Monday, 19 December 2016

The Power of Superfoods: Do they work?

Don't over-complicate your diet, because all you need is right on your doorstep.Image result for superfoods

Once upon a time we have had food, plain and simple, without a prefix or a hashtag in sight. We ate locally and seasonally and whenever it was available. Sometimes we  got eaten while trying to find food, sometimes we ate something that could have killed us and sometimes we died of starvation. Eating should be more simple now, except that man, in his wisdom, likes to complicate things. 

So we ship food all around the world, we eat things that belong to other creatures and which they rely on for their survival, and we take produce that indigenous people have eaten for centuries, driving up the price and demand making it impossible for them to afford. We don't have just plain food anymore, we have health food, fast food, clean food (my personal pet hate), good food, bad food, real food, organic food, super food and many more.

Let's take 'superfoods' for instance. Of course, some foods are more nutrient-rich than others. But we must be careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security and believe that by eating large quantities of these superfoods we are protecting ourselves, or treating serious diseases and illnesses. Nutrient-dense superfood powders are the height of fashion, but do we actually need them?

Many of us take superfood powders, whisked into juices, smoothies or simply water. But are they any better for us than popping a supplement or simply eating ordinary foods? And if they're worth their superfood label, which are the best to pick? We take superfood powders because they're 'nutrient dense', and in particular, dense in the antioxidants that protect our bodies cells from damage by harmful free radical molecules. Nutrient dense foods provide concentrated nutrition with the minimum of calories, potentially harmful fats and sugar. So far, so logical. 
Image result for superfood powders

But supplement pills are even more concentrated - so are these pills 'better'? Unfortunately, probably not. While epidemiology (population studies) shows that diets high in antioxidants such as vitamins A, E and a whole host of phytochcmicals are linked with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, clinical trials using supplements of these individual nutrients (particularly vitamin E and betacarotene) generally fail to show any benefit, and some have even increased the risk of illness and death. 'Real food' has a protective effect not shared by the processed and purified supplement form. It appears that other - as yet unidentified ~ components of nutrient-dense food arc behind those beneficial health effects. Ironically, it could be what we don't know about superfoods that's doing us good!

Small but Mighty
Superfood powders tend to be rich in minerals such as magnesium, which many people don't eat enough of Taking a powder is a safer, gentler way of boosting your intake than popping a pill. Of course, superfood powders aren't substitutes for a healthy diet - they're a top-up; a safety net for people already eating healthily. Living on junk food with a few superfood powder smoothies to detox the damage is not the way to go!

So, if you decide to add superfood powders to your diet, what should you look for, and how should you take them? Choose a minimally processed powder, organically and sustainably produced by a reputable company. Beware buzzwords and marketing, and look instead for a research-based brand backed up by solid science. Also remember that powders should be taken regularly. Decide what you want and find one that ticks your boxes, rather than flitting between different ones and never noticing the benefit of any.

Pick your Powder
Green powders are justifiably among the most popular. Studies suggest that vegetables are 'healthier' than fruit, due to their phytochemical profiles combined with a lower sugar content. A study conducted by University College London (UCL) Research concluded that each daily portion of vegetables reducing overall risk of death by 16%, while each fruit only lessened risk by 4%.
Image result for superfood powders
These powders are green thanks to chlorophyll. Orange beta-carotene (in most green vegetables its colour masked by the green chlorophyll), is probably the best known and researched plant pigment, but chlorophyll is also a powerful antioxidant. Arguably the most potent are the algae, which are rich in protein, iron and B vitamins. The microalga spirulina is probably the champion, but chlorella also has excellent credentials. Some say these powders are an 'acquired taste', but I found they had a pleasantly fresh, green flavour.

  • Everyone's familiar with cocoa, but raw cacao powder is in a different league regarding antioxidant polyphenols, which help protect cells from damage leading to cancer and clogged arteries. It undergoes minimal processing, leaving it far higher in beneficial compounds than ordinary cocoa powder. I have previously written about this: Raw Chocolate: Exploring the Hype
  • Acai powder, from a Brazilian berry, has a 'berryish' taste with a hint of chocolate. Berries for powder are picked and dried at peak freshness, so retain more antioxidants than berries destined for eating. I have previously written about this: 
  • Baobab, with its tart, citrus flavour, is generally taken for its vitamin C, but it's also rich in other antioxidants, plus iron and calcium. Research suggests that it could help with blood sugar control.
  • Moringa is good for protein, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K and beta-carotene. Thanks to their high nutrient content, the powdered leaves are used to treat malnutrition in developing countries, and a small clinical trial showed a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol. It has a bit of an 'earthy' taste, but works well in smoothies and juices. I have previously written about this: Focus on Moringa and 
  • The adaptogen maca, like ginseng, is taken to boost energy and manage stress. It's used as a medicinal herb in its native South America, and studies suggest that it could actually mimic the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Milled/ground flaxseeds are a useful source of omega-3 essential fatty acids for those who can't get it from fish oil - they're especially high in alpha linoleic acid (ALA). They also contain antioxidant lignans, and phytoestrogens that can help balance hormones. Plus ground flax has a thickening effect when blended
with water and allowed to stand a while - great when making thicker smoothies and smoothie bowls.

While single-ingredient superfood powders provide a targeted boost, blends are popular as they combine the benefits of many. They also allow tastier powders to mask the taste of the less pleasant ones. Just don't be misled by impressively long ingredients lists 'padded out' with cheaper, less beneficial components. This is where it really pays to be an educated consumer!

People tend to overdose on certain produce to make up for inadequacies elsewhere in their diet and lifestyles. Actually, you are far better off eating a wide range of seasonal foods than relying on one particular type, because that way you are more likely to get a better range of micro nutrients.

Turmeric may kill cancer cells in the petri dish, but that does not mean putting it in a smoothie will treat cancer. I had a patient who smoked 20 cigarettes a day and drank a superfood smoothie every morning to compensate! Sadly it doesn't work like that.

