a diet low in sugars, simple carbs and unhealthy fats, limiting alcohol and cigarette smoking, and adding stress management techniques to our daily lives. These lifestyle adjustments are at the core of most preventive plans and, in spite of their consistent need for attention, are not that hard to accomplish. My suggested starting place and current mission is the ever elusive concept of stress management. In my observation and experience, so many bad habits begin with the attempt to cope with our lives’ loads of stress. Whether we opt for the high fueled emotional rant, extreme veg out or over indulge in our spirited, sweet, rich and creamy cravings, it’s all in a desperate effort to overcome what can seem an insurmountable mound of worry- to do’s, to have’s, to be’s. This necessary adjustment has led me back to some age-old adages like doing what feels good for activity and exercise, seeking the middle ground with food and alcohol, and fighting the feeling in emotionally toxic scenarios. With no panacea to turn to, it’s a daily endeavor that’s sometimes only attainable through minute by minute milestones; but I’m beginning to believe that when faced with life’s most trying times, when missteps and bad choices can force us out of the game, slow and steady really does win the race. With that in mind…

Be aware of where you stand, be willing to move and as always, BeWell

*Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

My Favorite Edible Flower

They’re here!!! The May flowers promised to us by April’s downpours are here! We’ve gotten a taste already with the stately Cherry Blossoms and graceful Tulips, and there are so many more blooms to come like the glorious Magnolias and Lilacs. Certainly, these flower-full spectacles are a delight to the eyes and nose (pollen allergies aside), but they are fast becoming known as a delight to the palate as well. Wildflowers are especially regarded in this manner as they’ve long served as that “secret- ingredient” sneaked into our favorite soups, sauces and stews. And my favorite is no exception.

Thyme. Picture taken in 2003.
Thyme. Picture taken in 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My beloved Thyme. For whatever the reason, I just can’t get enough. And I’m clearly not alone, for it has admirers spread about the globe with at least two dozen different countries indulging in its versatility. Native to North Africa, Asia and Europe, this perennial plant is a savored ingredient in Nigerian, Caribbean, Indian, French and Italian cuisine. Alongside its culinary praise lies a rich history dabbed with a few folkloric claims. In Egypt, the Ancients used it to embalm their deceased; and during the Middle Ages the Europeans employed it as a sleep aid and declared it a wartime good luck – charm.

In my home, thyme is key. I use it to season fish, poultry, lamb, root veggies, stuffings and sauces. And though I’m aware of its therapeutic and medicinal components, I must admit that my experience in those ways only barely scratches the surface of this herb’s reputed worth.

  • A topical astringent and soothing body rub
  • An oral antiseptic for gum and throat infections
  • An internal worm expellant

The volatile oil within thyme contains antispasmodic compounds like phenols, thymol and carvacrol with calming qualities that soothe joints, muscles and organ systems. These compounds not only aid in the relief of discomfort and pain for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, but also make thyme tea a recommended remedy for labored digestion and flatulence.

To make thyme infused massage oil simply place a full sprig of the plant in the oil of your liking and let it keep a few weeks before using. Agitating the infusion with a gentle shake or two per day will trigger a release of the plant’s volatile oils. This oil can also be placed in the bath to counteract muscle aches and made into an ointment to treat everything from minor skin infections to severe viruses.

Thyme tea is prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried thyme. Cover and let it steep for fifteen minutes before straining, use this same mixture as a gargle for sore throats and mouth sores.

Thymol and carvacrol are also antibacterial and anti-fungal, and thus act as expectorants, breaking up mucus and helping relieve symptoms of the common cold, whooping-cough and bronchitis. To prepare a cough syrup, pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of dried thyme and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, strain the liquid and add one cup of honey and mix well. Store in the refrigerator and shake before using.

A general rule of thumb when working with herbs is to use more when they’re fresh and less when dried. This is especially true for cullinary use but also applicable for therapeutic  mixtures. Though I’ve gotten quite happy with thyme in many of my dishes, I have never felt that I went too far. So trust your palate, indulge and enjoy!

Til next time…

Be Bold and BeWell

SOURCES

Richard Mabey, The New Age Herbalist. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster,1988

Jude C. Williams, Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2001

My Earth Day Homage to El Yunque

In honor of Earth Day I am taking the opportunity to rave about one of my many favorite places on the globe-Puerto Rico!

