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Ashwagandha: The Rejuvenator

ashwagandha-root

 

Withania somnifera, or Ashwagandha, is a revered herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine – referred to as the “Indian ginseng” and the “rejuvenator”. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used to increase the body’s resilience to physiological and psychological stress and improve the body’s state of health overall. Although useful for a wide range of other health conditions, Ashwagandha is particularly known for its adaptogenic properties and the regulation of hormones, reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Regulation of Hormones

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. This means that it supports the body’s systems, assists the body’s ability to adapt to stressors, and has a normalizing and balancing effect on the body. If a system is either under or over active, adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha will aid the body to restore its natural balance. Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties particularly benefit the endocrine system, which allows for the proper regulation of hormones. One study determined that Ashwagandha has thyroid enhancing properties and effectively regulates TSH, Free T4, and T3. This may be beneficial for those struggling with under or overactive thyroid glands, or for anyone looking to help balance their hormones.

Lower Anxiety

Traditionally Ashwagandha has been most often used for anxiety relief. A number of studies have demonstrated its effectiveness as both an anxiolytic and an anti-depressant due to its chemical composition and its adaptogenic properties. The biologically active chemical components of Ashwagandha include sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides, both of which are anti-stress agents. As well, because of its adaptogenic properties Ashwagandha improves an individual’s resilience to stress, and therefore improves overall mood. One study measured Ashwagandha consumption in stressed rats and found that serotonin levels went up with the use of Ashwagandha, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness. Another study on patients with alcohol addiction found that Ashwagandha significantly increased GABA levels, a neurotransmitter known to reduce anxiety. As made evident by these studies, Ashwagandha may be useful support for those experiencing anxiety, or for those looking to improve their mood and overall well-being!

Improved Sleep

Ashwagandha has also shown positive results in improving sleep and fatigue. One study measured mice with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a syndrome characterized by persistent fatigue and exhaustion. The study determined that Ashwagandha improves fatigue by decreasing lipid peroxidation and restoring glutathione (GSH) levels. Most people that struggle with insomnia have lower GSH levels, as it is an antioxidant that helps produce melatonin and induce delta-wave sleep. Another study demonstrated that Ashwagandha is effective for insomnia by decreasing cortisol, as elevated cortisol levels are another cause of insomnia. Ashwagandha may be a good solution for those looking to improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and boost energy throughout the day.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective in improving memory and cognitive performance. Many recent studies have also shown its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. It does this by improving cognitive abilities, which allows for improved motor and memory skills. One study showed that Ashwagandha inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, plaques found in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Another study demonstrated that it has cognitive promoting effects and is useful for children with memory deficit and those with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. It does this by helping restore memory loss, as it aids in the formation of dendrites which are necessary for synaptic processing in the brain. In addition, while Ashwagandha is particularly helpful for those experiencing memory loss and cognitive impairment, it is also useful for improving cognition in otherwise healthy individuals. In a 2014 double-blind study, subjects were randomly given either Ashwagandha capsules or a placebo and assessed on cognitive and psychomotor performance. Significant improvements were seen in the Ashwagandha group as compared to the placebo group. Although further research is still needed, these studies demonstrate that it may be an effective natural treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, as well as support for improved cognition in general population.

 

Ask your naturopathic doctor for more information.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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Road to Recovery with Rhodiola Rosea: A Rejuvenating Herb

Rhodiola Rosea also known as Russian Rhodiola is a herb which consists of multiple therapeutic effects.  It is found mainly in countries with colder climates such as Iceland and in mountains in Eastern Siberia.  Each part of the plant consists of various essential nutrients, but it is the roots and the rhizomes or the Rhodiola that contain the most medicinal properties.

Rhodiola Rosea has adaptogenic properties which help combat fatigue and anxiety, and increase resistance against physical, mental and environmental stresses and therefore it is also known as a rejuvenating herb.  The admirable benefits of this herb do not just stop here.  It also acts as a neuroprotective, anti-cancer, cardio protective, anti-depressive, and an anxiolytic agent.  The extracts derived from Rhodiola Rosea’s rhizomes are important in improving seasonal affective disorders (SAD), concentration and mood.

 

Depression

A research study was carried out to investigate the effectiveness of this extract in terms of treating individuals with mild to moderate depression.  This study consisted of males and females aged 18-70 years old.  This was a double blind placebo controlled study where participants arbitrarily were assigned to group A, B and C.  Group A and B received daily doses of the Rhodiola Rosea extract consisting of different potencies, and group C only received the placebo.  After 40 days it was found that participants in Group A and Group B showed less symptoms of depression and were able to sleep better than the patients in Group C, demonstrating the effectiveness of Rhodiola extract in terms of treating patients with mild to moderate depression as well as poor sleep.