You know the old adage 'less is more'? Well, when it comes to nutrition that is the case. In Chinese medicine we use the term 'overly nutritious'. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Eating an excess of one substance, no matter how good it is for us, can throw the body out of balance. This has been demonstrated in the case of thyroid function and the consumption of goitrogenic foods including kale, the number one famous superfood. Eating large amounts of these foods increases your intake of thiocyanate and can interfere with iodine uptake. The thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone and drinking or eating (although it would have to be a huge amount of) these foods can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

The Bottom Line 
The idea of foods having exceptional health benefits is an attractive one, and has surely fuelled the public interest in superfoods. Indeed, the science in this area has demonstrated that certain components of foods and drinks may be particularly good for you. This is also reflected in the existence of approved health claims, for which the European Food Safety Authority has found the scientific evidence base to be sufficiently convincing.19 At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect a narrow range of ‘superfoods’ to significantly improve our well-being. When looking at the evidence behind superfoods, we need to be realistic about how this translates into real diets. 

Labelling some foods as ‘super’ in the media may also give the impression that other foods in our diets are not as healthy when, in reality, these foods often provide nutrients just as valuable as those found in superfoods. Carrots, apples and onions, for example, are packed with health-promoting nutrients such as beta-carotene, fibre, and the flavonoid quercetin.20 Wholegrain varieties of cereal-based starchy foods such as bread, rice and pasta are also high in dietary fibre. In adults, dietary fibre intake should be at least 25 g per day.21 These foods often have the added benefit of being cheap and readily available. This means we can easily consume them in large enough quantities and on a regular basis to get the most from their nutrient content. Given that most people in Europe are not eating enough fruit and vegetables to meet dietary recommendations, upping our daily intakes of a variety of fruits and vegetables will go a long way towards generally improving our well-being.

When it comes to ensuring a balanced nutrient intake for good health, we need to increase the range of nutritious foods in our diets rather than focusing solely on a handful of foods claimed to be ‘super’. Importantly, this should include a greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables. Many European countries provide food-based dietary guidelines to help people reach this goal. 

Further Reading & Reference: 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Mental Health in the Workplace

Image result for mental illness in the workplaceThis post is about Mental Health in the workplace, examining the range of conditions which can affect employees and offering advice on how and where Herbal Medicine can play a part in supporting mental well-being.

It has become (almost) taboo to even mention the term mental health due to its negative connotations as well as the fear and panic that it can evoke. Every so often it surfaces in the public domain when high profile cases hit the media headlines. The recent and tragic death of Robin Williams is an example of how opportunities and a forum for discussion appears to only arise under such circumstances and how aware we are of mental illness but how society does not embrace this nor tackle it properly.

In reality though, mental health is an issue that line managers are dealing with more and more regularly. It is encouraging to see events like this today being organised.

The Government’s report entitled ‘No health without mental health’ states that mental health problems affect 1:4 of us at some point in our lives with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem every year. It accounts for 30% of absences in the workplace, the highest being in the NHS.

In 2012, it was estimated that poor mental health in the workplace cost the UK £26billion every year, that’s equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce. The average employee takes 7 days off sick every year with 40% of this being due to mental health problems.

Image result for what do we mean by mental health problem? kent county council
Figure: Adult psychiatric morbidity in England,
The Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2009
Mental health can fluctuate along a spectrum in the same way that physical health does and there may be times when it is better than others. Mental health problems cover a range of conditions such as (the list is not exhaustive):

panic attacks
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
bipolar disorder (manic depression)
personality disorders

For many people stress and mental health are closely associated. According to a report by CIPD / MIND, while stress itself is not a medical condition  ‘...prolonged exposure to unmanageable stress is linked to psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression...’Managing stress is therefore a key part of creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Herbalism is the use of herbs for healing. People have been using herbs to cure diseases for centuries.  Many herbal remedies worked and many did not, it is obvious that knowledge and technology would have played a big part (and still do) in finding nature’s hidden treasures and using them to achieving health benefits.

So how would a medical herbalist tackle a mental health problem? Well, first of all, a definitive diagnosis is key. This in itself is a problem eg. differentiating between MCI and true dementia…

Herbalists do not deal with serious mental health disorders such as paranoid schizophrenia or severe psychosis because they warrant conventional medical management. However, conditions such as depression (mild to moderate), anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disorders / insomnia, stress-related symptoms, and OCD amongst others…..

Although a little more straightforward, these conditions still have negative connotations and many people don’t readily want to admit a problem given the social stigmas and difficulties in accepting mental illness.

Equally, given that many employers, private companies, insurers and government agencies have access to so much of our personal information, including aspects of our medical records, it is unsurprising many are worried about declaring they have mental health problems.

Mild to Moderate Depression

St John’s Wort

Lemon Balm
Passion Flower
Lime Flowers
Panic Attacks

Nervine Tonics
Wood Betony
Insomnia/ Sleep Disorders

Wild Lettuce
Indian Ginseng
Californian Poppy
Restlessness/ Agitation

Wood Betony

Korean Ginseng
(Panax ginseng)
Siberian Ginseng
(Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Indian Ginseng  aka Ashwaghandha
(Withania somnifera)

More often than not, herbalists treat the more common symptoms such as mild to moderate depression, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, restlessness and the gamut of symptoms associated with stress. Let’s look at some examples:

Stress-related symptoms
This requires a special mention as modern living makes it almost impossible to avoid stress. Prolonged stress can lead to all sorts of symptoms and part of our job as a herbalist would be to examine the bigger picture and to treat the patient in a holistic context.

Common symptoms of stress include:
skin breakouts & exacerbation of existing conditions eg. eczema, psoriasis
IBS & exacerbation of other gut disorders eg. ulcers
tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
muscle aches & pains
recurring and frequent infections eg. colds
sleep problems & insomnia
menstrual irregularities

The treatment rationale invariably involves:

adrenal support one of the first glands to be compromised

  1. adrenaline/noradrenaline
  2. cortisol (endogenous corticosteroid)
  3. testosterone
  4. aldosterone

nerve support adaptogens & their functions
Key herbs:

  1. Korean
  2. Siberian
  3. Indian

immune support boosting immune function
preventing recurring infections due to reduced immune defence
powerful immune boosters: echinacea

  1. astragalus
  2. turnera
  3. wild indigo
  4. St. John’s Wort (antiviral)

addressing debility usually with a range of stimulants, nervine tonics & nutrients all increase energy levels and are excellent for debilitated states:

  1. rosemary
  2. turnera
  3. astragalus
  4. ginsengs
  5. oats
  6. alfalfa

antidepressant St. John’s Wort (alternative rhodiola if compatibility issues)

  1. rosemary (stimulant)
  2. turnera
  3. Siberian ginseng
  4. Korean ginseng
For young people however, mental illness can be devastating. here is an article from a UK patient information website written and posted by Dr Hayley Willacy.