I feel very blessed to say I believe we live on an incredibly gorgeous planet, and even more blessed to vividly recall how magically I saw the world as a child and be able to say that I still do see it in that light. The thing about PR is how many natural beauties exist in such a small space. It is actually the smallest of the Greater AntillesCuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic & Haiti), Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The island spans approximately 3500 square miles and boasts the world re-known surfing haven of Ponce, the sister isles of Culebra  and Vieques, and the Rio Camuy Caves (one of the world’s largest); and this is, to say the least, a very abbreviated list of PR’s glorious wonders. The island’s volcanic and plutonic rock foundation is primarily mountainous and lies at the intersection of the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.  Its precarious positioning not only makes it geographically diverse but keeps it geologically vulnerable. Beneath the island, the corresponding plates of those two bodies of water are shifting, sometimes moving along past one another, other times facing off at their meeting points. These various interactions are reshaping the island and making it susceptible to some extreme geological conditions. But geographically speaking, one might argue that that would be the price of the magnificence found in PR. Another perfect example is the inviting El Yunque National Forest, the United States’ only tropical rain forest.

El Yunque, as it is affectionately called, sits nearest to the northeastern city of Rio Grande, is predominately within the Luquillo Mountains and covers approximately 28,000 acres of land. Despite its relatively small size, El Yunque has some truly impressive stats:

  • Its namesake peak El Yunque is one of the highest points on the island
  • It was considered a holy place by the island’s indigenous Taino Indians
  • Houses over 100 different species of wildlife
  • Contains more species of trees than all of the forests in the US Forest System combined
  • Is home to more than 200 different species of trees and plants
  • More than 300 of the rainforest’s plants are valued for their therapeutic or medicinal properties

One medicinal plant with which you may be familiar is the Stinging Nettle or Ortiga Brava. Originally from the much colder regions of Europe and Asia, it is commonly found about the rainforest and known as a formidable shrub because of its tiny needle like hairs that, if touched, easily break off into the skin and release a poisonous liquid called Formic Acid. The stinging hairs are mostly found on the shrub’s twigs and lower leaves and usually only leave their victims with mild to severe skin irritations. If you should have a prickly run in with one, remove the needles as best you can, keep your hands away from your face, and wash them as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Some other healthful constituents of the herb include chlorophyll, acetylcholine, histamine, Vitamins A and C, silicon, potassium, fiber and protein. Stinging nettle has been used for centuries to relieve or counteract a range of different physical ailments including:

  • Increasing the flow of urine
  • Expelling of mucus from the lungs and throat
  • Constricting hemorrhages and inflammatory conditions
  • Increasing the secretion of mother’s milk
  • Alleviate early symptoms of benign prostate enlargement (BPH)

These actions within the body make Stinging Nettle beneficial for asthma, allergies, malnourishment, pain management, urinary conditions, internal bleeding and arthritis. Currently, research is being done on the herb’s impact on blood pressure, blood clotting and blood sugar. Consequently, caution should be used and medical clearance obtained before combining Stinging Nettle with pharmaceutical hypertension treatments, blood thinners or diabetes medications. Stinging Nettle should not be consumed by pregnant women or women trying to conceive.

Stinging Nettle supplements are made from the specific parts of the plant as well as the whole plant and available in tincture, powder and capsule forms. Use as directed on the product’s label and always inform your physician of any herbs included in your nutritional regime.

As we move into the week, I intend to carry Earth Day with me and reflect on the alluring beauty of our world. I know Puerto Rico is just one of many healing places we are blessed with, so please feel free to share some others with me.

Until next week, Be Wild and BeWell

Sources

http://www.medicine.nevada.edu/wps/Proceedings/45/20-22.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/elyunque/learning/nature-science/?cid=fsbdev3_043029

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm

Tierra, Michael, O.M.D. The Way of Herbs. Pocket Books, NY, NY. 1998

Meet the Mac, A Guy and Girl’s Best Friend

In my quest for truly effective energy enhancers that don’t overheat, over stimulate or become habit-forming to the system I happened upon Maca Root, or Lepidium Meyenii for the truly technical speakers. Now I’d passed this herb over several times because of its prevalence in men’s health and performance products; but it recently pulled me in after multiple female customers came in requesting it. So, I decided to give it a try. Let’s meet the Mac.

