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M AY 2019





Natural energy boosters Beetroot juice for athletes Healthy pregnancy guide

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May 2019 vol. 15 no. 5




12 feature

6 From the Editor’s Desk 8 Health Pulse

Essential oils may ease Lyme symptoms • CBD may relieve pain and anxiety • The latest on postbiotics • More

16 Healthspan

Strike the right balance when it comes to salt.

20 Supplement Spotlight

your pregnancy plan Nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

Simple lifestyle changes can improve bone density.

23 Healthy Glow

Learn ways to stave off hair loss.

25 Everyday Remedies

Get relief from PMS symptoms, naturally.

26 Herbal Healing

Feeling fatigued? These herbs can help.

29 Sports Nutrition

Boost endurance and recovery time with beet extracts. Cover: Himalayan pink salt.

A source for news, information, and ideas for your healthy lifestyle.


@RemediesRecipes May 2019  

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from the editor ’s desk

Unsalted We salted just about everything in our house when I was a kid. Meat, potatoes, vegetables. Even green salads. Our snacks were salty peanuts, crackers, pretzels, chips. If it didn’t have salt on it, it was probably too bland to bother with. And I never heard a word suggesting that salt might be bad for you. Neither of my parents (or me, so far) developed any significant blood-pressure issues, so we seem to be among those who aren’t particularly affected. As Marsha McCulloch writes in “The Healing Power of Salt” (page 16), “only 25 percent of people with normal blood pressure are salt sensitive.” As I moved into adulthood, warnings about the potential health risks of too much salt made me rethink my seasoning practices. I discovered oregano, paprika, and other spices that taste a lot better than salt. These days I almost never add it to my food, and I don’t miss it at all. There’s plenty of sodium in any prepared foods I do eat, so I’m certainly not concerned about getting too little. But I learned a lot from the article about the surprising health values of salt, especially in its unrefined forms. This month’s issue of remedies also offers a comprehensive look at key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy (page12), the potential athletic gains from beet juice (29), and the energy benefits provided by adaptogenic herbs (page 26). Here’s to a healthy springtime.

Chief Content Officer and Strategist Lynn Tryba Contributing Editor Rich Wallace Assistant Editor Kelli Ann Wilson Art Director Michelle Knapp Graphic Designer Ronna Rajaniemi Custom Graphics Manager Donna Sweeney Business Development Director Amy Pierce Customer Service Client Services Director—Retail Judy Gagne 800-677-8847 x128 Client Services Director—Advertising and Digital Ashley Dunk 800-677-8847 x190 Western Brand Promotions Director Shannon Dunn-Delgado 415-382-1665 Group Brand Promotions Director Bob Mucci 603-831-1868 Executive Director of Retail Sales and Marketing Anna Johnston ( Retail Account Manager Kim Willard Founder and Chief Executive Officer T. James Connell

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, FASN, FACN, CNS, professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and director, Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University; Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director, American Botanical Council, editor/publisher of HerbalGram, senior editor, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs; C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD, research geochemist, author, Natural Asthma Relief and Prevent, Treat, and Reverse Diabetes; Steven Foster, photographer, herbalist, and senior author of three Peterson Field Guides, author of 101 Medicinal Herbs, A Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine and more, associate editor of HerbalGram, the journal of the American Botanical Council; John Neustadt, ND, founder of Montana Integrated Medicine, coauthor, A Revolution in Health Through Nutritional Biochemistry; Lisa Petty, RHN, RNCP, holistic nutrition consultant, author of Living Beauty and host of the health talk radio show Lisa Live; Dana Ullman, MPH, author of The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy and other titles on homeopathy; Marc Ullman, partner at Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, chairman, Legal Advisory Counsel, Natural Products Foundation; Amber Lynn Vitse, CN, is certified in Integrative Nutrition, a fusion bodyworker, and an Ayurvedic practitioner, and writes on health issues. remedies is published monthly by Taste for Life, 149 Emerald Street, Suite O, Keene, NH 03431, 603-283-0034 (fax 603-283-0141); ©2019 Connell Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. This magazine is not intended to provide medical advice on personal health conditions, nor to replace recommendations made by health professionals. The opinions expressed by contributors and sources quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the editor or the publisher. Advertisers and advertising agencies assume liability for all content of advertising and for any claims arising therefrom. Information appearing in remedies may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express permission of the publisher.

