Michael and Lesley Tierra's Blogs
Herbal, health and inspired life ramblings
During the 1970s on one of my trips to Bangalore in southern India, I made it a point to seek teachers, schools and hospitals that were exponents of Ayurvedic medicine, which at that time was still barely known in the western world (particularly the United States).
One Ayurvedic hospital I visited was a multi-story building with many departments dedicated to specialty treatments. Doctors in the leech therapy ward showed me how a patient with severe psoriasis lesions was nearly completely cured after an application of a single leech in the center of the lesion. They explained how the leech selectively drew out the 'bad blood' causing psoriasis and allowed for fresh new healing blood to circulate.
With its entrance situated on a busy street, the eye treatment ward was open to walk-in traffic and the usual session took only a few minutes to complete. It consisted of walking in through one door, where one used an eye cup to bathe each eye in well-strained triphala tea, followed by the application of a single drop of honey in each eye. Finally, after completing a simple series of eye exercises (rolling the eyes around clockwise, then counterclockwise, then quickly up-down, left-right, and diagonally) the patient walked out the next door.
India has always been concerned with maintaining eyesight, and cataract surgery was performed there as early as the 6th century BCE by the physician Sushruta.
Our vision is among the things that we all take for granted, until something goes wrong. Unfortunately, the deterioration of vision is one of the inevitable consequences of many actions, including aging.
The major source of eyestrain doctors once warned against was reading too much, especially in dim light. But with the advent of cameras, movies, TV, and computers, there is an increasing demand on our eyes and the need to maintain their health.
Check out the statistics on 'Americans Affected by Age-related Eye Disease' on Prevent Blindness America's website. The numbers of Americans affected by blindness and cataracts, among a host of other diseases, is staggering.
Turning 71 years young, I've had occasion to think about my eyes a lot lately. With years of abuse including long hours at the computer and yes, I must admit, TV, what can be done to help heal and preserve eye health?
(Pause as I interrupt the writing of this with an eye exercise, perhaps you might be persuaded to join me? Look away from the computer, roll your eyes a few times in both directions, and then in both diagonal directions. Rub your palms together and place them over both eyes for a minute. Now that is what I consider a refreshing break for the eyes! Anyone who works at a computer for long stretches should make it a point to do this every 30 minutes to help preserve your eyesight. Students in classrooms staring intently at a board, PowerPoint, teacher whatever should also be encouraged to practice such an eye break.)
Triphala eye treatment
The following is used as treatment of all the eye diseases mentioned in the link above as well as the more common eyestrain.
You will need the following:
- Triphala powder or you can use triphala tablets (I'm proud to say that under my direction, Planetary Herbals was the first company to introduce Triphala to the West and has the finest quality triphala available under the name 'Triphala Gold.')
- An eyecup, you can purchase this at a drug store
- Fine linen or cotton cloth for straining
- Potassium sorbate, an extremely safe food grade preservative that will prevent mold, fungus and bacteria from forming in the triphala eyewash solution. This is very cheap and available in most supermarkets or online.
- A small sterile jar with a tightly-fitted cap
Add one teaspoon of triphala powder or 4 Planetary Herbals Triphala Gold tablets to one cup of boiling water. Allow to stand covered overnight.
Strain the triphala water carefully through a fine cloth and be sure to remove all the solid particles.
Dissolve a quarter teaspoon of the potassium sorbate into the strained mixture.
Store your triphala solution in a small, sterile, tightly covered jar in your bathroom.
Partially fill the eyecup with the triphala solution and bathe one eye. Repeat this process on the other eye with new solution. There may be a very slight smarting sensation, but your eyesight and vision should feel immediately relieved and better afterward. In fact, you may not realize until after doing the triphala eyewash how much stress and tension you were carrying in your eyes.
Why use triphala?
Triphala is a formula that I consider the greatest in the world and that everyone should be taking not only for treatment but for maintaining health and wellness. Triphala is routinely prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians as at least part of a treatment for nearly all diseases. It is a common Indian household remedy so famous that one saying is 'No mother? Don't worry so long as you have triphala!'
Triphala consists of three medicinal fruits. Their English names are as follows: Belleric myrobalan, Chebulic myrobalan and Emblic myrobalan (Indian gooseberry). The popular Sanskrit names for the three herbs in triphala are Vibhitaki (or bibhitaki), Haritaki and Amalaki (or amla), respectively.
The advantages of triphala taken both internally and externally are its powerful, antioxidant-rich, nourishing, rejuvenating and detoxifying properties that work on the digestion, stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines and have no contraindications or adverse side effects. Triphala is safe for all ages. It can be taken daily or weekly as one so desires.
Taken long-term, triphala controls and reduces blood lipids, relieves high blood pressure as it improves blood circulation generally, reduces excess weight, regulates bowel movement even for those who suffer from laxative dependency, and gently treats IBS and other intestinal diseases. It helps detoxify the liver, is an effective treatment for acid reflux disease, and improves colon health by creating a chemical environment favorable to the proliferation of beneficial colon bacteria, either complementing or lessening the need for other probiotics. It heals ulcers, has extremely potent antioxidant activity and promotes the production of red blood cells.