This herb hails from the Peruvian and Bolivian rainforests of the Andes Mountains. It is in fact a diet staple of those native to this region. Similar in size to a turnip, the Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable belonging to the potato family. It is able to grow in very cold harsh conditions where few others can survive, including potentially contaminating pests, which allows for a mostly organic cultivation of the plant.

The Reputation

Rumored to be the pregame fuel of the ancient Inca warriors, the root of the Maca plant is indicated for enhancements in strength, endurance, virility, sexual appetite and immunity. The roots are prepared as other vegetables of the kind-roasted, baked and/ or boiled, mashed and blended into porridge, but rarely if ever eaten raw. The leaves, less medicinally revered, can be eaten as a raw salad or cooked green. There are yellow, red, purple and black hued variations of the Maca, but the yellow seems to be the preferred food and the black may be the most healthful for the male reproductive system. All are apparently used to make Maca supplements.

Why it Works

The Maca’s reputation as a super herb is by no means unwarranted. For, its contents meet the majority of our nutritional needs. Richly diverse, it is a high carbohydrate food that still contains protein and approximately 20 different amino acids. It also houses some health benefitting fatty acids like linolenic, palmitic and oleic oils. And the vitamin and mineral contents surely contribute to its potency:

Lepidium meyenii maca
Image via Wikipedia

Energizing B Vitamins 1, 2 and 12

Blood building Iron and Copper

Bone nurturing Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous

Thyroid aiding Iodine

Immune Boosting Vitamins C and E with minerals Zinc and Selenium

Maca root also contains phytochemicals like tannins, saponin, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol. Tannins are thought to help protect the body against viruses, infections and parasites. Saponins have shown the ability to help nutrients penetrate our bodies’ cellular walls, and beta-sitosterol is a type of plant cholesterol that helps reduce the bodies’ absorption of the less healthy animal based sterols. Stigmasterol, also a phytosterol, benefits us in the same way and is used by the body to make estrogen, testosterone and natural steroid type hormones that counteract inflammation and stress. All of these components combine to create an herb that is fully beneficial to both the ladies and gents.

What it Helps Most

Females                               Males                                    Both Genders

Anemia                                  Decreased virility                    Depleted energy

Menstrual issues                     Low sperm count & motility     Immune deficiency

Menopausal symptoms            Impotence                             Chronic Fatigue

Supplemental FYI

Maca powders are made from both the raw and dried roots. These are available for use in drink and smoothie mixtures, teas, capsules and liquid extracts.

Dosages may range from 100mg per serving for the pure powder to 500mg per serving for the encapsulated versions. Maca Root can be supplemented alone or formulated with other herbs and nutrients for specific health benefits. Always use a product as directed by the manufacturer’s label.

Current research indicates that supplemental Maca is generally safe; however, pregnant and nursing women are advised to consult with their physician beforehand for clearance. And anyone taking pharmaceutical meds should also speak with their doctor about possible negative interactions or interference with their prescriptions.

I’ve only been taking Maca Root capsules for a short time, but so far my experience has been good. I’m anemic, which is what really caught my eye with this herb, and it has made a positive difference in my overall energy levels and, therefore, mood. Many of my more mature female customers swear by it for hot flashes and hormonal balance. It is not a stimulant in the usual sense, so don’t expect to feel that caffeine like rush. The energy is more sustained and results in me feeling less worn through the day. If you’d like to give it a whirl, the following link has some great information and supplement options. Maca Root can also be purchased from your general health food and vitamin stores. Enjoy the new-found vigor! And until next week…

Be Happy, Be Strong and BeWell

Resources

http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/best-maca-root-product

http://www.ams.usda.gov/

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii

Balch, Phyllis A. A Prescription for Nutritional Healing. NY, NY. The Penguin Group

Holding Back the Years

Don’t know about you, but I fully intend to be CUTE when I’m 90, cute, spry and agile! Perhaps because I’ve been blessed with more than a couple 90 plus friends who’ve shown me what we have to look forward to; or because I have faith in the human body’s ability to achieve a long life when properly cared for.