Creative and Sales Offices: 149 Emerald Street, Suite O, Keene NH 03431 603-283-0034 Printed in the US on partially recycled paper.

Rich Wallace, editor

The inks used to print the body of this publication contain a minimum of 20%, by weight, renewable resources.

Products advertised or mentioned in this magazine may not be available in all locations. 6  remedies 

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essential oils may curb Lyme symptoms Essential oils from garlic and other plants were found to inhibit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Researchers determined that the oils may help relieve symptoms that have been resistant to antibiotic treatment. Oils from garlic cloves, myrrh trees, thyme leaves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, and cumin seeds were among the most effective. “We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the ‘persister’ forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antiobiotics,” said lead author

Ying Zhang, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. About 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually in the US. Standard antibiotics are usually effective, but up to 20 percent of patients report continuing symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain. The study was done in laboratory dishes. Essential oils should not be taken orally or applied undiluted to the skin. “Essential oils from garlic and other herbs kill ‘persister’ Lyme disease bacteria,” Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 12/3/18 l “Identification of essential oils with strong activity against stationary phase Borrelia burgdorferi” by J. Feng et al., Antiobiotics (Basel), 10/18

what are postbiotics? Probiotic bacteria are known for their positive effects on gut health. Prebiotic foods help fuel those probiotics. But the term postbiotics is relatively unknown. It refers to substances secreted by gut bacteria, and they appear to play a significant role in human physiology. Researchers believe they may affect inflammation, immunity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other systems. Certain foods and nutritional supplements may boost postbiotic concentrations. Among them are spirulina and chlorella algae, certain enzymes, and mycelium, a component of mushrooms. “Postbiotics: An evolving term within the functional foods field” by J.E. Aguilar et al., Trends in Food Science & Technology, 5/18 l “Postbiotics: Uses + 5 benefits for gut health & beyond” by Jillian Levy,, 7/31/17

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arts education boosts grades Students who took an elective arts class in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade had higher grade-point averages and better scores on standardized reading and math tests compared to peers who did not take the classes. The decade-long study followed more than 30,000 lowincome children from kindergarten through eighth grade to determine a baseline level of their academic accomplishments. Lead researcher Adam Winsler, PhD, of George Mason University noted that middle school is a key period for brain development. The study found that students who chose arts electives tended to have had better grades in elementary school as well as stronger social, behavioral, and cognitive skills than their peers. But even taking those traits into account, those who took the arts classes—regardless of their previous attributes—were more likely to improve academically and socially. The researchers concluded that access to arts education “can be seen as an issue of social justice,” and that “we need to protect and enhance” such access. “Middle school music and theater students get better grades” by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard,, 2/12/19

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cannabinoid creams offer itch relief Anti-inflammatory substances in cannabinoids may be useful for a wide range of skin diseases. That’s the conclusion of a study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, which noted that cannabinoids may be effective in treating eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. “Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch,” said dermatologist Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, the senior author of the study. He pointed to a trial that found relief from severe itching in patients who applied a cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks. “Cannabinoids may help soothe certain skin diseases, study shows,”, 4/18/17 l “The role of cannabinoids in dermatology” by J.S. Mounessa et al., JAAD, 7/17

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CBD shown to ease pain Low doses of cannabidiol (CBD) were found to relieve pain and anxiety in a new study of laboratory animals. Researchers said the two symptoms are linked to neuropathic or chronic pain. CBD was administered for seven days. Lead author Gabriella Gobbi, MD, PhD, said the findings enhance the potential use of cannabis in human medicine, with CBD seen as a safe alternative to THC and opioids for back pain, sciatica, and chronic pain associated with cancer, diabetes, and trauma. “Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior . . .” by D. De Gregorio et al., Pain, 1/19 l “Cannabis pain relief without the ‘high,’” McGill University Health Centre, 10/24/18

did you know? A recent review of studies found cancer-fighting benefits from cannabis extracts “on several levels of cancer progression,” including these: • S  topping cancer cells from dividing and invading normal tissue. • B  locking blood supply to tumors. • E  nhancing the body’s immune response against the growth and spread of tumors. “Cannabinoids may have a vast array of anti-cancer benefits,” Wiley, 7/18/18

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By remedies staff


pregnancy plan

key nutrients can help ensure a healthy baby

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Much recent research has focused on the nutritional needs of momsto-be, both for the mother’s own health and that of the baby.