As if all of this were not enough to expect of a single herbal formula, triphala is also good for the respiratory system, improving immunity, preventing and treating colds and coughs and helping to remove mucus accumulation from the chest. For the nervous system, triphala improves brain function, strengthens the nervous system, and prevents diabetic neuropathy. It helps counteract fatigue because of its ability to remove lactic acid, which is the main cause of fatigue. Triphala is anti-inflammatory and anti-viral as it stimulates bile secretion and normal peristalsis.
It may seem to many of you that I'm indulging myself in hyperbolic excess but I assure you, thousands of years and thousands of Ayurvedic physicians past and present can't be all wrong. If there ever was such a thing as an herbal panacea, triphala would be at the top of the list.
However, in most cases, and this is a plus, its benefits are not immediately felt (except for improved digestion and bowel function). This means that the effects of triphala are foundational and deeper. This is why all Ayurvedic physicians prescribe triphala as part of a treatment for all diseases and it is why it should be a mainstay of all health disciplines, conventional western, naturopathic, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chiropractic and so on. The integration of triphala into all forms of health care is the beginning of the creation of what I teach as Planetary Herbology: the integration of Western, Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine.
Honey for Eye Diseases
The use of honey as a treatment for the eyes extends far back in antiquity. As early as 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote that 'White honey . . . is as good as a salve for sore eyes.' Even as recently as 1945, in India, lotus honey was described as a panacea for the eyes. In places as distant as India and Russia during times when drugs were scarce, honey was used as standard practice with high efficacy for the treatment of all forms of inflammatory diseases of the eyes and styes. Honey for eye diseases is also used in Islamic medicine.
This page provides the most succinct and comprehensive presentation for the use of honey for treating eye diseases I could find.
As mentioned above in my recollection of the eye ward at the Ayurvedic clinic, they simply inserted a single drop of honey in each eye. However, the protocol outlined on the site given above seems much more systematic and beneficial. The entire process can take up to six months, but remember that most of the eye diseases described above are considered incurable. So the question is, how much is your eyesight worth?
Finally, another easy to apply natural eye remedy is castor oil. This is particularly good for treating dry eyes and cataracts. Simply apply two drops of pure castor oil in each eye before retiring to bed.
Almost exactly one year ago today, I published a blog post, 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Flu,' about the corporate-made H1N1 fraud.
Now, according to Digital Online, the German news source Der Spiegel published an exhaustive article describing how 30 representatives of Big Pharma met with WHO Director-General Chan and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at WHO headquarters for the sole purpose of discussing how to move the H1N1 threat to a phase 6 or pandemic level.
Once upon a time, the term 'pandemic' represented a critical worldwide health threat; somehow it was downgraded to simply mean a world disease.
Hopefully this will awaken more people to the threat of the takeover of the world's economies by multi-national corporations generally, and by Big Pharma in particular.
Few of us can fathom the threat posed by these companies. Having no allegiance to any country and so glutted with wealth, they can shift at will, moving their base from one part of the globe to another. In this way, they are able to benefit from lower operational costs and can bypass national regulations because international regulations, are weaker and more difficult to enforce. While this is true to an alarming extent for all large corporations, it is especially an issue with Big Pharma, whose particular power can hold the people of the world hostage to their mostly 'toxic' wares.
The Der Spiegel exposé, depicting Big Pharma's ability to cloud and influence the judgment of the director of the World Health Organization and of the United Nations for their personal profit, vividly illustrates the power and persuasion unique to that industry. It also makes credible the stories that assert, based on an analysis of the DNA strands of the H1N1 virus showing origin from various parts of the world, that the virus was deliberately created giving this entire hoax an even more Orwellian dimension than most of us are able or willing to embrace.
|The pomegranate (Punica granitum), highly touted these days as an antioxidant-rich superfruit, has an ancient metaphysical and culinary history. In fact, the image of the celebrated pomegranate was carved on the pillars of King Solomon's temple and was referenced several times in the Bible's Song of Songs of Solomon, as in the following verse:
Your cheek is like a half-pomegranate
Behind your veil.
(Song of Songs, 6:8)
The pomegranate has forever been likened to the shape of a woman's breast. An age-old herbal principle called the Doctrine of Signatures suggests that if an herb resembles a part of the body, it is likely a medicine for that part of the body. Perhaps this recent report published in the January 2010 issue of the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Prevention Research lends some credence to this bit of herbal folklore. Researchers at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, Calif., discovered a suppressive effect of compounds found in pomegranate on the proliferation of estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells. Earlier research showed that ellagic acid in pomegranates inhibits the enzyme known as aromatase that converts androgen to estrogen hormones which fuel a common type of breast cancer.
Similar anti-cancer ellagic acids are also found in other fruits such as raspberries and besides their use to inhibit breast cancer, it seems that they are also effective for prostate cancer.
It might be a bit too early to say exactly how much pomegranate should be consumed to help fight estrogen-responsive breast cancer, but we may be encouraged to find that more and more research shows that all long-feted pomegranate's recent grocery-store fame is more than just hype.
|In the marketplace, it is often more difficult to sell the general public on an herbal formula as opposed to a single herb. This is understandable, because people are usually driven to single herbs when they hear of some sensational effect associated with it.
For example, Ligusticum porteri (now available as a Planetary Herbals extract), commonly known as "osha," has been found to lower viral count in chronic hepatitis C patients. Traditionally, the herb is considered "big medicine" by southwestern natives who widely utilize this herb in ceremonies and as treatment for a wide variety of conditions including sore throat, and all viral diseases including the flu.