Mental health in young people: The time of their lives?

Just take a moment to think about your teenaged children, particularly girls, should you have them. Do they seem happy?

I'd love my boy to be less anxious, but Asperger's creates extra issues there, so I am definitely not expecting huge belly laughs on an hourly basis.

A recently published study into the state of mental health in England found quite alarming evidence that more young people are experiencing mental health problems than ever before, and particularly young women aged 16 to 24. This was a screening document and many of the respondents were undiagnosed and untreated. Sexual violence, childhood traumas and pressures from social media are being blamed for dramatic increases in the number of young women self-harming, having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a chronic mental illness.

Psychological distress is now so common that one in four in that age group have harmed themselves at some point, according to the government-funded Adult Psychiatric Morbidity survey (1).

The number of women of that age who screened positive for PTSD had risen from 4.2% to 12.6% between 2007 and 2014, although the use of a more accurate screening tool in the new survey may explain some of that rise. When I first read the headline I was hugely sceptical. How can so many young women have PTSD?

I thought about the importance of resilience, how anxiety can make people more prone to see a blip as a disaster and how the authors were defining PTSD - obviously too loosely, open for interpretation. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Reading through the document itself, they had been very precise in their definition and had stated specifically the criteria. Traumatic events were defined as experiences that either put a person, or someone close to them, at risk of serious harm or death, like a major natural disaster, a serious car accident, being raped, or a loved one dying by murder or suicide. About one in three adults in England report having experienced at least one such traumatic event.

How can so many young people have experienced this type of event? There we have a very unpleasant reflection of the society our children are growing up in; one that our political leaders should be examining closely. The dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said more research was needed to fully understand the rise in PTSD, but said rape or other sexual abuse were possible triggers. She said the rise in chronic mental illness among 16- to 24-year-old young women was clearly worrying, with social media a likely key contributor; 26% of women, and 9% of men aged 16 to 24 reported symptoms of common mental disorders in the week prior to the survey.

"This is the first age group that we have had coming of age with social media," Lovett said. "There are some studies that have found those who spend time on the internet or using social media are more likely to [experience] depression, but correlation doesn't imply causality."

The chief executive of the mental health charity Mind said untreated mental illness was still a huge problem. "It's still clear that nowhere near enough people are getting the support they need - in fact, more people than not are having no treatment at all," he said. About half of those who screened positive for PTSD were already receiving mental health treatment: 38.9% were taking medication and 24.0% were having psychological therapy. Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are usually resource poor and hugely over-burdened. A colleague describes a referral to the CAMHS locally as 'dropping a letter into a black hole.' There are some great 3rd party organisations who are trying to pick up the slack, but there still seems to be a growing gap.

The RCGP journal this week was devoted to mental health and describes children and young people's mental health services as the 'Cinderella of the Cinderella services', chronically underfunded and undervalued (2). We know that mental health problems in this group can have an effect on physical, social and educational development with effects lasting into adulthood. This group needs access to timely help, or we are truly storing up problems on a massive scale for generations to come.

We also know that young people find accessing healthcare difficult. How many of you have young people in your PPGs, or have practice news and information on social media? Something to consider maybe, and if you're feeling truly inspired, have a look at this beacon of good practice.

It is time to recognise that the kids are definitely not alright.

1) National Study of Health and Wellbeing: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS); September 2016.

2) Mughal F, England E. The mental health of young people; British Journal of General Practice. October 2016.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Examining the environmental factors in endometriosis

for sufferers.

Endometriosis: environmental factors
Mounting evidence suggests that endometriosis can be influenced by diet and lifestyle. Based on the studies done so far, the following self-help steps may be useful

Cut the caffeine
Image result for endometriosis environmental factorsThere may be a connection between caffeine intake and endometriosis and infertility. Women who consume more than 5 g/month of caffeine (about 1.5 cups of coffee a day) are nearly twice as likely to have endometriosis and be infertile as a result.'' In one study, the risk of endometriosis was 50 per cent  higher in women who indulged in any amount of alcohol compared with teetotallers." 

Eat more fruit & veg
More than 1,000 women in northern Italy, those with low intakes of fresh fruit and green vegetables were at a significantly higher risk of endometriosis, as were also those who ate a lot of beef and red meat.

Stay Active
Women who reported frequent bouts of high-intensity physical activity had a 76 per cent lower risk of developing endometriosis than their less-active counterparts.

Increase Antioxidants
Women with endometriosis tend to have lower intakes of antioxidants (vitamins A, Cand E, zinc and copper) than women without the condition, so getting more of these nutrients through either diet or supplements can make a difference.  And for women with pelvic pain possibly due to endometriosis, taking vitamins E  (1,200111/ day) and C (1,000 mg/day) for two months can lead to pain improvement in more than 40 per cent of cases. In contrast, none of the women taking a placebo reported any pain relief.

Boost omega-3-fatty acids
Both animal and test-tube studies show that omega- 3s can help by reducing inflammation," although whether supplements will benefit women in real life remains to be seen. However, a daily dose of omega-3 (1,080 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 720 mg of docosahexaenoic acid) plus 1.5 mg of vitamin E has been shown to improve symptoms of dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation), which can be related to endometriosis.

Avoid toxic chemicals
Certain environmental pollutants, such as dioxins and polychlorinated bisphenyls (PCBs), appear to play a role in endometriosis. Experts believe that more than 90 per cent of human exposures to these chemicals come from food, mostly animal fat, so eating an organic, wholefood diet low in animal fats maybe beneficial. Sunscreen chemicals have also been linked to endometriosis,' so consider using only natural formulas based on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead.

1 AmJEpidemiol,1993;137:1353-60
2 Am J Public Hearth, 1994; 84:1429-32
3 HumReprod,2004;19;1755-9
4 AmJEpidemiol,2003;158:156-64
5 Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 2009; 7:54
6 TransI Res, 2013; 161:189-9
7 Fertil5tenl,2013;99:543-50.el;Fertil
Steril, 2008; 90 [4Suppl]: 1496-502
8 Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1995; 174:1335-8
9 Environ Health Perspect, 2009; 117: 1070-5
10 EnvironSciTechnol,2012;46:4624-32

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Disproving the cholesterol theory

Researchers are beginning to uncover data hidden for 40 years, and proving all along that the high-fats and cholesterol theory of heart disease was wrong.