True, there are many unavoidable consequences of aging- reduced production of vital bodily chemicals, resulting in the probable decline of things such as bone density, joint flexibility, metabolic efficiency and physical resilience, to name a few. But we are not powerless to affect change in the aging process. In fact much can be done to slow and even offset these effects. Accepting the need to change our ways with the times, maintaining healthy diet and exercise habits, keeping our vices in check, and staying abreast of our states of health are all at the top of the list. And for many, a particular class of nutrients has nestled right beneath. The OPCs-oligomeric proanthocyanidans. What a mouthful! Thank goodness for the abbreviation.

OPCs are a sub-group of the powerfully antioxidant, organic chemicals called flavonoids. They have more than 50 times the potency of Vitamin E and 20 times that of Vitamin C. This is partly due to their high level of bioavailability, short fancy speak for the physiological availability of a nutrient. They are natural substances that can be found in many foods, primarily plant-based ones. The body absorbs them quickly because of their water-soluble nature.

OPCs also work with the body’s intrinsic antioxidants like glutathione to regenerate other essential nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Uniquely, OPC’s are able to cross the blood brain barrier and thus directly impact the health of the brain and nervous system, protecting them from damaging free radicals:

“An atom or group of atoms that contain at least one unpaired electron… If an electron is unpaired, another atom or molecule can easily bond with it, causing a chemical reaction.”*

Because necessary biological processes occur from chemical reactions, free radicals are not the bad guys. But one does go on to produce another, and so on; and like all things, too many of them can create a dangerous environment, especially for our cells.

“…antioxidants neutralize free radicals by binding to their free electrons…by destroying free radicals, antioxidants help to detoxify and protect the body.”*

Additionally OPCs act as anti-inflammatorys by reducing the body’s production of histamine; anti-aging agents by repairing and strengthening the body’s connective tissues (joints, ligaments, tendons, etc.) and cardiovascular system; and immune enhancers by inhibiting certain viruses. Two of the most potent OPCs are Pycnogenol and grape seed extract.

The French Fountain of Youth

Pycnogenol is the trademarked name for an extract of the bark from the French coastal Maritime Pine Tree. It is especially beneficial to circulatory health, helping to strengthen blood vessel integrity. Maintaining healthy, strong blood vessels helps to keep the blood and therefore oxygen flowing freely to the heart.  Along with those health benefits, the side bonuses can include reduced occurrence or appearance of varicose and spider veins and decreased darkness of bruises and skin discolorations.

Pycnogenol’s ability to enhance circulation also makes it useful for exercisers, both pre and post. The additional blood and oxygen fuel the muscles and prime them for longer bouts of activity, and the antioxidant regenerating capabilities help the body recover from the oxidative stress created by more intense and longer duration activities.

Pycnogenol is unique because this pine bark extract is composed of such a high percentage, as much as 65-75%, of procyanidans (part of the antioxidant group known as proanthocyanidans). Procyanidins, as previously mentioned, are able to increase cellular levels of Vitamin C and E. They are also able to bond with collagen and thereby help maintain the elasticity of our skin, joints, hair and nails and the health of our bones, gums and teeth.

The Value in Vino

Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, potas...
Image via Wikipedia

Grape seed extract, also a strong source of procyanidans, is pulled from various types of grapes, though it is thought that the wine-producing ones offer the greatest health benefits. Among other beneficial nutrients, grape seeds also contain the substance resveratrol.

Resveratrol is present in both the skin and seeds of wine-producing grapes. In scientific studies it has demonstrated cardio protective potential, decreasing LDL cholesterol (potentially artery clogging low- density lipoprotein) levels and preventing blood clots and blood vessel damage.

Resveratrol has been given credit for the low incidence of heart disease experienced by the French despite the relatively high consumption of rich and fatty foods and prevalence of cigarette smoking within their culture.

In addition to enhancing heart health, resveratrol also has its own reputation for enhancing physical beauty by helping the body renew damaged skin and worn muscle fibers.

Working OPCs into your Regimen

Pycnogenol and grape seed extract are not the only OPC containing foods. Procyanidans can also be found in apples (the highest amounts in Red Delicious and Granny Smiths), cinnamon, cocoa beans, green tea, bilberries, cranberries, black currants and acai oil pressed from the fruits of the acai palm. Resveratrol is present in peanuts (sprouted nuts yield higher amounts), blueberries and cocoa powder among other foods. Adding these foods to your diet is easy enough, but if you’d rather supplement the nutrients there are many ways to do so.