In the marketplace, a typical consumer presented with the choice of capsules of pure lomatium versus capsules of lomatium blended with other herbs would most likely choose the former.
Are formulations better than singles?
Assuming that it is well crafted by an experienced herbalist, a formula consisting of two or more herbs can often more effective than a single herb. The operative word here is 'can' not always.
Strange how often the first things you hear on your learning path often prove to hold the greatest weight in life. My first Chinese herb teacher, a Taoist named Foon Lee Wong who operates a curio shop on the outskirts of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, once off-handedly said that herbs used together represent more than anything we find in nature -- in other words, herbal formulations are 'unnatural' or perhaps 'supernatural,' as in beyond nature.
In a very real sense an herbalist uses herbs as a musician uses individual notes or an artist uses colors and shapes to create something unique and hopefully therapeutically effective.
Herbs are combined in formulas with particular objectives in mind. For example:
To complement or augment a primary intended therapeutic action: For instance, we might use more than one antiviral herb together to have a wider range of effect in treating viruses. Or we might use several complementary tonics together for a wider range of tonification.
Or, we might add some herbs because we can see the need to support an internal organic function in order to help the body achieve relief of a specific symptom. In other words, extra support for the digestive or urinary systems will help more effectively treat the underlying cause.
We might add in a smaller amount of an herb that slows down the liver's ability to neutralize any strange substance that enters its portals. Usually this would be a small amount of a spicy herb to bypass the liver P450 enzymes. This allows the active principles of an herb to remain in circulation longer than if it were used alone.
Or we might add a small amount of an antispasmodic herb to relieve any physiological resistance to the unique qualities (taste, texture, etc.) of an herb.
However one of the most fascinating phenomena around herbal formulation is how a particular combination, even a ratio of two or more herbs can biochemically optimize the primary ingredients in the herbs themselves.
Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine includes thousands of preparations, sometimes in exact prescribed rations and amounts that have been passed down over millennia because of some unique experientially proven benefit.
Given today's research capabilities, it is difficult enough to try to understand biochemically why some herbs do what they do. Each herb contains thousands of unique compounds. Compound this with trying to analyze an ancient traditional herbal formula containing two or more herbs, and you can see what a challenge this would be! (And that's assuming that there is a will and funding for such research - which by and large in the West there is scant little of either.)
Over 50% of all pharmaceutical drugs were or are derived from plants. Are there miracle cures in the vast but dwindling Amazon rain forest? Absolutely, but thus far only a handful of drugs have made it to market (including quinine, codeine, morphine, and cocaine). While visiting the Amazon, I spoke with one of the leading Western ethnobotanists whose job it is to discover and send back plants to pharmaceutical companies that may have a value in medicine. He said he's sent them hundreds but because they are unable to isolate, synthesize and therefore patent a single active constituent, all of this traditional knowledge of therapeutic plant usage goes to waste.
In the case of herbal formulas, the challenge to isolate and synthesize is exponentially greater.
Finally, research that supports formula synergy
So given all of the above, you can imagine how excited I get when I find a research paper that substantiates the value of an herbal formula over a single plant, in this case where the herbs work on each other to optimize certain therapeutic properties and effects.
While researching the effects of the Chinese herb dang gui (Angelica sinensis) as a blood tonic especially for women, I accidentally came upon a study of a famous ancient Chinese two-herb formula Dang gui bu xue tang (DBT) which consists of one part dang gui and five parts huang qi (astragalus root). This formula has a wide range of use and is traditionally prescribed alone with other herbs or in soups for anemia, uterine bleeding, post-partum bleeding, fatigue, and symptoms due to hormonal deficiency including osteoporosis.
The odd thing is that the formula is for blood deficiency but dang gui, the herb regarded as the sovereign blood tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is used in a much smaller amount than astragalus root, an herb used as a qi tonic. Why?
The study "Verification of the formulation and efficacy of Danggui Buxue Tang (a decoction of Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis): an exemplifying systematic approach to revealing the complexity of Chinese herbal medicine formulae" demonstrated the higher therapeutic efficacy of the two herbs together with the primary herb being a one fifth the ratio to its secondary counterpart.
The researchers speculated as follows:
"The saponins may liquefy and make the primary properties of ferulic acid and ligustilde in dang gui more bio-available. When boiled it seems that the ferulic acid and ligustilide in dang gui are oxidized and degraded which is far less when astragalus is combined in the 5:1 ratio with dang gui. Finally it's possible that the stability of the active constituents are improved by having the different plant chemicals together."
While none of this is conclusive, it sure supports Foon's notion that an herbal formula is more than the sum of its parts.
The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants by Anna Pavord (New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2005) is hardly a new book, but it's new to me and worth mention. This book reads like an exciting true life adventure -- a Raiders of the Lost Ark-type romp through 2,000 years of plant taxonomy (an enthusiastic description which, I confess, oversimplifies the subject matter somewhat).
I found this book to be a gem in its description of the history of how people came to tell one plant from another. Humans have needed to positively identify plants because of plants' usefulness as food, fuel, shelter, clothing, and last but not least, medicine. As an herbalist, this last part is of particular interest to me.