This herb plays an important role in counteracting the effects of stress by interacting with hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and cortisol.  These hormones and neurotransmitters play a crucial role in regulating our mood.  Rhodiola does this by stopping the enzyme which disintegrates the neurotransmitter that is required to stay happy.

 

Stress and Heart

Stress induced cardiac damage can be prevented by taking Rhodiola Rosea.  This herb plays an important role in preventing the release of catecholamines during highly stressful times.  Catecholamines are hormones which affect our sympathetic nervous system during flight or fight situations.  One of the major organs our sympathetic nervous system acts on is our heart.  Therefore during highly stressful times the release of catecholamine increases our heart rate, rate of contraction, and our blood pressure.  With the help of Rhodiola, the reduced release of catecholamines allows for the proper functioning of our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system to maintain homeostatis.

 

Anti-oxidant Power

The antioxidant power of this herb is also being extensively studied worldwide.  The ability of Rhodiola Rosea to counteract the damage of oxidation by radicals was found to be very high.  The anti-mutagenic and anti-cancer properties of this herb, was also shown to be powerful, having great ability to help prevent the advancement of tumors in cancer patients.

 

Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight, again Rhodiola is not a silent player.  Some individuals who have a difficult time losing weight around certain areas of the body such as the abdomen can greatly benefit from Rhodiola.  This herb initiates lipase enzymes in our system.  These enzymes play a substantial role in the breakdown of fat found in our adipose tissues.  Research data shows that taking Rhodiola Rosea is an effective way to help shed those extra pounds.

 

Athletic Performance

This herb is also used extensively by Russian athletes to help enhance their athletic performances.  Recent studies have found Rhodiola Rosea to play an important role during intense physical exercise.  The supplementation of this herb taken by elite athletes appears to have improved the capacity to physically exercise by decreasing skeletal muscle damage and lactate levels after an intensive physical exercise session.

 

Importance of the Quality of the Herb

Not all Rhodiola Rosea supplements are equal in quality and hence effectiveness.  Some supplements have poor quality due to faulty harvesting methods, over drying and poor extraction techniques.  Since the medicinal properties are found in the root of Rhodiola Rosea, it is important that the supplements contain the Rhodiola root.  A pure and potent amount of rosavin and salidrosides which are two of the active ingredients of Rhodiola roots is an important part of a good quality Rhodiola Rosea supplement.

 

The benefits of Rhodiola Rosea are endless with the majority of research pointing to a positive impact on both physical and mental health.

What about Ginger?

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Did you know…as one of the oldest spices known in Asia and Europe, ginger has a long history as a seasoning and was once as common as salt and pepper. People would add ginger to everything, including teas and beers leading to modern drinks like ginger ale and ginger beers.

Ginger is one of the world’s favorite spices and has been acclaimed for its medicinal benefits since ancient times. A perennial herb native to southern China, ginger was imported early on to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Europe. Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale).The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Due to its various medicinal benefits, ginger is considered a herbal remedy in many cultures. Over the years, it has been used to reduce inflammation, help with digestion, improve cardiovascular health and even historically to even ward off diseases like the plague.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, ginger is highly regarded as having many diverse healing properties, and is used prominently in treating disorders of the digestive tract. In the Asian medicine tradition, ginger is considered to possess hot or warming attributes. It is also favored as a remedy for digestive conditions ranging from upset stomach to diarrhea to abdominal bloating.

Ginger is still widely used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The gingerols found in ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the production of nitric oxide, which helps relieve joint pain that is associated with arthritis. It also provides substantial pain relief from gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and also decreases swelling and helps with morning stiffness. In a research study published in 2005, investigators found that ginger may reduce inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Ginger is an excellent herb to use for strengthening and healing the respiratory system, as well as for fighting off colds and flu. It removes congestion, soothes sore throats, and relieves headaches and body aches. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants, which have immune-boosting properties. By strengthening the immune system, it protects you against all sorts of infections and diseases.

Although scientific research into the health benefits of ginger is really just beginning, over 2500 years of herbal wisdom, plus some recent scientific studies strongly support the use of ginger as an effective digestion aid. Ginger root has a great reputation for controlling nausea of all types. Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving morning sickness. In a small study of 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for 4 days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a double-blind, comparative test at Brigham Young University, Utah, researchers found ginger root to be more effective in coping with motion sickness than the popular, over-the-counter drug, Dramamine.

Fresh ginger roots can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Ginger is also available in other forms including dried root, capsules, tablets, tea, extracts and tinctures. A simple ginger tea can be made by pouring hot water over one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and allowing it to infuse for 10 minutes before straining. Lemon juice and a little honey can be added to it if desired.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

Can Sugar Speed Up Aging?