There's a joke that used to do the rounds of newspaper offices: don't let the facts spoil the story. Medicine seems to have its equivalent version, with inconvenient truths being buried to safeguard a cherished theory.

Take, for instance, the idea that the fats we eat from butter, dairy and meat raise levels of cholesterol—especially the artery-clogging LDL (low-density lipoprotein) 'bad'sort—which in turn causes heart disease. It's an idea that gained traction in the 1960s and launched the billion-dollar statin drug industry, and the even more lucrative market of low-fat foods and diet drinks.

But a team of researchers from America's National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been uncovering data from old research projects—stored away in boxes and never published—which would have established that the cholesterol theory was wrong.

Not only has the cholesterol theory never been proven (see Where's the evidence? below), but scientists were deliberately hiding the data that demonstrated it was false—and did so for years.
The investigation was sparked by a discovery made by one of the NIH team members, Dr Robert Frantz, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. Frantz had uncovered a box of research papers in the basement of the home of his father, Dr Ivan Frantz, who died in 2009.

Frantz's father had also been a medical researcher and had headed up the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, which ran from 1968 to 1973,thebiggest-ever study into diet, cholesterol and heart disease. The experiment involved more than 9,000 patients recruited at six mental hospitals and a state-run nursing home in Minnesota, and it set out to demonstrate that fats in our food cause heart disease.

Half the patients were fed a high-fat diet, including meat and dairy, while the rest switched to a'healthier' diet of vegetable oils, high in linoleic acid, which replaced the saturated fats. Just as Frantz and his team expected, the patients on the healthier diet saw their cholesterol levels fall—but their chances of a fatal heart attack also rose.

Buried evidence
Although it was the largest trial into cholesterol ever undertaken, it was not published until 1989—but with all the 'difficult' data and confounding results left out! That's what had been gathering dust in Frantz's basement and stayed there until discovered by his son. Robert Frantz sent the box to Chris Ramsden, a medical investigator at the US NIH. For Ramsden, this must have felt like deja vu: he had only just finished analyzing another set of data that had also never seen the light of day. That had been compiled by researchers for the Sydney Diet Heart Study (SDHS), and they had found the self-same thing that Ivan Frantz and his team found: people who eat a healthy diet of vegetable oils were seeing their cholesterol levels fall, but their chances of heart disease and death rose.

The SDHS had been a much smaller trial, involving just 458 men recently diagnosed with heart disease. For seven years, the men ate a diet of saturated fats or switched to one that was high in omega-6 linoleic acid, such as from safflower oil and polyunsaturated margarine, one of the new low-fat products on the shelves when the study started in 1966. Although the Sydney researchers reported that more men on the healthy diet had died, they didn't mention that the cause was heart diseased
Ramsden and his team published their reanalysis of the Sydney study in 2013, which put the record straight: more of those on the healthy diet had died of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Increasing the amount of linoleic acid we eat might even be adding to the risk of heart disease, they concluded.

Facing the fats
Ramsden was trying to make sense of these data, which flew in the face of the standard dietary advice for the past 40 years or more. Even as recently as 2009, the American Heart Association was reaffirming its advice that a diet low in saturated fats and moderately high in linoleic acid and other omega-6 unsaturated fats was good for the heart. But it's not that simple: when it comes to omega-6 linoleic acid, you can have too much of a good thing. As well as in the vegetable oils used in trials, linoleic acid is also found in nuts and seeds—and processed foods like ready-made chicken meals, salad dressings, potato chips (crisps), pizza, bread and pasta dishes. Most processed foods are made with vegetable oils, and too much linoleic acid becomes harmful. Also, as Ramsden concluded after sifting through data from four major trials, the health benefits due to omega-3 fatty acids—found in fish and certain plant-based foods—were being wrongly attributed to omega-6 fatty acids.

So here they were again, rewriting the conclusions of another research paper. "Altogether, this research leads us to conclude that incomplete publication of important data has contributed to the over-estimation of benefits, and the under-estimation of potential risks, of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid," said one of Ramsden's researchers, Daisy Zamora, at the University of North Carolina, 291:2536-45 JAMA.1987; 257:2176-80 after the publication of the revised Minnesota study.

But why hadn't the original data been published? Conspiracy theorists reckoned that the older Frantz had been leant on at the very highest levels, whereas others thought the editors of medical journals simply didn't want to publish heretical data. Zamora thinks this was the fate of the Minnesota study. "It could be that they tried to publish all of their results, but had a hard time getting them published," she said. Frantz felt it could have been more a case of self-censorship; his father just couldn't believe the data in front of him. "When it turned out that it didn't reduce risk, it was quite puzzling. And since it was effective in lowering cholesterol, it was weird," he said, guessing at his father's reactions.2
It would certainly have been weird for Frantz father), who had completely bought into the fats-cholesterol-heart disease model. One of his friends at the University of Minnesota was Ancel Keys who, almost single-handedly, pioneered the cholesterol theory. Keys was also a co-author of the Minnesota study, and had announced the launch of the largest-ever study into his theory just before it kicked off. "My father definitely believed in reducing saturated fats, and I grew up that way. We followed a relatively low-fat diet at home, and on Sundays or special occasions we'd have bacon and eggs," said Frantz (son). The older Frantz said as much to medical researcher Gary Taubes two years before his death. He told Taubes the data had been deliberately hidden because "we were just disappointed in the way it came out" Not wishing to disprove the cholesterol theory or upset his best friend, Frantz s father hid the truth for 40 years in his basement. He didn't want the facts to spoil a good theory.

The association between a high-fat diet, cholesterol and heart disease has never been proven.

Where's the evidence?
For a theory that has made billions for the drug and food industries, the association between a high-fat diet, cholesterol and heart disease has never been proven. The US Surgeon General's Office employed four project officers for 11 years to produce a definitive report on the connection between fats and heart disease. In 1999, the Office shut the project down, unable to find any evidence to support the theory. Afterwards, project leader Bill Harlan said, "The report was initiated with a preconceived opinion of the conclusions", and concluded that the science behind the theory just wasn't there.1

The other part of the theory—that cholesterol causes heart disease-has also never been definitively established. Even the prestigious Framingham study, which has tracked the heart health of that small town in Massachusetts since 1948, concluded that high cholesterol levels did not predict fatal heart attacks.