Now Foods Pycnogenol 30 MG 150 Caps Resveratrol 200 (120 tablet) by Source Naturals

Pycnogenol is available in capsule form, in a range of dosages. It is not inexpensive, so it’s totally appropriate to supplement it conservatively. For circulatory benefits and general wellness enhancement, I currently take one 30mg capsule before bed. Doses can be as high 200mg twice daily for assistance with muscular endurance and blood pressure reduction. But this should be advised by a physician or other qualified health care practitioner. Pycnogenol should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women or people taking immune-suppressing medications.

Grape seed extract and resveratrol are available in both capsule and liquid forms as well as chews and gummies. As these are not essential nutrients, there is no set recommended dosage. Like all supplemental nutrients, you want to look for the purest products that clearly state what percentage of that nutrient is contained in them. For both grape seed extract and resveratrol, that may be anywhere from 50mg to 500mg per serving. Some resveratrol studies have indicated that people in their 20’s can benefit from 100-200mg/day, with those in their 30’s safely supplementing  200-300 mg and people 40 years of age and older seeing the greatest results from the higher doses of 450-500mg/day. Currently there are no known adverse side effects, even in high daily doses. But, like Pynogenol, pregnant and nursing women should avoid supplementation until further research is available.

I think that’ll do for now folks. Be sure to make some time to take a load off, kick up your feet, and turn back the clock with a little indulgence.

Until Next Week, Be Wise and BeWell

*Balch, Phyllis A. A Prescription for Nutritional Healing. NY, NY. The Penguin Group

Searching for Oz’s Ketones

20070819_1750
20070819_1750 (Photo credit: Uncle Beast)

The man has some power. It’s like as soon as the words fell from his lips, the product fell off the shelves, and the entire city literally sold out in a matter of days. I’m not certain if Dr. Oz is as popular and trusted outside of NYC as he is in, and I admit that until last week, my attention to him and his recommendations were marginal. But as I sympathetically turned away one disappointed seeker after another and provided the returning pursuant customers with updates of the great raspberry ketone shortage, I had to stand up and recognize the impact of this man’s words.

And what were his words? What would send seemingly every Tom, Dick and Jane to the health food and supplement stores? Weight loss. I probed, picked and prodded for something more, some other stated health benefit, but none were offered. If Dr. Oz did highlight other benefits of the fruit component, my customers didn’t hear them. So began my investigation into this now infamously hot commodity.

For Your Information and Mine

In the human body, ketones are produced when fatty acids are broken down and used for energy. Since the majority of our bodies’ energy is supplied by carbohydrate breakdown, the utilization of fatty acids as its primary fuel source occurs only when the body lacks the necessary amount of glucose yielding carbohydrates to sustain its self. Not that ketones are unnecessary, they are in fact essential to the heart and brain, but comparably small amounts are needed by the body to run efficiently; and in excess, they can negatively impact the body’s balance and consequently its health.

Ketone bodies, as this group of metabolic byproducts is referred, are not like glucose. Most excess is not stored in the body for later use but rather broken down and excreted by the body in a matter of hours. Hence the quick weight loss attributed to low carb high fat diets, fasting and other methods that force the body,specifically the liver and kidneys, into a state of rapid and repetitive ketogenesis. And when this occurs and causes the more acidic ketone bodies to accumulate, our blood’s PH is lowered to dangerously acidic levels. A lower blood PH/higher acidic state is not only associated with accelerated aging but actually considered by many health care professionals to be a diseased state.

Now the Diet Hype

Raspberry Ketones 250mg 120 Count

In raspberries, ketones are the compounds responsible for the fruit’s aroma and thus commonly added to foods and cosmetics to enhance their fragrance. In some animal studies, high doses of raspberry ketones have been found to prevent weight gain by increasing the animal’s breakdown and use of lipids (fats, fatty acids and cholesterol). There are several hormones that trigger lipid metabolism and norepinephrine is one. Supportive studies have observed an increase in the release of the norepinephrine hormone from high doses (as much as 2% of the total caloric intake) of raspberry ketones. Ultimately the process of lipid metabolism results in the formation of ketones which, as previously stated, when allowed to run amok can lead to serious health problems.