Aging is a complex process that affects every organ, cell, molecule and body function. Consuming high amounts of sugar will most definitely accelerate this process. When sugar gets into your circulation, it goes through a process called glycation in which the sugar binds to proteins, creating molecules called advanced glycation end products also known as AGEs-a fitting acronym for the topic at hand.

AGEs are harmful in that they are damaging to different proteins throughout the body. One of the main functions of proteins is to provide structure for the body. Approximately one third of the body’s protein is collagen. Collagen is found in areas such as muscles, bones, blood vessels, ligaments and the skin. Among collagen, your skin also contains another protein fiber called elastin, making the skin the perfect target for the AGEs. Elastin and collagen are the building blocks that keep your skin firm, smooth and help maintain its elasticity. When these protein fibers are damaged and their structures are weakened, the skin starts to lose its resiliency and the skin begins to sag and form wrinkles.  To add to the insult, AGEs also turn off some of your body’s antioxidant enzymes, further reducing your protective mechanisms against aging.

The negative effects of AGEs are very pronounced in individuals with delayed diagnosis of diabetes or poorly controlled diabetes. The chronic high blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals leads to the accumulations of AGEs which in turn not only reflect as premature signs of aging as the skin’s elasticity becomes compromised but can also damage the blood vessels of the heart, eyes, kidneys and the extremities. The blood test HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) is used to measure the amount of glycation on red blood cells, making this test a very important tool to assess how well blood sugar levels are kept under control. The higher the HbA1c levels, the higher the glycation and the more accelerated the process of aging and damage to the body.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to minimize AGE formation. One way to do this is to reduce your intake of sugar since a rise in blood sugar levels is one of the main driving forces behind glycation. According to a 2011 report released by Statistics Canada, Canadians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day, which amounts to about 88 pounds per year.  35% of this intake comes from added sugar. This is an area that we can definitely improve on.

Always read labels for hidden sources of sugar. For instance, many store bought sauces, salad dressings, dried fruit, canned foods and breads contain added sugar. Other high sugar ingredients to look for and avoid include corn syrup, malt, molasses, fructose, turbinado, dextrose, glucose and fruit juice concentrate.  And simply avoid adding sugar to your food and drinks. For instance, if you are used to adding sugar to your tea, next time try adding a dash of cinnamon instead. It gives it a mild, sweet flavor and has the added benefit of supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Eliminate poor quality carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta as these products quickly break down to sugar and spike up the blood sugar levels.  Also avoid “sugar-free” products as most of these are made with artificial sweeteners that among other side effects can trigger sugar cravings.

Another way to reduce the effects of glycation is to consume more antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals that would otherwise be damaging to your skin. Many antioxidants inhibit AGE formation. Blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Drinking green or white tea on a regular basis will further deliver potent antioxidants into your system. Supplementing with vitamin C and E also helps enhance your antioxidant levels.

More sugar does in fact amount to more wrinkles. But the skin is just an external indicator of internal health and eating sugar will actively age you inside and out. Making a conscious effort to reduce your daily intake of sugar and increasing your antioxidant intake will have a great impact not only on your skin but also on your overall health and in prevention of many diseases.

Always consult your naturopathic doctor before initiating a new regimen.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

B Vitamins Help with Stress, Mood and Sleep

B-vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that play an important role in immune and nervous system function, cell growth and metabolism, energy production, mental health and stress management. Since water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, the excess being excreted in the urine, they can be quickly depleted from the body and must be replenished regularly. B vitamins are a group of eight individual vitamins, often referred to as the B-complex vitamins, including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and vitamin B12.

B-complex vitamins are essential for mental and emotional wellbeing because of their significant role in regulating the nervous system and affecting mood. The brain operates by millions of neurons (brain cells) communicating with each other. Neurons communicate with each other through neurotransmitters. Among these neurotransmitters, the neurotransmitter “serotonin” plays a complex role in the way you eat, sleep, behave, and has a great influence on your overall sense of well being.

Serotonin is sometimes referred to as the “happiness hormone”. It helps to regulate mood, anxiety, relieve depression and promote healthy sleep patterns. When the level of serotonin in the brain is changed, a person’s behavior is also altered. A normal level of serotonin promotes feelings of happiness, but sometimes during periods of stress, the body uses higher levels of serotonin to compensate for being overwhelmed. Accordingly, the levels of serotonin begin to drop causing irritability, depression, anxiety and sleep problems. By facilitating the function and manufacture serotonin, B vitamins help fight stress, insomnia, depression, nervous disorders and migraines among other conditions.

Melatonin is another neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour internal clock that plays a critical role in the time you fall asleep and the time you wake up. It is sometimes referred to as the “darkness hormone” because when it is dark, melatonin production is increased, and in the morning the production of melatonin drops considerably. Since B vitamins enhance the production of melatonin, they facilitate healthy sleep patterns.