In fact, the researchers found quite the opposite: people with low cholesterol levels were more likely to die of heart disease.2

One of the theory's sternest critics has been Danish researcher Dr Uffe Ravnskov, who heads up The international Network of Cholesterol Sceptics (THINCS). He says that all cholesterol—including HDL and the so-called 'bad' LDL—are vital for our health. As we age, LDL cholesterol is important for maintaining brain health, he says.

So if the cholesterol theory is wrong, what is causing heart disease, still the number-one killer in the West? During the 1950s, when Ancel Keys, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, was laying the blame at the door of a high-fat diet, other scientists were suspecting it was more to do with sugar, which was just starting to appear in processed foods in post-war America. Sugar could be one trigger of inflammation, which scientists are now beginning to quietly accept has a much closer association than previously thought with heart disease and atherosclerosis, where arterial walls become rigid with plaque. One study found that inflammation is an important indicator of coronary heart disease (CHD). They studied 506 men who had suffered a heart attack and compared them with 1,025 heart-healthy men, and found that those with the highest levels of C-reactive protein in their
blood, an indicator of inflammation, were also twice as likely to have CHD.

But inflammation isn't a cause: it's the body's immune response to stress, infection, a bad diet and environmental pollutants. And cholesterol, some believe, is playing a positive role in all of this. Cholesterol, and LDL in particular, is trying to repair inflamed arteries—so attempts to reduce cholesterol levels, such as through a low-fat diet or lipid-lowering drugs, can actually increase our risk of dying from heart disease, just as the scientists who suppressed their own data discovered (see main story above). Having low cholesterol levels isn't bad only for the heart, but also for cancer patients— especially those with gastrointestinal or multiple myeloma cancers, who tend to be low in LDL cholesterol— and older people, who tend to live longer the higher their cholesterol count.

  1. Arteriosclerosis, 1989; 9:129-35
  2. Adv ExpMed Biol, 1978; 109:317-30
  3. BMJ,2013;346:e8707
  4. WorldRevNutrDiet,2011;102:30-43
  5. BMJ, 2016; 353 :i1246
  6. The New York Times,13April2016; http://well.
  7. TaubesG. Good calories bad calories. New York: Anchor Books, 2008
Published in What doctors done tell you magazine. July 2016

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Anti-Ageing Properties of DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone or more commonly called DHEA, is the most abundant steroid found in the human blood stream. It is also one of the most reliable bio-markers of ageing. DHEA is secreted by the adrenal glands, and also produced in the gonads (testes and ovaries), and brain. It is sometimes called the "mother of all hormones" because it is the building block from which oestrogen and testosterone are produced, and is vital to health. Thousands of scientific articles have been published on DHEA during the last 50 years, but a clear picture of its role in human health didn't begin to emerge until the 1990's.

DHEA exhibits an amazingly wide diversity of effects

DHEA has been reported to have anti-diabetic, anti-dementia, anti-obesity, anti-carcinogenic, anti-stress, immune-enhancing, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, anti-aging and anti-heart disease effects. In addition, research has shown that DHEA:

  • is an antioxidant
  • is a hormone regulator (it helps regulate the thyroid & pituitary glands, and enhances thymus gland function)
  • decreases cholesterol
  • stimulates the production of human growth hormone
  • boosts immunity by stimulating killer cell activity
  • increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin
  • assists in returning the body to a balanced state after a stress reaction
  • improves cognitive function, bone formation and libido
  • enhances mood by increasing the brain's serotonin levels
Combat Metabolic Disorders
We’ve known for over a decade that DHEA protects against obesity and its consequences in ageing and diabetic animals. In 2009, scientists confirmed that low DHEA levels in men were linked to diabetes and coronary heart disease.49 DHEA powerfully modulates gene expression to shift the metabolic balance in favour of energy utilisation and away from storage as fat.

DHEA also activates gene expression of cellular machinery that affects a cell’s consumption of fats and sugars to remove them from circulation. These molecules help correct harmful lipid abnormalities and unhealthy body fat distribution—a possible mechanism by which DHEA decreases total body fat.

In 2007, researchers demonstrated in aged rats fed a high-fat diet that DHEA increased body protein, while decreasing total caloric intake, body weight, body fat, and total size and number of fat cells. In a related experiment, researchers discovered that DHEA could change the composition of adipose tissue, boosting levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids while reducing harmful omega-6 fatty acids.

A human study showed how powerfully these DHEA effects can modify body composition.4 When 52 elderly men and women took 50 mg per day of DHEA or placebo for 6 months, it reduced stubborn abdominal and subcutaneous body fat. Insulin levels dropped significantly in supplemented patients as well, indicating enhanced insulin sensitivity. The researchers concluded appropriately that “DHEA replacement could play a role in prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome associated with abdominal obesity.”

“DHEA replacement could play a role in prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome associated with abdominal obesity.” DHEA is highly protective against diabetes and its complications. In diabetic rats, DHEA prevented increases in oxidant stress and oxidative damage related to the disease. It also significantly improved blood vessel relaxation, improving blood flow.57 DHEA induces genes in muscle tissue that increase uptake and utilisation of blood glucose as energy, significantly lowering blood sugar in diabetic animals.58 In humans with type 2 diabetes, DHEA counteracts oxidative imbalance and the formation of deadly advanced glycation end products (AGEs), and down-regulates the inflammatory TNF-alpha system—effects that may prevent the onset and slow the progression of deadly diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease Defence
The past several years have witnessed extraordinary advances in our understanding of DHEA’s cardioprotective power—and its relationship to cardiovascular disease.

A 2009 study of 153 diabetic men with stable coronary heart disease (CHD) found that 77% were DHEA-S deficient, significantly more than in healthy peers. Over the next 19 months of follow-up, 43 of those men died of CHD; the data showed that low DHEA-S and low testostosterone levels were two of the four most significant predictors of death.

Enhanced Well-Being and Libido Even in Challenged Populations
Another 2009 study of 247 men with a mean age of 76 years revealed that those with low DHEA-S had a 96% increased risk of diabetes and a 48% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

A 2009 study from the University of Pennsylvania discovered a surprisingly close relationship between mortality and the trajectory of DHEA-S decline in older adults. Specifically, a rapid or erratic decline in DHEA-S predicted earlier death, and both together increased the death rate by nearly threefold! Regular blood testing for healthy DHEA-S levels are the only way to detect these lethal changes in DHEA levels early. It is of paramount importance that you have your DHEA-S levels checked at least once a year.