While eating a balanced diet is essential, nutritional supplements can be an important part of the plan. Discuss the following nutrients with your healthcare practitioner, and also consider a daily multivitamin/mineral. Here is a look at some of the latest studies.

Folic acid

Folic acid is highly recommended as a supplement, as it has been shown to help guard against birth defects. Studies have pointed to a reduction in the risk of anencephaly and spina bifida from supplements of this B vitamin. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women of child-bearing age take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 to 800 micrograms. “Since neural tube defects occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is important for women to be taking the recommended amount of folic acid before they become pregnant,” said Laura E. Mitchell, PhD, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at the Houston School of Public Health. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the B vitamin folate.


Choline is a micronutrient that’s similar to the B vitamins. When pregnant women eat a diet that’s rich in choline, their children tend to have better memories, according to a recent study. Choline is found in lean red meat, fish, poultry, egg yolks, beans and other legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. It’s readily available as a supplement too. The women in the study all consumed the same diet during their third trimester, but one group received 480 milligrams (mg) per day of choline, and the other group received 930 mg. Researchers later tested the infants for information processing and memory several times during the first 13 months after birth. The babies whose mothers had taken higher amounts of choline tested consistently better.

Omega-3 fatty acids

One study found taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy greatly reduced the likelihood of childhood asthma. The risk in some children was lowered by more than 50 percent. Pregnant women received 2.4 grams per day of EPA and DHA omega 3s from fish oil during their last trimester of pregnancy. Their children were then assessed for five years. The researchers found a 31 percent reduction in asthma risk. For mothers who had low blood levels of the omega 3s at the beginning of the study, their children’s risk fell by 54 percent. Inflammation in the airways and lungs is a significant factor in asthma. Fatty acids from fish oil help reduce inflammation. May 2019  

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A 2018 study found that children whose mothers took fish oil capsules while pregnant and breastfeeding were less likely to have certain allergies. Researchers also found that if a mother took a probiotic supplement during those times, her child had a reduced risk of eczema. “Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition, and these findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated,” said lead author Robert Boyle, PhD. His team’s findings included the following: • Women who took a probiotic supplement from 36 weeks of pregnancy through three to six months of breastfeeding lowered the risk of eczema in their child by 22 percent. • Women who took a fish oil capsule beginning at 20 weeks of pregnancy and during the first three to four months of breastfeeding reduced the risk of egg allergy in their child by 30 percent. • Women’s avoidance of potentially allergenic foods such as nuts, dairy products, or eggs during pregnancy did not affect a child’s risk for allergies or eczema. • Fish oil intake by women during pregnancy may reduce a child’s risk of peanut allergy.

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Better mornings A common and misunderstood condition of pregnancy is morning sickness, which certainly isn’t confined to mornings. It can last anywhere from a few days to the entire length of the pregnancy— though symptoms are often worst during the first nine to 12 weeks. One of the most recommended treatments for morning sickness, in both conventional and alternative circles, is ginger. An encouraging study looked at the efficacy of ginger syrup mixed in water. Twenty-six patients were given either one tablespoon of ginger syrup or a placebo in water four times daily, and their nausea and vomiting were measured over nine days. About three fourths of the women who received the ginger syrup had a significant improvement in nausea. For most of those women, daily vomiting ceased by day six. Fortunately, ginger comes in many forms, allowing women to choose how they take it. Look for supplements and syrups as well as tea, natural ginger ale, and other options. “Ginger syrup as an antiemetic in early pregnancy” by A. Keating and R.A. Chez, Altern Ther Health Med. 2002