Consider how the discovery of North and South America and all the Pacific islands was the result of a search for herbs (i.e., a more direct spice route to the Far East). Consider how the first industry of North America was the export of vegetables and medicinal herbs that were quickly assimilated into the fabric of European culture. But despite this, it took until the 18th century and the system of taxonomy by Linnaeus for people to develop a way to to identify, name and classify plants!
From this wonderfully unique angle, Pavord weaves a fascinating and little known story, complete with beautiful illustrations. In The Naming of Names, we learn about most if not all of the most important herbals since the time of Dioscorides throughout the medieval period.
The book addresses several nagging questions that had been bumping around in the back of my mind for years. It also affirms at this crucial time the vital role Islamic scholars played in preserving and evolving the wisdom of the ancient world while Europe was mired in the anti-intellectual Christian "Dark Ages."
One question I had was: Why did the many versions of the old medieval manuscripts of Dioscorides' herbal have such primitive depictions of herbs described in the text? It turns out that such books were copied from original Arabic translations of Dioscorides by Islamic scholars, and enlightened as these scholars were when it came to preserving this knowledge, they were prevented from rendering real-life depictions of anything -- from Allah to his creation, including plants and animals. Thus, they had to resort to a more decorative rendering that often had little resemblance to any of the plants described in the text.
Of course this changed with the great herbals of the Renaissance and Enlightenment period, whose gorgeous and detailed botanical drawings and paintings are featured in The Naming of Names.
Pavord's book represented for me a fascinating 2,000 year-journey that helps us western herbalists to establish a connection with our past and perhaps even piece together the long-lost record of our own Western Traditional Medicine. Without the luxury of a written record like the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine systems, we need all the information we can get, and this book provides it beautifully. You can find it at Amazon here.
P.S. Maybe you'd like to read another review of mine -- this one on my other love, music. These are my impressions of the recent Mozart Festival at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA.
It's no secret that acid reflux is a widespread condition. Just think of all the antacid, Nexium or Prilosec advertisements you've seen lately. Some people eat Tums, an alkalinizing form of calcium, like candy.
But you don't have to resort to taking expensive prescription drugs or chewing bushels of antacids. If any condition is made to be treated by herbal therapy, it is acid reflux (or GERD, or heartburn).
What causes acid reflux? Among common causes are the following:
- an imbalanced diet, too high in irritating, hot, spicy and acidic foods (not including vinegar or lemons, however)
- stress and worry
- eating too fast
- not chewing well enough (chewing allows your saliva to predigest the food before it even reaches your stomach)
- erratic eating habits
- not enough water (especially after a meal)
- insufficient stomach acid
The most prevalent reason by far is insufficient stomach acid. When we don't have enough digestive secretions in our stomach, food is allowed to stay in the gut too long with resultant fermentation and gas. This is one reason that just about every culture in the world has its own bitters recipe. For example, I often recommend the Italian liqueur called Fernet-Branca to patients as a digestive bitters. A tablespoon before and/or after meals stimulates the secretion of saliva, bile and stomach acid, which in turn aids digestion. Ayurvedic medicine has a traditional wine called Draksha used for a similar purpose.
The old standby of a teaspoon each of pure, undistilled apple cider vinegar and raw honey stirred together in a small glass of warm water is a very effective treatment for about 85% of the cases of GERD.
In Ayurveda, a primary formula to aid digestion is called Avipattikar Churna. It consists of trikatu herbs (black and long pepper and ginger), cyperus, cardamom, cinnamon leaf, clovers trivit (Operculina turpethum), vidanga (Embelia ribes) and raw sugar. It is specific for hyperacidity, heartburn, biliousness, vomiting, indigestion, dropsy, rheumatism -- in other words, for any pitta (fire) type disorder. One to four grams or two to eight tablets are taken two or three times daily, after meals with warm water. This remedy is commonly available from Ayurvedic supply companies such as Bombay Bazaar of India in Berkeley or Banyan Botanicals.
Planetary Herbals has two products that can be used to aid digestion: Digestive Comfort Tablets and Digestive Grape Bitters.
If you have money to burn, you can try the pharmaceutical alternatives to the above simple remedies listed above. You may already know that pharmaceutical companies get to have an exclusive right to the sales of the products they produce for a period of seven years. When this term expires, other companies can manufacture similar products as 'generics' at a greatly reduced cost. The heartburn drug Prilosec is one of the best-selling prescription medicines in history. Sales in the past five years alone amount to $26 billion. The reason is not only its popularity but its steep price: about $4 per pill.
As it so happens, the patent for Prilosec expired April of 2001. Still there is no inexpensive generic on the market to take its place. This is because in 1995, a team of lawmakers and scientists, aptly called (I kid you not) 'Shark Fin,' seeing the end of its Prilosec cash cow coming, began a list of nearly 50 possible solutions to the patent-expiration disaster facing the company.
One list item was to find a new heartburn remedy that would work better. No, it's not apple cider vinegar and honey, nor Digestive Comfort, nor a digestive bitters and not even Avipattikar Churna. It is the successor to Prilosec known as Nexium, and like its predecessor was originally sold for $4 a pill, but you can find it available at varying discount market prices averaging around $1 a pill. Now the successor to Prilosec and Nexium is called Prevacid and it is sold for, you guessed it: $4 a pill.
The fact is all of these products produce pretty much the same results. None of them are curative in any way; in fact, by suppressing digestive acids, it's a question as to whether they will ever treat the underlying cause of the disease.
The problem is that an otherwise simple-to-treat condition like acid reflux is often mismanaged or allowed to linger so long as to cause physical damage that takes a lot longer to repair.
Those with an advanced case of GERD may find pharmaceutical products necessary (but shop around for generics and check off-shore sales on the internet). If your esophagus is not badly eroded, it is possible to eventually heal your condition. For some, the questionable choice of laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery is an option. Ironically, assuming all goes well with the surgery, for the rest of your life you will have to eat very slowly and smaller than usual amounts -- something that should have been done before GERD ever became a degenerative, chronic condition.
How do you know you have bad digestion even before you experience heartburn? Bloating, swollen abdomen after meals, and sometimes a lot of gas. Charcoal tablets are the most immediate remedy to stop farting and gas but they are not a true fix. If these problems are allowed to persist, you may eventually end up having to treat the more serious condition of GERD.
The moral of this blog is: If you have digestive problems of any sort, don't wait until they cause damage that is impossible to reverse. Give the natural remedies suggested here a try or visit your local herbalist.
For a good 'romp in the hay' this Valentine's Day, be sure the hay is oat straw!
Wild oat straw and its seeds foster the right balance of relaxation and enhanced libido for both men and women.
Sowing your Wild Oats
For their aphrodisiac effect, it's the milky sap of the green unripe grain (shown at right) that gives the most 'bang for the buck,' so to speak. Wild oats have been known to act as a noticeable sexual stimulant for horses and other animals, which seems to suggest that they have the same effect on humans of both sexes. Avena sativa extract contains an amorphous alkaloid which acts as a stimulant to the nervous ganglia producing an increase of 'ready to go' excitability of the muscles in horses and humans.
Testosterone means increased sex drive
One of the main effects of testosterone is increased libido. While often associated with males, testosterone is also produced in women's ovaries. Studies show that a low libido in either sex is most likely caused by low testosterone.
Let's get something straight here: no herb contains identical human hormones. Claims that wild yam, dang gui or black cohosh contain estrogen are false. Similarly, wild oats contain no human testosterone. Considering that only 2% of human testosterone is in a free state, the remaining 98% is in a state bound to protein molecules. It is thought that Avena sativa acts to increase libido by freeing bound testosterone.
Because Avena sativa is a restorative, (as opposed to Viagra which is contraindicated by men who are at risk for cardiovascular disease) it is an effective and safer alternative to male-female virility drugs. Besides, not accounting for the placebo effect which is likely to be considerable with any intended sex drug, Viagra has been found to work on only 42% of the men who take it, according to published studies.
For more chronic sexual debility, one may need to take Avena extract on a daily basis over the course of several days to weeks. Over long term use, the benefit is more systemic, with oats being beneficial for lowering cholesterol (especially true of the high fiber cereal), restoring a burned out nervous system, and promoting an overall feeling of health and well being.
Avena sativa may even help your love life by getting rid of bad smoker's breath!
Bad breath is an instant turn-off and desire diminisher. This could be due to hyper-acidic Stomach Heat (as the condition is patterned in Traditional Chinese Medicine) or, very commonly, from smoking.
In the case of the latter, an effective remedy to help break the tobacco habit is Avena sativa extract. Simply take a dose of 20 to 30 drops of the liquid extract whenever you feel the urge for tobacco.
Planetary Herbal Formulas for Increasing Libido
I developed two special Planetary Herbals formulas, Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Men and Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Women.
Herbalists know that when taken in formula, herbs become more than a sum of any of its corresponding parts. When a formula is carefully blended, the sum combination of all the herbs working on different systems of the body, bringing into play hundreds of biochemical constituents, is stronger than a single herb taken alone.
Avena Sativa Oat Complex For Men has additional benefit for the prostate and the buildup of seminal fluid. It combines milky oat tops extract with saw palmetto berry, stinging nettle root, damiana, epimedium ('horny goat weed'), Asian ginseng, sarsaparilla, rosehip, cinnamon bark and ginkgo leaf extract.
Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Women combines milky oat tops with dong quai root, white peony root, ligusticum root, circuligo orchid, ginger, alfalfa, vitex seed, jujube fruit and cinnamon bark.
Remember, a healthy libido is a life-affirming indication of overall health and well-being. It is usually accompanied with a general zest and interest for life. Rather than simply trying to treat a problem such as erectile dysfunction, pain or lack of feeling during intercourse, or low libido, it is wiser to look to the cause in terms of diet, stress, emotional and other aspects that directly or indirectly contribute to our nature as vital sexual beings. Herbs such as Avena sativa can be considered a 'special food,' first for our nervous system overall and specifically for increasing sexual desire.
I'm rounding out this trio of blogs on diet and weight management with the following 20 tips. Under each tip is a link to a supporting article or study.
1. If it's on your plate, you will eat it. Develop the habit of taking small portions. This is a variation on the notion that our 'eyes are bigger than our stomach' or rather, 'our eyes are bigger than we want our stomach to become'.
Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake: This study showed that we are poor judges of satiety and often rely on visual cues to signal when our hunger has been fulfilled rather than relying on what our stomachs actually tell us.
2: Don't eat mindlessly. Be attentive to the amount as well as the flavor of your food.