Currently there are no human subject studies to back up the effects observed in animals, which is reason enough to approach this weight management method as responsibly as you would a thermogenic (fat burner). First consult with your physician, and if your doc okays it then use the product as directed by them or the instructions on the label and don’t be afraid to give the body a break.

The usual 6 days on, one day off cycle combined with a few weeks break after 8 weeks of consecutive use should still be applied to this supplement. And if you select a raspberry ketone product that contains caffeine or other stimulants, avoid taking it within 5-6 hours of bedtime. Lastly, manipulating the body’s metabolic processes does not change the fact that weight management is a numbers game, calories in vs. calories out .And even actual fat burners work better when combined with healthy eating and exercise habits. So keep these in your arsenal for the long haul, looking to supplements for a jump-start or temporary source of support rather than long-term solution.

If you do manage to get your hands on the raspberry ketones, please drop me a line and let me know how they’re work for you.

Until next time, take care, sample safely and…

BeWell

Man Juice, The Power of Palmetto

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and forest in Ma...
Image by MiguelVieira via Flickr

We’ve all got some. It’s associated with ambition, pursuit, accomplishment and aggression. In fact, women actually experience a rise in theirs after achieving higher levels of personal and professional success. And for men, it is the ruling substance of their design. Testosterone.

In a man’s lifespan, the testes begin secreting testosterone at 4 weeks of age to form the male’s sexual organs. Once the fetus is fully formed and delivered, testosterone secretion halts until puberty, when it resumes and continues forming the male’s distinct physical aspects and emotional characteristics. Testosterone production and secretion continue to grow through adolescence into young adulthood, peaking in the early to mid twenties, before gradually declining in the mid to late thirties.

The natural decline in the production and secretion of testosterone can elicit feelings of fatigue, decreased motivation and irritability with physical indications such as reduced strength, weight gain, and muscle atrophy (size decrease). In short, a seeming loss of “mojo”. And though there are currently many pharmaceutical remedies being advertised, that might not be the preferred approach. Along with accepting testosterone’s decline as a natural part of the maturing process, and adjusting to the changes it can usher in, certain nutrients may be supplemented to help ease the process and even counter act some of the effects experienced with the hormone’s reduced levels.

The Male Herb

Saw Palmetto Berries in particular have been used for centuries to strengthen and tone the entire male reproductive system. They are specifically indicated to treat prostate enlargement and infection as well as restore healthy function. But saw palmetto berries are also helpful to bladder health, enhancing its ability to contract and fully release its contents and reducing the pain associated with strained urination. In addition, extracts of saw palmetto berry have shown an ability to prevent testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate. DHT build up in the gland is thought to be a cause of prostate enlargement. Saw palmetto berry extract also enhances the breakdown and excretion of DHT to further help prevent prostate enlargement.

As added benefits, saw palmetto also has a reputation for increasing strength and power, enhancing sexual desire and potency, and aiding muscle growth. The berries contain compounds known as steroidal saponins that serve as building blocks for the body to manufacture its own growth hormones to develop and build muscle tissue. The beautiful thing about steroidal saponins is that, unlike synthetic steroids and growth hormones, they do not take the body beyond its natural capacity, nor do they overtax or negatively impact its natural hormonal balance. They merely supply the body additional tools with which to create and build. This trait makes steroidal saponin containing plants like saw palmetto uniquely beneficial to the underweight, malnourished and ailing. And it makes the prospect of aging much more palatable.

A Low Maintenance Supplement

Nature's Answer - Saw Palmetto Berry Extract, Alcohol-Free, 1 ozNature's Way Saw Palmetto Berries 180 Caps

Please don’t let manufacturers and distributors fool you. Saw palmetto is a sturdy and stable herb that does not require complicated processes to be effective. The berries and seeds are used and can be taken in the liquid tincture form (20-30 drops, 3-4 times/day) or dried and encapsulated form (3-12 grams, 3 times/day).  If you prefer to simply take saw palmetto as a ground powder, please note that it does not taste very good. So, it’s best to combine it with a smoother tasting herb like fennel seed.

Saw palmetto berries are generally safe for use by all, but a quick confirmation from your physician is always advised. For objective reviews of saw palmetto supplements please visit the consumer lab.

And for more information on herbal care specifically for men, James Green’s The Male Herbal, Health Care for Men & Boys is an excellent resource.

Enjoy, Be Strong, and as always…

BeWell