A Mayo Clinic study found that DHEA supplementation (50 mg per day) in women with low DHEA levels and low adrenal function improved plasma DHEA content, significantly lowered total cholesterol, and tended to reduce triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. But supplemented patients also had reductions in their beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. This study suggests that long-term studies are needed to determine the impact of DHEA supplementation on cardiovascular risk in women with low adrenal function.

Additional support for DHEA’s benefits in patients suffering from vascular disease came in two remarkable 2009 studies. The first examined vascular remodelling, a dangerous process that occurs when vessels are injured by atherosclerosis. Vascular remodelling can impede blood flow and ultimately worsen cardiovascular disease.

DHEA significantly inhibited vascular remodelling in a rabbit model of carotid artery injury and limited deadly buildup of smooth muscle in vessel walls. Another study of rabbits fed a high-fat diet showed that DHEA supplements restored oxidative balance, lowered lipid levels and inflammatory damage, and prevented heart muscle tissue death and dysfunction, delaying the onset of cardiac damage.

Further Research and Evidence
Studies as early as 2000 demonstrated how DHEA improved well-being and could help to manage menopause without deleterious effects. In 2006 it was revealed that 50 mg per day of DHEA could improve psychological well-being even in challenging populations such as those with decreased pituitary function.

DHEA exerted a remarkably positive effect on health-related quality of life in women taking long-term steroids for lupus (chronic steroid therapy can produce powerful depression and reduction in quality of life measures). Of particular importance, the DHEA-supplemented groups also reported improvement in sexuality.

Additional research supports an excitatory effect for DHEA on sexuality—especially in women. In one study, sixteen sexually functional postmenopausal women were randomly given either placebo or a single DHEA supplement of 300 mg, 60 minutes before presentation of an erotic video. Women in the supplement group showed significantly greater mental and physical sexual arousal during the video than did the control women. The supplemented women also reported a greater increase in positive affect (generally feeling good) compared to placebo recipients.

A 2009 animal study may shed light on some of the physical causes behind these benefits: DHEA applied to the smooth muscle of rabbit clitoris resulted in significant relaxation,70 allowing the increased blood flow and engorgement that results in enhanced sensitivity during sexual arousal.

Favourable Gene Expression for Youthful, Glowing Skin
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that DHEA has especially favourable effects on skin health and appearance. In a 2000 laboratory study, DHEA was shown to increase production of collagen—the protein that gives youthful skin its suppleness—while decreasing production of the collagenase enzymes that destroy it.

It wasn’t until 2008, however, that Canadian scientists discovered more than 50 DHEA-responsive genes in the skin of women using a topical DHEA crème. DHEA “switched on” multiple collagen-producing genes and reduced expression of genes associated with production and cornification (hardening) of the tough keratinocytes that form calluses and rough skin. The researchers concluded, “DHEA could exert an anti-aging effect in the skin through stimulation of collagen biosynthesis, improved structural organization of the dermis while modulating keratinocyte metabolism.”

Other unexpected benefits of topical DHEA on ageing skin are emerging. DHEA treatment increases production of sebum, or skin oil. Sebum not only contributes to smooth, supple skin; it also contains myriad antimicrobial components that prevent infection and irritation. Topical DHEA also improves skin “brightness” and counteracts the “papery” appearance of ageing skin, combating the epidermal thinning that is a visible hallmark of ageing. The study authors note that these are “beneficial effects on skin characteristics that are rarely provided by topical treatments.”

In the past few years alone, significant scientific substantiation of DHEA’s anti-ageing effects has emerged. Its neuroprotective effects are now recognized as being vital in protecting memory and reducing depressive symptoms in older adults. DHEA enhances bone health by improving mineralization to reduce fracture risk. DHEA modulates immunity in a coordinated fashion, boosting resistance to infection while quelling dangerous inflammation. DHEA supports cardiovascular health and activates genes that prevent cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes and obesity. DHEA is intimately involved in improving quality of life and bolstering sexual arousal, while dramatically improving the appearance of healthy, youthful skin. As little as 50 mg of DHEA per day may favorably alter gene expression to inhibit multiple factors implicated in metabolic syndrome; boost bone strength; enhance cognitive function and memory; and ward off osteoarthritis. DHEA topical crèmes allow ready application of DHEA to the site of action.

Note: Individuals who have been diagnosed with a hormone-dependent cancer should not supplement with DHEA until their cancer is cured.


Friday, 15 July 2016

10 ways to stay healthy on holiday

Leaving behind the era of guilt inducing fly-and-flop holidays, more of us are now adopting the view that taking time off for your holiday shouldn't have to mean taking time off from your healthy lifestyle and throwing away months of hard work at the gym on one gluttonous getaway. With one in three people wanting to 'tone up' on holiday and nearly one quarter looking to lose weight. Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in healthy holidays worldwide, make this mission easier as they share their 10 ways to stay healthy on holiday. Swapping tanning for training, return home happier and healthier, with benefits that will long outlast your holiday tan. I have previously written about herbs for holiday health and you can read it here: However, other tips include these top 10 suggestions:

1. Travel healthy
Give yourself the best start and arrive at your destination in peak condition by travelling healthy Being confined to the cramped conditions and recirculated air of an aeroplane can have a detrimental effect on our bodies and immune system. Swap boozy beverages for water to stay hydrated and keep your circulation flowing with some simple yoga stretches.

2. Be workout wear prepared
It may seem obvious, but this is rule number one, so that you can't use the fact that you don't have your trainers as an excuse not to exercise. If suitcase space is an issue, just pack a couple of workout wear options made of lightweight breathable materials that can cope with the heat and can be easily hand washed for re-wear during your trip.

3. Active Exploration
Adventure beyond the hotel pool and explore your new surroundings whilst giving a healthy boost to your fit you'd rather take in the sites on a leisurely jog or go the distance on a bike ride the concierge for the most picturesque route and discover the beautiful scenery whilst upping your heart rate.

4. Swim for Success
A full body workout and great cardiovascular exercise, swimming is a refreshing way to keep active whilst staying cool and is full of health benefits, from muscle toning to reducing stress. Raise the pace from your leisurely bobbing sessions and get your heart pumping by fitting in a few swift lengths in the pool or ocean before breakfast when there are less people around.

5. Catch up on Sleep
Constantly trying to shake the feeling of being over tired? Holidays are an important time to catch up on lost sleep and allow our bodies time to recover and recharge. Keep in mind that in hot conditions, sleep may be disrupted whilst your body adjusts to the new climate, so avoid the temptation to stay up e every night of your holiday.