At the Movies: How External Cues and Perceived Taste Impact Consumption Volume: This study showed that packaging combined with the distraction of entertainment not only prevented people from judging how much they ate depending on amount, but also with little regard to flavor!
3. Make a practice of NOT CLEANING YOUR PLATE, especially in restaurants.
Restaurant Portions Are Gargantuan: When you wish to eat a particular food, it is assumed you are eating one serving of that food. Most restaurants serve portions that really are for three or four people. When we see huge portions so often, they start to look normal.
4. In restaurants, ask for half the food to be wrapped to take home BEFORE it is
served to you. See the tip and study above.
5. Keep a diet diary. Record whatever you eat and tally your calories before you go to bed each night. A combination of calorie accountability based on their unique point counting method and the scale forms the basis of Weight Watchers, arguably the most successful dieting method.
Losing Weight: Start by Counting Calories: Studies have shown that dieters who jot down everything they eat in a diet diary tend to eat less than those who don't keep a written record of their food intake. Bad eating habits are hard to break but the act of writing down everything eaten throughout day goes a long way towards allowing us to consider "Am I really hungry?" before putting that morsel of indulgence into your mouth. It also allows a health professional to evaluate whether in fact you are eating a 'healthy diet.' For the serious dieter, I recommend enrolling onto an online data program such as the one found on MyFoodDiary.com will compare what you are eating with a massive database of 65,000 foods, 850 brands and 250 restaurants, showing you all that you need. This will also help you to maintain strict records of the amount of calories you are eating each day.
6: Break up your weight-loss goals into small manageable units of pounds to be lost. Concentrate on losing one unit at a time.
Little Losses, Big Gains: Just the loss of 5% to 10% will relieve symptoms and complications related to being overweight. Don't intimidate yourself by thinking you have a huge amount of weight to lose. Instead, think of losing 8-10 pounds at a time. Just that small amount of weight lost is enough to make you feel much better.
7: The Nutrition Facts panel on your food is important. Learn how to read it here and be sure inspect it before you purchase or eat a particular food.
"Food Rules" author Michael Pollan offers some basic guidelines to purchasing food and a lot of it has to do with knowing how to navigate that Nutrition Facts label stuck on every package.
Beware of sugar and all its disguises. Learn to recognize it by its many names on the ingredient lists of your food. The ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup is a particularly problematic form of sugar, mostly because of the refinement processes used to make it. It is present in countless food products and is linked to obesity, allergies, and diabetes.
Finally, learn about good fats versus bad fats and how to identify them on the Nutrition Facts label. Don't cut out all fat but limit it in amount and use good quality, unsaturated fats and oils from nuts, avocado, canola, olive and sesame. These good fats and oils are all high in mono-unsaturated fat which have actually been shown to help in weight loss.
Polyunsaturated fats in the Omega 3 group of fatty acids are also needed in the diet. These lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and are found in salmon, flax, corn, safflower, sunflower, and fish oils.
Bad fats are saturated and found mainly in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs (which despite the fat content I consider one of the most perfect proteins) and seafood. Some plant foods such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fat. It is claimed that this type of fat raises total LDL (bad cholesterol).
The seriously bad fats are trans fats. As hydrogenated fats, these were invented by scientists to prolong shelf life. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods including deep fried foods, microwave popcorn, vegetable shortening and margarine. These are known to be carcinogenic and are present in countless foods. As a general rule, don't eat anything that has "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" in its ingredient list, even if 0% trans fat is listed in its Nutrition Facts label. For more details on good and bad fats, read this.
8. Eat breakfast every morning.
Long-Term Weight Loss and Breakfast in Subjects in the National Weight Control Registry: This study showed that people who ate breakfast every morning lost weight and were better able to keep it off after losing than those who did not.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Depending on whether we have adequate protein and other nutrients for breakfast, mitigates in a direct one-to-one ratio the amount of abnormal cravings we are likely to have throughout the day.
9. Turn the TV off , especially during meals.
Television Viewing and Long-Term Weight Maintenance: People who spend less time in front of the TV are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
Food provides two vitally important aspects to life: nutrition and satisfaction. A lack of satisfaction invariably leads to overeating. These days, the dinner table has been replaced by a seat in front of the TV. Besides all the other richness of life that is lost as a result of enjoying each other at mealtimes, our attention to our food is diverted to what is showing on the TV with the result that we unconsciously tend to eat more.
10: Eat at home as often as you can. Just preparing your own food is an effective treatment for most eating disorders.
Learn to cook. This is especially true for younger people today who have grown to rely on eating out. Some cultures believe as do I, that the subtle vibration that is imparted in the process of cooking is important not only nutritionally but for our psycho-spiritual wellbeing as well.
Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population: A study in Massachusetts of 500 adults over a year found that those with the highest risk of overweight and obesity were those who ate the most meals out. The study also evaluated the nutritional content of meals eaten at home versus those eaten away from home. Breakfasts and dinners eaten away from home were significantly higher in total calories, percentage of calories from total fat, and percentage of calories from saturated fat. Meanwhile, they were lower in their percentage of calories from protein, carbohydrate, and fiber.
11: Buy a digital scale and a tape measure. Use them every morning.
Despite the occasional plateaus that can be discouraging as we work to lose weight, the act of weighing ourselves helps us to keep our focus.
12: Walk more!