“Daily folic acid supplementation remains important for prevention of birth defects,” University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 1/10/17 l “Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease . . .” by V. Garcia-Larsen et al., PLOS Medicine, 2/28/18 l “Eating more foods with choline during pregnancy could boost baby’s brain,” Cornell University, 1/4/18 l “Fish oil and probiotic supplements in pregnancy may reduce risk of childhood allergies,” Imperial College London, 2/28/18 l “Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed . . .” by M.A. Caudill et al., FASEB J, 12/7/17 l “Omega-3 supplements can prevent childhood asthma,” University of Waterloo, 12/29/16 l “Taking fish oil during pregnancy is found to lower child’s asthma risk” by Denise Grady, The New York Times,, 12/28/16

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the healing power of salt why you need this much-maligned spice

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Salt tends to get a bad rap, but this flavor enhancer is vital to your health. The minerals it supplies are essential for the proper function of your nerves, muscles, brain, and more. Rethinking low sodium By weight, salt is about 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. People are commonly advised to limit sodium intake to prevent high blood pressure, also called hypertension. However, this advice isn’t right for everyone. Slightly more than half of people with hypertension are salt sensitive, meaning their blood pressure significantly increases with higher sodium intake. But only 25 percent of people with normal blood pressure are salt sensitive. This suggests that some people may be needlessly restricting salt. What’s more, skimping on salt is linked to health problems. “Overly restricting salt increases your risk of fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps,” says James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, author of The Salt Fix. “A low-salt diet also may increase your insulin levels, which can lead your cells to become resistant to insulin. That puts you on the path to developing Type 2 diabetes.” This may be more likely with sodium intakes below 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily, which is less than a half teaspoon of salt. More research is needed in this area.

Vital for health “Sodium is needed for nearly every chemical reaction in your body,” says David Brownstein, MD, author of Salt Your Way to Health. “If you don’t consume enough salt, your body releases hormones to help your kidneys hold on to sodium. These hormones activate your sympathetic nervous system, which is your fight-or-flight response.” Over-stimulating this system may cause fatigue and worsen heart disease. Some other reasons it’s important to get enough salt include • Brain function. Sodium is essential for transmitting nerve signals, including in your brain. Low levels of sodium in your blood may contribute to poor memory and concentration. • Digestion. The chloride portion of salt is used to make stomach acid, which promotes good digestion and helps kill harmful bacteria in your gut. • Bone health. Sodium helps your body maintain magnesium and calcium balance, which is essential for healthy bones. • Athletic performance. Consuming salt, such as in an electrolyte drink, before long-distance running or other endurance exercise may improve your performance.

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How much, what kind? Many health authorities advise limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg daily, which is about 1 teaspoon of salt. Still, the average American’s daily sodium intake is 3,400 mg (1½ teaspoons of salt). This amount may be fine for some individuals. “Your sodium needs depend on many factors,” Dr. DiNicolantonio says. “This includes how much caffeine you consume (as it promotes sodium loss), how much you exercise and sweat, medications you take, and diseases or health conditions.” A functional medicine doctor can evaluate what’s best for you based on such variables. It’s also important to consider where your sodium is coming from. Americans get about 70 percent of their sodium from processed foods and restaurant foods, but these are typically made with refined salt. “Refined salt has all of its trace minerals removed and contains unhealthy additives,” Dr. Brownstein says. “The best types of salt are unrefined, which means they contain their full complement of trace minerals.” See “Smart Salt” for recommended unrefined salts. Not only could unrefined, natural salt help your body function better, it undoubtedly will make your food taste better. —Marsha McCulloch, MS, RD “Are you salt sensitive?” by Joseph Saling,, 11/21/17 l “Chronic hyponatremia causes neurologic and psychologic impairments” by H. Fujisawa et al., J Am Soc Nephrol, 3/16 l “Dietary reference intakes for sodium and potassium: Health and medicine division,”, 2019 l “Dietary salt (sodium chloride) requirement and adverse effects of salt restriction in humans” by M. Nishimuta et al., J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo), 2018 l “Effect of low salt diet on insulin resistance in salt-sensitive versus salt-resistant hypertension” by R. Garg et al., Hypertension, 12/14 l “Effects of a low sodium diet versus high sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterol, and triglyceride” by N.A. Graudal et al., Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 11/9/11 l “The history of the salt wars” by J.J. DiNicolantonio and J.H. O’Keefe, Am J Med, 9/17 l “Low salt diet and insulin resistance” by H. Oh et al., Clin Nutr Res, 1/16 l Personal communication: David Brownstein, MD, 3/19; James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, 3/19 l “Salt and fluid loading: effects on blood volume and exercise performance” by R. Mora-Rodriguez and N. Hamouti, Med sport Sci, 2012 l “Sodium and its role in cardiovascular disease—the debate continues” by Y.W. Kong et al., Front Endocrinol (Lausanne), 12/23/16