When the body is exposed to long periods of stress, B vitamins become depleted. This can manifest as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness and inability to concentrate. This is why it is important to replenish the body with B vitamins especially during stressful times. Since B vitamins tend to work together synergistically, it is best to take a well balanced vitamin B complex formula to maximize benefits.

Always consult your naturopathic doctor before initiating a new regimen.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

The Role of Digestive Enzymes in Gut Health and Overall Health

Proper digestion is one of the body’s most important physiological functions in maintaining overall health. The digestive system transforms food into energy for the body’s use by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller, simpler, and more usable forms. Without this transformation, digestion and assimilation of nutrients is difficult if not impossible.

Digestive enzymes are extremely important in everyone’s diet, since they are responsible for the proper breakdown of major food groups, and eventually the absorption of vital nutrients through the intestinal wall. Fresh fruits such as pineapple and papaya are particularly rich in these enzymes. Pineapples provide the body with bromelain which helps in the digestion of proteins, and papayas contain papain, another enzyme involved in breaking down proteins.

Every day the pancreas secretes about 1.5 litres of pancreatic juice in the small intestine. This juice contains digestive enzymes which are essential for the proper digestion and absorption of food. These digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas include lipases which help in the digestion of fats, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which help in the digestion of starch molecules.

While healthy foods provide the foundation for optimal health and vitality, even the healthiest foods are of little use if they are not properly digested. When the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes, the essential nutrients from food are not properly digested and absorbed leading to nutrient deficiencies and symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort. For instance, insufficient amounts of lipase (responsible to break down fats) may cause diarrhea, fatty/floating stools or fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. Incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates can exhibit as gas, bloating, diarrhea and cramps. Other problems with incomplete digestion of food include the development of food allergies. In simple terms, an allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system to certain substances which are foreign to our bodies. These substances are called allergens. Incomplete/partially digested protein particles may be considered by the body as allergens and thus can trigger some type of immune response. This is one of the reasons why supplementation with digestive enzymes can reduce and improve the allergy symptoms in patients with food sensitivities. Digestive enzymes can help with food allergies by improving digestion. Digestive enzymes taken with meals will supplement the body’s digestive enzymes to ensure a more complete breakdown of the foods.

If the body cannot extract all the nutrients from food, the overall health is at risk, and this can result in a wide range of diseases. That is why proper digestion is so important for the proper functioning of the body, and digestive enzymes become vital for overall health.

What is Bach Flower Therapy and How Can It Benefit You?

What are Bach flower remedies?

Bach flowers remedies/essences originate back to the 1930’s and were discovered by British physician and bacteriologist Dr. Edward Bach. In his pursue to treat the person rather than the disease, he researched and discovered 38 flower remedies to address and remove the emotional roots that give rise to physical manifestations of disease. The mind-body connection was of utmost importance in his treatment approach. In essence his belief was that the physical symptoms and discomforts are always preceded by emotional imbalances and worries. This belief very much resonates with what we see today as the root of different diseases. Studies after studies have linked different stress factors and traumas as the origin to many diseases. For instance, irritable bowel disease is strongly linked to anxiety and stress and often when these emotional disturbances have been treated, the disease itself also dissipates.

How do Bach flower remedies work?

The remedies are made from infusion of different wild flowers and plants. These essences help to restore the balance in the system and treat the individual on a holistic level. They gently remove negative emotional patterns and feelings of fear, worry, anxiety and sadness. This allows the body to revert to its natural state of peace and stillness which allows the body to heal itself of any physical symptoms/dis-ease.

Is it just a placebo effect?

No. The effectiveness of Bach flower therapy has been seen in both animals and children who are not susceptible to placebo effect.

What conditions would benefit from Bach flower therapy?

Both physical and emotional conditions would benefit from flower essences. Bach flower remedies are prescribed based on emotional disharmonies which often manifest as physical conditions. When these emotional states are harmonized, the physical components also heal. Some of the conditions treated with this therapy include anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, headache, panic attack, menstrual problems, chronic fatigue and more.

How do I know which Bach flower remedy is right for me?

The remedies are chosen based on your current emotional state as well as temperament and personality traits. Each remedy is specific to a pattern emotions and personality characteristics; making Bach flower therapy a very individualized treatment. The correct remedy is determined through a consultation with a naturopathic doctor/other health care provider that is trained in prescribing Bach flower remedies.

Do Bach flower remedies have any side effects?

The remedies are gentle and safe for adults, children and pregnant women. In fact, Bach flowers work very well for pregnant women who experience any irritability, mood changes, or tension during their pregnancy or have anxiety and worrying around birthing. And since many herbs are contraindicated during pregnancy, Bach flower remedies are one of the treatments of choice during this time.