Effects of the amount of exercise on body weight, body composition, and measures of central obesity: Even without diet changes, most people can lose weight if they walk at least 30 minutes a day.
As with other changes start with small ones such as taking the stairs as opposed t the elevator, walking to the grocery store instead of driving, parking your car as far from your destination as possible. If you use public transportation, get off a stop earlier than your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.
13: Chew your food well and eat slowly.
Eating Slowly Makes You Feel Full: This goes along with the limiting the many distractions while we are eating. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island fed a group of women some pasta. Half of the women were instructed to eat very slowly and half were told to eat quickly. When the eaters were interviewed after the meal, the fast eaters had eaten more calories and did not feel full. The slow eaters ate less, and felt full.
14: Stick to a boring menu. Eliminate choices, and stay away from buffets.
The Influence of Assortment Structure on Perceived Variety and Consumption Quantities: Six kinds of jelly beans versus one? Where there appears to be more variety of the same kind of food, people eat more.
We need to achieve a balance between 'living to eat and eating to live.' Too many choices of foods, eating too many different foods overstimulates our senses so that we tend to always look at food and eating as the main event in our lives. One of the most effective ways we use to help people regain their health and lose unwanted pounds is a mono diet based on eating only brown basmati rice and split yellow mung beans in an East Indian dish called kicharee (scroll down for the recipe).
15: Eat alone when possible. Limit your social eating to a few friends. Meet with larger groups of friends while walking, or in a non-food environment.
Environmental Factors That Increase the Food Intake and Consumption Volume of Unknowing Consumers: Many people tend to eat more when they are in a relaxed setting with friends as opposed to eating alone.
16: Serve yourself dinner on a salad-sized plate. Use smaller sized spoons, too. Your portions will look larger and you will eat less.
Unit Bias: A New Heuristic That Helps Explain the Effect of Portion Size on Food Intake: Scientists have found that people eat as much as what one serving appears to be (whether large or small), regardless of hunger.
17. If you have kids, limit their fatty foods and junk foods marketed specifically to their age group. Buy food that is good for you, it'll be good for them, too.
Adult Fat Intake Associated with the Presence of Children in Households: Findings from NHANES III: This study found that adults living in families with children ate far more fatty foods than adults living alone or with only other adults.
18: Don't just exercise to lose weight. Take up a sport or some physical activity that you enjoy doing.
Go Figure? Body-Shape Motives are Associated with Decreased Physical Activity Participation Among Midlife Women: This study found that women who had fun and stress relief as their main motivators for exercise led to increased physical activity.
19: Keep healthy foods accessible and visible. Don't buy and store unhealthy foods in your home or office, because you may eat more than you intend to.
The office candy dish: proximity's influence on estimated and actual consumption: Knowing that visibility and proximity can influence your estimation of how much you eat can be a useful tool in the battle to keep weight off.
20: Get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Food is used by humans for many reasons, required nourishment, comfort but also for stimulation. When we eat, we momentarily stimulate our metabolism, which provides short-term energy for an exhausted body. Recognize when you are turning to food more for stimulation rather than for nourishment.
Leptin Levels Are Dependent on Sleep Duration: Relationships with Sympathovagal Balance, Carbohydrate Regulation, Cortisol, and Thyrotropin: While they are sleeping humans produce leptin, the hormone that signals the brain to let it know that it is full and it is time to stop eating. The sleep-deprived may produce less leptin, which leads to hunger and overeating.
Herbal Suggestions and Supplements
Planetary Herbal's Triphala Gold used regularly is the one single herbal formula that I would recommend daily not only because it helps achieve balanced detoxification without depleting the system of vital nutrients, but because it is the richest source of natural antioxidants.
In addition for any digestive disturbance, including bloat, gas, acid reflux and other conditions such as headache causes by poor digestion, 2 to 3 tablets of Planetary's Digestive Comfort seems to always bring relief.
Health and well-being is the foundation for everything, including success in worldly endeavors and spiritual pursuits. I hope these principles derived from my own experience and many other sources will help you to achieve a optimal health and well-being so you can attain your life's dreams and goals in this new year.
As I mentioned in last week's blog, exercise and wise dieting principles aren't enough to help you reach your optimal weight. Portion control is essential.
Just how important is portion control? In one study, Cornell University researchers David Levitsky and Trisha Youn offered a group of students free lunch for several weeks. Everything the students consumed was secretly measured and weighed. Meanwhile, portions of soup, pasta, breadsticks and ice cream were increased significantly every week. Guess what happened: the students just ate whatever portions were served! The scientists concluded that portion size determines calorie intake.
Many of us have a problem with knowing when we are satiated. If you'd like to pay closer attention to the amount of food you consume at a meal, read on for serving sizes suggested by the American Dietetic Association. All of these serving sizes may be regarded as "approximate ounce equivalents."
Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta
Grains embody all aspects of a plant in seed form. They are generally regarded as being the food most balanced in Yin (cooling and eliminative) and Yang (warming and building) qualities. Select grains depending on your digestive strength (this is determined by such things as abdominal bloating or gas after meals): eat unrefined whole grains if you have strong digestion, or eat more refined grains if your digestion is weak.