Smart Salt Each of these unrefined salts contain small amounts of at least 60 minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and chromium. • Celtic Sea Salt. Harvested from coastal regions of Europe, Hawaii, and Guatemala. Lab tested for purity. • Redmond Real Salt. Mined from an ancient sea bed in Redmond, Utah. Provides 18 percent of the daily value for iodine per ¼ teaspoon. • Himalayan Pink Salt. Comes from salt mines below the Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan. Several brands are available.

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supplement spotlight

green tea, t’ai chi, and bone health a strong combo for women

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Green tea supplementation and t’ai chi exercise increased bone formation biomarkers and improved bone turnover rate in a recent study. Postmenopausal women with low bone density (osteopenia) but not osteoporosis were given green tea supplements for six months. A total of 171 women participated in the study, in which there were four groups. Women in the placebo group and the placebo plus t’ai chi groups received a total of 500 milligrams (mg) of a placebo per day. Women in the green tea and green tea with t’ai chi groups received 500 mg per day of green tea polyphenols. Women in the placebo plus t’ai chi and the green tea plus t’ai chi groups attended three one-hour t’ai chi exercise classes each week for six months. Each session had a warmup and a cooldown period with a routine of a 24-form t’ai chi style that was repeated six times during the training period. Women in the non-t’ai chi groups who took placebo or green tea capsules continued their customary activity levels throughout the six-month study period. Bone density testing, bone formation markers, bone loss markers, serum and urinary calcium, creatinine, parathyroid hormone, and muscle strength assessments were done at the beginning of the study and after one, three, and six months.

A boost for muscles too In addition to the positive effects on bone health, green tea supplementation, t’ai chi, and the combination of the two all had an effect on improving muscle strength in these postmenopausal women with low bone density. Previous animal studies had shown that green tea polyphenols can function via several mechanisms and therefore improve bone health. Collectively, these green tea extracts can improve muscle health, slow muscle aging, decrease muscle lipid oxidation, slow bone loss, and increase bone formation. Other studies have shown that t’ai chi improves muscle strength and endurance, which may provide bone protection by improving the neuromuscular function. —Tori Hudson, ND

Tori Hudson, ND, is medical director of the clinic A Woman’s Time, in Portland, OR. She is a clinical professor at National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University, and Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.

“Effect of green tea and tai chi on bone health in postmenopausal osteopenic women: A 6-month randomized placebocontrolled trial” by C-L Shen et al., Osteoporosis Int, 2012

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healthy glow

thinning hair? natural strategies can help Thinning hair, mostly associated with men, is an issue for more women than most people realize. Female-pattern hair loss, also known as alopecia, can begin as early as the late teens. It is often genetically caused and, instead of a bald spot on the top of the scalp as is common in men, there is thinning over the crown. Several natural solutions have proven effective.

Omega 3s . . . As if improved cardiovascular health weren’t enough, the nutrients in omega-3 fatty acids (found in many supplement forms and in fatty, cold-water fish like salmon and sardines) can help you maintain a healthy head of hair. Freshly ground flaxseeds also offer omega 3s.

. . . and 6s The essential omega-6 fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) can be found in black currant oil and evening primrose oil. GLA taken in capsules or soft gels can reduce hair loss. The results could take six to eight weeks, so be patient.