6. Eat the right diet for the right holiday
When leaving behind your usual routine, think about fuelling your body with the right nutrition for your trip and not just reverting to the holiday mind-set of overindulgence. If you're going on a multi activity holiday you'll need a diet of slow energy releasing carbohydrates to keep up your strength, if you're relaxing on a spa break, watch your portion sizes and swap foods high in sugar and fat for more fresh fruit and vegetables.

7. Get some Vitamin D
The Vitamin D we get from sunlight allows us to absorb the calcium and phosphate that makes our bones healthy and boosts our immune system. Outside of the peak hours of 11am to 3pm, when the sun is at its hottest, spend 15 minutes a day without sunscreen to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

8. Use nature as your gym
Make the most of your natural surroundings and embrace the opportunity to get out of the gym and back to nature. Add some resistance to your running on a sandy beach, use the jungle as your own jungle gym or take your workouts to the water with surfing or paddle board yoga and discover muscles you didn't even know you had.

9. Cool down
If you're exercising in hot conditions, your body's core temperature will be elevated. In order to recover effectively from a workout in the heat, bringing your core temperature down is a priority and will help to lessen muscle fatigue. Reducing your core temperature can also help you to recover from the mental fatigue of a session sooner.

10. Make day-to-day changes
Health and fitness is a lifestyle and should be a part of your daily practice no matter where you are in the world. Make small daily changes on your holiday, from taking the stairs rather than the elevator, to swapping an afternoon at the bar for a game of tennis or golf, and reap the rewards when these changes transition to your daily life back at home.

For advice, guidance and booking visit or call 0203 397 8891

Monday, 6 June 2016

Health Benefits of Ginger

Is there anything ginger can't do? Seriously! The health benefits of ginger are amazing.

But, while ginger may seemingly do everything, to get the most benefits of ginger root you'll need to understand how to match ginger's warming and spicy qualities with a specific person. 

It is unsurprising that Ayurveda calls ginger the “universal medicine.” It has been used for centuries and is still one of the most popular herbs of our time. It has been widely studied with positive results for a variety of issues, making it one of the more accepted herbs in Western medicine. This article will look at the many health benefits of ginger. I will pay special attention to the energetic qualities of ginger so that we can move away from thinking of it as a simple substitute for pharmaceuticals and towards a clearer understanding of the myriad health benefits of ginger. By understanding the energetics of herbs, we can better match the herbs to the person, making them more effective.

Energetics of Ginger: Benefits of Ginger Root

Before we discuss the benefits of ginger tea, let’s look at its energetic qualities. Ginger is a warm to hot herb with a tendency towards dryness. Fresh ginger is considered to be warm while dried ginger is considered to be hot. 

What does it mean for an herb to be heating and drying? 

Ginger is a great herb to experience energetics first hand. If you sip a hot ginger tea, you’ll feel the heat from the tea warm up your core. An interesting experiment is to try a tea made with fresh ginger and one made with dried ginger. Notice any difference? 

You could skip the tea altogether and munch on a slice of fresh ginger. You’ll notice its spicy heat. 

Ginger is not only warming; it is also aromatic and dispersing. You’ll notice fairly quickly after sipping your hot ginger tea that the heat in your core is spreading to your limbs. If you drink a really strong ginger tea, you may even feel the heat escape through your skin. This is a great reminder that energetics are often circular. In this case, excess heat creates a secondary coolness. 

Ginger also stimulates fluid loss through various body secretions such as sweat or mucus. Because of this, ginger is considered drying.

Let’s now take a look at how ginger’s energetics play a role in the health benefits of ginger. 

Ginger for Inflammation and Pain

Ginger is a strong ally for various types of pain. A lot of times the herbs we use for pain have very specific mechanisms of action. Because of this, we have to carefully choose which herb to use for specific types of pain. For example, if there is pain due to muscle tension, we use an antispasmodic herb like valerian or kava (the latter has now been banned from use due to EU Directives)

Ginger relieves pain through its anti-inflammatory actions, blood-dispersing actions, and by relieving pain caused by coldness. It can also relieve the cramping pain experienced with diarrhoea or with menstrual cramps. 

Benefits of Ginger for Inflammatory Pain

Ginger is widely used for inflammatory pain such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Numerous studies have shown ginger to be effective and safe at relieving arthritic pain, both through topical application and by taking it internally. Ginger has also been shown to relieve muscle pain after workouts. 

Benefits of Ginger to Move Stagnancy

In Chinese medicine pain is often seen as a symptom of stagnant blood. Symptoms of stagnant blood include pain that is fixed, stabbing, or boring. A bruise or contusion is an example of stagnant blood that we can easily see. Ginger can be applied topically to relieve blood stagnation. Ginger can also be used for a series of symptoms that herbalists see as stagnant blood in the pelvis. Symptoms of this include painful menstruation, delayed menstruation, clots, and fibroids. Ginger works exceptionally well for menstrual pain with signs of coldness and stagnancy. 

Benefits of Ginger for Pain With Coldness

When using ginger for pain, it works especially well for people with signs of coldness. These people may have a pale face or tongue. They typically feel colder than others. They may have slow digestion or problems with bloating. They may tend towards lethargy or slowness. Ginger may not work well for those with signs of heat.

I would certainly recommend ginger for stopping a migraine; in my observation, ginger is the absolute best thing for treating a migraine at the time that it develops, one of the few things that will work at the time. Stir two tablespoons of ginger powder into water and drink it at the onset of visual disturbances — the “aura” — before the pain starts. Usually that will knock it cold. The migraine may try to restart in about four hours, in which case you have to do this again. 

Benefits of Ginger Tea for Colds and the Flu

Ginger can be used for many different complaints during an upper respiratory system infection. In fact, if you only had one herb to choose from during a cold or the flu, ginger may be the one, especially when there are signs of coldness and dampness. 

Ginger Health Benefits for Soar Throats

Sipping ginger tea, sucking on ginger pastilles, or having a spoonful of ginger-infused honey can bring relief to a sore throat. It’s also antimicrobial, helping to prevent further infection. I prefer fresh ginger for this. 

Ginger Health Benefits for Congestion

Ginger is diffusive and stimulating and is perfect for getting stuck mucus flowing again. A strong ginger tea can relieve congested coughs and stuffy sinuses. Ginger can also be used externally over the chest to relieve congestion. 