One serving equals:
- 1 slice of bread, a about the size of a plastic CD case
- 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal, about the size of a tennis ball
- 1 ounce of cold cereal
Vegetables, especially above ground vegetables, generally supply the necessary yin, cooling and detoxifying aspects of our diet. Most root vegetables, on the other hand, tend to be warmer in energy, but perhaps not so warm as grains. As I mentioned in my last post, it's important to have a balanced diet of yin/cool and yang/warm foods.
Vegetable servings are best measured in cups rather than ounces.
One serving equals:
- 1/2 cup of ovegetable juice or raw or cooked vegetables (about the size of a light bulb)
- 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables
Fruit is the most cooling and eliminating food group in a balanced diet. They are also the most seasonally sensitive. Eating fruits as they are seasonally ripened in your area is a way to fine tune blood chemistry in terms of density and other chemical elements that help us to adjust to seasonal and climatic influences. People who live in the country appreciate this more than people who live in the city where awareness of seasonal limitations tends to be ignored in favor of year-round availability. Nevertheless, we all are affected by the barometric, climatic and other elements that are part of the cycle of life. Fruits that are not locally grown or out of season are not completely tree ripened and thus deprived of flavor and nutrients. Most of us can adapt to eating out of season fruits in modest portions. Because fruits come in so many different shapes and sizes, it's hard to say how many pieces of fruit count as a serving.
One serving equals:
- 1 cup of fruit (about the size of 7 cotton balls or 1 baseball) or 100 percent fruit juice
- 1/2 cup of dried fruit
- 1 serving size of whole fruit (about the size of 1 tennis ball)
(Those who may be unable to consume the necessary daily intake of vegetables and fruit may try Planetary Herbals' new Vita Greens & Berries that contains 59 fruits, vegetables, and immune factors that help you to meet daily fruit and vegetable needs. )
Dairy Products - Milk, Cheese and Yogurt
A common mistake that many make is to use dairy for all their protein needs. Milk is just one molecule different from blood and so it is vitally important that we have the best quality dairy we can find. Ideally it should not be homogenized. Because of its congesting, mucus-forming properties, it should never be taken cold out of the refrigerator, but served warm. I have seen just this practice alone eliminate the symptoms of many who believed they were allergic to dairy.
Many people (especially those of African and Asian descent) are unable to digest the lactose in dairy. Rather than taking a lactase supplement, if would be best if these people would simply eliminate dairy entirely from their diet.
As we get older, our need for the body-building properties of milk is less, and it is better to receive the benefits of dairy from a probiotic cultured food such as yogurt. Because it is still dense and a bit congesting, yogurt should be avoided in the evening and is best taken midday. The same would apply to cottage cheese.
Because the fat globules are closer to those naturally occurring in human milk, goat's milk is the best dairy to use. While for many the flavor of goat's milk is not as appealing as that of cow's milk, goat cheese seems to meet with a lot less resistance and is even preferred.
Choose low-fat options from this group whenever possible.
One serving equals:
- 1 cup of milk or yogurt
- 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese (about the size of two 9-volt batteries or the size of your thumb)
- 1.5 cups of ice cream
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
Protein forms the basic building block of the body. Some people require more protein than others and some may require 'first class' protein derived from animal or dairy sources. The best choice for animal protein is organic.
Beans and whole grains have a full complement of all the amino acids necessary to form a complete protein. In order to have a chance at thriving on a strictly vegetarian diet, it is essential that beans and whole grains make up a significant part of the diet.
Animal-source protein is called 'first class' protein because it is more immediately assimilated into the body. Vegetable-source protein in the form of legumes is called 'second class' protein because the body has to go through more physiological processes to digest and assimilate it. This is one of the reasons that it is necessary to soak grains and legumes 12 hours before cooking, and it is also why some Indian legume dishes are heavily spiced with carminative (digestive) herbs. Switching from animal to bean sources of protein can cause digestive disturbance in the form of bloating and gas. The transition should be done carefully, adhering to the soaking and spicing practices mentioned above.
In terms of fish, the most healthful fish with the least contamination from heavy metals are the fast growing and fast maturing fish such as sardines. One of the lesser known secrets and indeed a corner stone of the Mediterranean diet, considered to be the most healthful in the world because of its emphasis on vegetables and olive oil, is the wide use of small fish such as sardines and smelt.
One serving or ounce equivalent equals:
- 1 ounce of cooked lean meat or poultry (3 ounces is about the size of 1 deck of cards)
- 1 ounce of cooked fish (3 ounces is about the size of 1 checkbook)
- 1/4 cup dried beans, after cooking
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (2 servings is about the size of a roll of 35 mm film or a ping pong ball)
- 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds
Oils and Fats
Because oils are found in many of the foods we eat, there may not be a need to add this group to your diet. For example, half of a medium avocado or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide 3 and 4 teaspoons or servings of oil respectively, while also counting towards your vegetable or nuts allowance. This is a highly controversial food group with recommendations by many to use them sparingly.
- 1 serving/teaspoon of butter or oil spreads should be equal to the size of one die
- 2 serving/teaspoons of salad dressing should be about the size of one thumb tip
A portion of snack food, such as small crackers, potato chips or pretzels, should be one ounce.
Keep in mind that most portions in the U.S. are oversized and contain several servings of the recommended categories. Ideally, most of your diet should be composed of whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat calcium fortified foods (such as milk and cottage cheese), and lean sources of protein (such as fish, turkey, and chicken).
Next up: 20 tips for achieving optimal weight and healthy eating!
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