Winning combination The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported a study in which 80 women with mild female pattern hair loss took a combination of fish oil, black currant oil, vitamin E, vitamin C, and lycopene supplements daily for six months. The results were noteworthy: 87 percent had increased hair density, the diameter of their hair strands became measurably thicker, and nearly 90 percent of the women reported decreased hair loss. Here’s what they took each day: • Fish oil: 460 milligrams (mg) • Black currant oil: 460 mg* • Vitamin E: 5 mg • Vitamin C: 30 mg • Lycopene: 1 mg *Black currant oil may lower blood pressure in those who already have low blood pressure, and it can also slow blood clotting, so consult your healthcare practitioner before using. —Dave Clarke “Effect of a nutritional supplement on weight loss in women” by C. Le Floc’h et al., J Cosmet Dermatol, 3/15 l “The root of hair loss in women,” Johns Hopkins Medicine,, 7/1/15 l “Six tips for healthy hair and skin,”

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e ve r y d a y r e m e d i e s

pms What is it? Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a medical condition that affects about one in three women. Symptoms include anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, headaches, irritability, mood swings, and weight gain. What causes it? Hormones that fluctuate in the week or so before menstruation.

Foods: Choose fruit, vegetables, whole grains,

and foods rich in calcium; avoid alcohol, caffeine, and salty foods.

Supplements: Calcium, vitamins B6 and E,

Lifestyle: Reduce stress; get enough sleep; exercise

Homeopathy: Colocynthis, Lachesis, Magnesia

Herbs: Chasteberry (vitex), evening primrose oil,


phosphorica, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla.

regularly; acupuncture, massage, or yoga may help.

ginger, ginkgo, St. John’s wort.

“PMDD natural treatment: 10 options” by Annette McDermott,, 10/5/17 l “PMS and PMDD,”, 12/10/14 l “Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—diagnosis and treatment,”, 4/5/18 l “Sweet relief for hormonal ups & downs,” National Center for Homeopathy,

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herbal healing

natural energy boosters supplements to fight fatigue

Modern life moves at a fast pace, and we’re often juggling multiple priorities—family, work, health concerns, and our finances can all cause stress. Sometimes we struggle to deal with all of the ups and downs.

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Constant stress can leave us feeling as if our energy has been zapped. Thankfully, there are lots of natural ways to help our bodies fight fatigue and reduce stress so we are better equipped to take on whatever life throws at us.

Adaptogens to the rescue Chronic stress can affect everything from hormones to cardiovascular function, and many of us are perpetually imbalanced. Reducing stress through diet, exercise, and relaxation techniques is a good start. Supplements can also help. Adaptogenic herbs support the endocrine and immune systems and boost the body’s ability to fight stress. Here are a few to try: Ginseng (Panax spp.) is a staple of traditional Chinese medicine and a first line of defense against sluggishness. Both Asian ginseng (P. ginseng) and American ginseng (P. cinquefolius) help boost energy levels, regulate blood sugar, and improve libido. Due to high demand, wild stands of both types of ginseng have been greatly reduced—look for brands that have been sustainably harvested. Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), a “cousin” of ginseng, has been shown to boost energy levels. It appears to be especially helpful for those who work long shifts or odd hours. It may also boost endurance and stamina in athletes. Another option to consider is codonopsis (Codonopsis spp.), also known as “poor man’s ginseng,” which is less well known. Research suggests that it may be an effective energy booster. If you need a quick pick-me-up, consider fast-acting rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). Research indicates that rhodiola can boost energy in the short term, and it also provides long-term physical and mental energy. Rhodiola may reduce symptoms of depression including insomnia and mood swings.

Get a brain boost If you find that you can’t focus or that your thinking has become cloudier than usual, you may want to try one of these brain-helping supplements. Commonly praised as a brain-boosting herb, Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is a staple of traditional Chinese medicine. Contemporary research tends to focus on Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE), which appears to improve cognition, especially in young and middle-aged healthy people. Some studies indicate that GBE may improve memory in people with dementia. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) acts as a mild stimulant for the nervous system, supporting concentration, boosting mental activity, and improving work performance. It also helps to relieve anxiety and stress, allowing for greater mental clarity. Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) works more slowly than some other natural remedies, but studies show that it has positive effects on mental function, including giving a boost to working memory. Green tea extract has been shown to enhance cognitive function and working memory. One study found that participants performed significantly better on working memory tests after supplementation with green tea extract. EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a component of green tea extract, may also improve memory impairment and other cognitive defects triggered by a typical Western diet high in fat and sugar. Other nutrients that may help boost energy levels include vitamin B12 which may boost concentration, memory, and mood; magnesium, which converts glucose into energy; omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha linolenic acid (ALA), that assist with energy generation and may help ease fatigue associated with depression; and vitamin D, which shows promise in reducing daytime sleepiness. —Kelli Ann Wilson

“Rosenroot (rhodiola): Potential applications in aging-related diseases” by W. Zhuang et al., Aging Dis, 2/19 l Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes ($18.95, Healing Arts Press, 2007) l “Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows,” 4/7/14; Green tea ingredient may ameliorate memory impairment, brain insulin resistance, and obesity,” 7/28/17, l “Vitamins for energy: Does B-12 work?” by Susan York Morris,, 7/28/16

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sports nutrition

power drink athletes are benefiting from beetroot juice

Beetroot juice appears to offer several benefits for athletes. Though results are mixed, a wave of new studies points toward improvements in power, endurance, speed, and other variables from drinking the juice.

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One caveat: Product quality matters. Last year, exercise physiologists Andrew Coggan and Edgar Gallardo examined the contents of 24 beetroot products from 21 companies and found a wide range of differences. “Beets tend to be rich in nitrate, which can enhance exercise performance by increasing nitric oxide production,” they wrote in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. They noted that the nitrate content of beets can vary significantly, “making it difficult to know how much nitrate any product actually contains.” Only five of the products Coggan and Gallardo tested consistently provided the necessary dose to enhance exercise performance. They concluded that this variability in products might explain why some study results have been inconclusive. They noted a dose of 500 milliliters (ml) of nitrate per serving as a guideline.

Good news

Mixed results

On the positive side, several 2018 and 2019 studies have demonstrated performance gains in athletes who drank the juice. n Ten out of 14 recreational runners improved their times in a 10-kilometer trial after drinking 420 ml of the juice daily for three days. n Cyclists were faster in a 30-second sprint after drinking 70 ml of the juice three hours before the trial. n In a longer time trial, a group of well-trained cyclists improved their performances on a 10-kilometer course after supplementing with beetroot juice for seven days. n Recreational runners who ingested a nitrate-rich beetroot juice for three days saw improvements in their utilization of oxygen during a treadmill workout.

Other recent studies showed that results can be limited or nonexistent. In one trial, swimmers saw no improvements in 100- and 200-meter time trials after three days of supplementation. Running efficiency did not improve in a study of elite long-distance runners. And a study of triathletes concluded that higher doses than the 70 ml the athletes were given would probably be needed to improve their time-trial performances. While it seems clear that high-quality beetroot juice can often help improve athletic performance, the effects do vary. —Cameron Hendrix

“Chronic high-dose beetroot juice supplementation improves time trial performance of well-trained cyclists . . .” by T. Rokkedal-Lausch et al., Nitric Oxide, 4/19 l “Effect of beetroot juice supplementation on 10-km performance in recreational runners” by T.F. de Castro et al., Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 1/19 l “The effects of beetroot juice on VO2max and blood pressure during submaximal exercise” by J.M. Perze et al., Int J Exerc Sci, 3/19 l “The effects of beetroot juice supplementation on exercise economy, rating of perceived exertion and running mechanics in elite distance runners” by C. Belsalobre-Fernandez et al., PLOS One, 7/18 l “Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on performance and fatigue in a 30-s all-out sprint exercise” by E. Cuenca et al., Nutrients, 9/18 l “Effects of chronic beetroot juice supplementation on maximum oxygen uptake . . . in recreational runners” by T.F. de Castro et al., Eur J Appl Physiol, 2/19 l “Effects of a single dose of beetroot juice on cycling time trial performance at ventilatory thresholds intensity in male triathletes” by M.V. Gamacho-Castano et al., J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 10/18 l “No effect of beetroot juice supplementation on 100-m and 200-m swimming performance in moderately-trained swimmers” by O. Esen et al., Int J Physiol Perform, 11/18 l “What’s in your beet juice? Nitrate and nitrite content of beet juice products marketed to athletes” by E.J. Gallardo and A.R. Coggan, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 10/18

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