Ginger Health Benefits for Warming Up and Fevers

Feeling cold? A strong cup of ginger tea can warm you up from the inside. This is helpful for the onset of a cold or flu, especially when someone feels chilled and is shivering. 

Benefits of Ginger Root for Digestive Issues

Ginger is one of our best herbs for digestion. It is warming, a carminative, aromatic, and dispersing, and can help with stagnant and cold digestion. 

Symptoms of cold, stagnant digestion include: 

  • bloating
  • gas
  • feeling heavy after meals (bowling ball stomach)
  • constipation
  • scallops on the tongue
  • white coating on the tongue
  • people with stagnant digestion may also have cold hands and feet

Ginger is famously used for all kinds of nausea. It is used in small amounts for nausea during pregnancy and used freely for nausea caused by motion sickness. I keep candied ginger in the car for passengers who made need it on our winding rural back roads. Ginger is also used to decrease nausea after chemotherapy and surgeries. 

Ginger has long been be used for food poisoning caused by bugs like Shigella, E. coli, and Salmonella. It helps to relieve painful cramping and is also strongly antimicrobial against these pathogens. 

Health Benefits of Ginger for the Heart

Ginger supports heart health in several ways. A lot of heart disease in the US is a symptom of an underlying metabolic problem such as insulin resistance or diabetes. While a holistic approach needs to be taken for these imbalances (personalized diet, interval exercise/functional weight training, healthy sleep cycles, etc.), ginger has been shown to reduce blood glucose and inhibit the inflammation associated with these metabolic imbalances. 

Ginger has also been shown to modulate cholesterol to healthy levels. (A lot of people’s “high” cholesterol problems also stem from inflammation and metabolic disorders.) 

Researchers studied 95 people with blood fat problems (high “bad” LDL cholesterol, high total cholesterol, high triglycerides, and low “good” HDL cholesterol). They divided them into two groups: one group took 1,000 mg of ginger, three times a day; the other group took a placebo. After 45 days, those taking ginger had a greater drop in LDL and a greater increase in HDL.  

Benefits of Ginger Root for Infections

Ginger is strongly antimicrobial and inhibits a variety of infections. 

Ginger Benefits for Ear Infections

Use fresh ginger juice in drops in congested or infected ears. Avoid putting anything in ears if the eardrum is perforated. 

Ginger Benefits for Fungal Infections

Fresh ginger juice or a poultice of the freshly grated ginger root can be used topically on a variety of external fungal infections. Avoid using it on sensitive skin.

Ginger Benefits for Stomach Bugs

Ginger has long been used for all sorts of intestinal parasites causing digestive upset and diarrhoea.

Health Benefits of Ginger Root as a Synergist

Ginger is commonly added in small amounts to larger formulas. By increasing circulation through dilating blood vessels, it helps to deliver the herbs throughout the body more quickly. It is estimated that over half of Chinese formulas include ginger in them. 

Ginger increases the potency of herbs and pharmaceuticals if added to a protocol, inhibits bacterial resistance mechanisms in pathogens, stimulates circulation, and reduces the toxicity of endotoxins and pollutants. It dilates blood vessels and increases circulation, helping the blood, and the constituents in the blood from other herbs, to achieve faster and more effective distribution in the body.  

How to Make Ginger Tea and Other Preparations

Ginger is most commonly used as a culinary spice in both savoury and sweet dishes. Fresh ginger is readily found in grocery stores in North America. When picking out ginger at the store, look for plump pieces with smooth skin. If the ginger looks dried out or has a wrinkly skin, you might ask for a fresher choice; however, to be honest, it’s still going to work. 

If using dried ginger, be sure to get it from a good source. (I buy all of my dried ginger from Mountain Rose Herbs.) Dried ginger should be zesty and hot. If it lacks this, it may be too old. 

Ginger is very aromatic with a strong taste. When using it in cooking, small amounts are used. You do not have to peel the rhizome before using it, but if you prefer to do so, use a spoon to gently scrape away the thin outer coat. 

Dried ginger powder is also commonly used in cooking. 

Dosage Suggestions for Ginger:

  • Fresh ginger root: 1-15 grams
  • Dried ginger root: 3-12 grams
  • Fresh tincture: 1:2, 60% alcohol, 1-2 mL in water three times a day (Winston/Kuhn)

Wondering how to make ginger tea? Here are instructions for how to make both fresh ginger tea and dried ginger tea. 

Fresh Ginger Tea Recipe

1-inch piece fresh ginger
Squirt of lemon
Dash of honey
Just-boiled water
Grate or mince the fresh ginger. No need to peel it first, but if you really want to peel it, try using a spoon to gently scrape away that outer layer.

Put the ginger, lemon, and honey in a cup or jar. Fill the cup with just-boiled water. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

The amount of water you use will determine how strong the tea is. Start with about 8 ounces and then make adjustments from there. Enjoy!

Dried Ginger Tea Recipe

6 grams dried ginger (or about 2 teaspoons cut and sifted dried ginger)
10 ounces water
Dash of honey
Squirt of lemon

Place the ginger in a small saucepan along with the water. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and strain. Add the honey and lemon.

Special Considerations

Ginger is generally regarded as safe for all with no reports of toxicity. 

It is very warming and somewhat drying and is therefore not a good match with someone already showing signs of heat and/or dryness. It should not be used in large amounts during pregnancy. Patients taking blood-thinning medication should consult with their doctor before taking large amounts of ginger regularly. 

The Ginger Plant

There are about 52 genera and 1300 species of ginger around the world. 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a perennial plant native to the tropics. It has been cultivated for thousands of years and prefers soil that is warm and moist. The flowers grow as spikes. 

Summary of the Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger is one of our best polycrest herbs in that it can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of conditions. Because of its heating and drying qualities, it is best used for people with signs of coldness and dampness. Ginger especially affects the respiratory system, digestive system, and circulatory system. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory shown to decrease pain for those with chronic inflammatory pain such as arthritis. 

Online Resources:

  1. Zingiber officinale: A Potential Plant against Rheumatoid Arthritis
  2. Ginger Treats Osteoarthritis with Topical Application
  3. Efficacy and tolerability of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in patients of osteoarthritis of knee
  4. Ginger Relieves Muscle Pain from Your Workout


  1. The Yoga of Herbs by David Frawley and Vasant Lad
  2. Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal and Debora Yost
  3. Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston