Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

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.