Hippocrates was credited with saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He was an important figure in the history of medicine because he was among the earliest to assert that natural processes caused diseases. The idea of what we eat and drink impacting our health is widely accepted. Unfortunately, most people will opt for an easier way out with this knowledge. Let’s face it; it is much easier to take a supplement to cure an illness than to eat right. Fast-paced lives, financial constraints, and time limitations have contributed to the boom in eating more processed and/or prepared foods than taking time to “whip something up” in the kitchen. This perfect storm has contributed to an increase in diseases that are not only life-threatening but debilitating too.
Being The Herbal Pharmacist®, I believe that adding botanicals (herbs) to our daily supplement program and not free-standing isolated compounds will go a long way to improved health. Why? Botanicals contain unique nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals). The fact that botanicals have so many potentially beneficial parts makes them a leading candidate to address multiple health areas all in one plant. Leading global health challenges such as; obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious disease, structural health (bones, joints, muscles), and even mental health concerns can benefit from the addition of botanical extracts to the daily diet.
Why do botanicals (Plants/Herbs) Rock?
- They are full of nutritional and phytochemical benefits, imparting multiple positive areas of improved health (all in one plant).
- There are an estimated 4,000 scientific papers published each year on botanical substances.
- They are more “natural” than extracted chemical entities that initially came from a plant.
The following are some of my favorite botanicals that should be on the fast track for addition to your everyday supplement program.
Adaptogens (Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, etc.)
Adaptogens are a problematic category of botanicals for most people to understand. Simply put, adaptogens help the body “adapt” to a physical or mental stressor. The most popular adaptogens are ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Bacopa, and Holy Basil. Due to their ability to help either get the body back into balance or keep it there, they work for an abundance of areas of health, including cardiovascular, respiratory, hormonal (sex and others), mental health (stress, sleep, and cognition), structural (muscle pain and recovery), digestive, metabolic (blood sugar), immune and fatigue. While this may read like they are a panacea, they are not. They often take months to show their effectiveness and should be a part of your daily supplement program.
Just like other berries, Aronia (chokeberry) is loaded with antioxidants. Analysis has shown them to be higher than most berries in these beneficial compounds and lower in sugar. Getting a bit techier, Aronia is exceptionally high in both anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. Whether looking to add an antioxidant to protect your product or enhance the nutritional benefits, Aronia would be a substantial addition. In addition to the known antioxidant benefits, Aronia has shown to help with these areas too:
- Improve the function of the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems
- Prevent gastric tissue
- Protect the liver
Whoever looked at an artichoke and decided it was something good to eat should now be considered a genius due to its fantastic health benefits. Artichoke is packed with fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Consuming artichokes and artichoke extract is connected to reducing cholesterol levels, calming inflammation in the body, and improving blood flow. It can also be used as part of a detoxification product due to its ability to stimulate the body’s bile flow. Increased bile production is also helpful for enabling digestion and helping with the absorption of nutrients. Many essential nutrients and fatty acids are not adequately absorbed without proper bile production. The fiber in artichoke has a prebiotic effect and can help improve gut flora. Additionally, this fiber also provides benefits in weight loss and blood sugar control.
Black Cumin Seed (ThymoQuin)
Black Cumin Seed, aka Black Seed, has been used for thousands of years for health and medicinal benefits. N. sativa seeds have been used by various cultures in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle, and the Far East. There are currently nearly 1000 studies on the healing powers of Black Seeds. Black seeds used in modern times are mostly in the form of the oil that is extracted from the seeds. The oil’s health benefits have been shown to support many health concerns, including cardiovascular health, skin health, immune function, liver health, fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, weight gain, energy production, and so much more.
Elderberry has been used as a supplement in Europe for centuries. Now should be considered an addition to the everyday diet. In the supplement world, Elderberry is most found in immune support supplements for sale during cold and flu season. However, Elderberry can be used year-round and should be considered a positive addition to any formulation to help in areas other than immune health. Other health concerns that can benefit from consuming antioxidants come into play with elderberries, such as eye health, cardiovascular, immune, skin, and more, and should be at the forefront of using Elderberry. It has even been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Fennel is a fantastic botanical that needs to be revisited for formulations for its excellent flavor profile and the medicinal impact it can have. One of the most significant areas Fennel should be considered is the infant and toddler market. Ask any parent of a colicky child, and they will give you their right arm if you can provide relief. Science backs up this claim by showing it can reduce intestinal spasms and colic in infants. Ancient Chinese medicine found beneficial uses for Fennel, from congestion to stimulating the appetite and increasing the flow of breast milk. In addition, the essential oil of Fennel provides upset stomach relief.
Medicinal Mushrooms (Chaga, Maitake, Reishi, etc.)
Like adaptogens mentioned above, medicinal mushrooms can be so much to so many. When I speak of medicinal mushrooms, I am not talking about hallucinogenic mushrooms (they are being heavily researched these days). For our purpose here, the three mentioned above are usually considered beneficial for immune health. Of the three, chaga (SibeliusTM: MyceliAid (SM)) may be the rising star. SM is wild harvested from the world’s largest certified organic forest, grown on birch trees (not on grain like most), and has unparalleled quality. SM is an example of a supplement I suggest for long-term immune system support.
Roman Chamomile (SibeliusTM: Chamomile (SC))
Like most of the botanicals mentioned in this blog, the use of Roman chamomile dates back centuries. Chamomile was even mentioned in the children’s story Peter Rabbit (his mother used it to calm his tummy down when he returned from Mr. McGregor’s Garden. SibeliusTM: Chamomile provides numerous benefits in stress, sleep, digestive health, female health (can help reduce cramps), and respiratory health. Studies specific to SC show improvements in sleep quality and duration, minor hay fever symptoms, and immune response concerning how the body responds to inflammation.
The use of saffron as a spice dates back thousands of years. In modern natural health, saffron, or in our case affron®, has provided multiple health benefits besides being a great color, flavor, and taste in our foods. Studies with affron® have shown it to help in several critical areas of health, including stress, mood, sleep, and menopause.
Sage (SibeliusTM: Sage (SS)
Dating back to over 4000 years, Ancient Egyptians believed it helped with infertility.[i] Sage has a longstanding reputation as traditional herbal remedies used by ancient Greek and Roman, Ayurvedic, Native American, and Chinese folk medicines. For centuries, sage has been used for pain relief, oxidative stress, inflammation, hot flashes, digestive problems, gas, bloating, high blood fats, cognitive performance, and memory.[ii] SibeliusTM: Sage has excellent research showing it improves word recall, short-term memory, enhances focus, improves secondary memory, and has been used safely in people 12-90 years of age. I have used it and can usually feel it working in about 20-30 minutes after taking it.
Honorable mention botanicals:
Tiger Nut Flour: High in minerals and resistant starch. Great for weight loss, gluten-free, and blood sugar control products.
Lemon Balm: Stress and sleep issues are so popular, and this herb helps immensely. It tastes great too.
Fenugreek: This herb helps with breast milk production, fights against inflammation, improves digestion, and increases libido in men.
[i] Salvia Kornati website, https://salvia.bio/sage-history/ Accessed 9/3/2019
[ii] Natural Medicines Website: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=504 Last reviewed 8/14/2019, Accessed September 4, 2019