Vitamins, Minerals & Herbals
Popular Supplement Ingredients
Learn about herbals, vitamins and minerals and the health benefits they provide when taken as regular dietary supplements.
Vitamins & Minerals
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is what your body uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps improve the quality of sleep. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 5-HTP or placebo in 50 people with fibromyalgia. After four weeks, there was improvement in pain, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep. In addition, it often helps people to lose weight. Take 100 to 400 milligrams at night.
Caution: If you are taking a number of treatments that increase serotonin (e.g., antidepressants such as Prozac, St. John’s Wort, Ultram and Desyrel), taking doses higher than 200 mg of 5-HTP can result in serotonergic syndrome, a life-threatening reaction caused by a too-high level of serotonin. Because of this, discuss the use of 5-HTP with your doctor. If you are taking any of the serotonin-raising treatments, it is reasonable to limit the 5-HTP to 200 mg at night. If your heart rate is constantly above 90, even if you are not taking 5-HTP, you may be on too many treatments that raise serotonin and you should discuss lowering these with your doctor.
Acetyl L-carnitine plays many roles in the body. It has the critical function of preventing the mitochondrial "energy furnaces" in our body from being shut down when the system backs up. Also, without sufficient carnitine, the body cannot burn fat (and, in fact, makes excess fat), resulting in large weight gain.
L-carnitine is a naturally occurring nutrient found in animal flesh (which is why meat eaters are called "Carni-vores"). Carnitine can also be synthesized in the body.
Helpful for energy production, acetyl L-carnitine is even more important to take if you have mitral valve prolapse, Neurologic pain or disorders, and/or elevated blood triglycerides. It may also help with weight loss.
The "acetyl" form of carnitine (acetyl L-carnitine) gets into cells where it is needed much more effectively than plain carnitine.
Though many studies use 3,000 mg a day, 1,000-2,000 mg a day for 3-4 months followed by 500-1,000 mg a day may well be optimal.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid, from potatoes, is a helpful antioxidant which restores and supports function of other antioxidants (such as vitamin E) and also can help heal nerve pain (the latter at a dose of 300 mg 2 times a day).
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant which has been shown to be especially beneficial for diabetic neuropathy. Another study showed that it was also helpful in relieving "burning mouth syndrome." This syndrome is characterized by chronic pain on the tongue and sometimes the anterior palate and lips without any visible lesions. It is most often seen in postmenopausal women and has characteristics of being neuropathic pain. In a study of 60 patients, half received 200 mg of lipoic acid 3 times a day or a placebo for 2 to 5 months. Ninety-seven percent of the patients improved as compared to 40 percent of those in the placebo group. Thirteen percent had complete resolution of their pain, and another 74 percent had "decided improvement," whereas none of the placebo patients had this level of improvement. Almost all the patients showed some improvement by 2 months, with 73 percent still showing benefit at the end of 12 months despite having stopped the treatment. The fact that lipoic acid helps in several kinds of neuropathies suggests it is worth trying in others as well, especially since it is quite benign and not very expensive.
Arginine is a key amino acid that is a "double edged sword." Although it may help raise growth hormone, which would be beneficial in most CFS/FMS patients, it also can raise nitric oxide (which is postulated by Professor Martin Pall to be too high in CFS—for more on his theories see the web site notes). Interestingly, B12 shots act as powerful nitric oxide scavengers, and this may be another reason they are so helpful—even in those with normal B12 blood levels. My main concern with arginine is that it promotes the growth of some viruses in the herpes family, and therefore may also stimulate HHV-6 and Epstein Barr Viral growth. Therefore I recommend that only low levels be used in supplements for CFS/FMS.
One of a large family of carotenoids (found in carrots), beta carotene is the main one added to supplements. In proper dosing it can be helpful, and higher doses (to a point) are associated with increased longetivity.1
Because beta carotene is part of a larger "family," however, taking very high doses of only one type can actually suppress the others and become problematic. For example, taking 25,000 units a day was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. So more is not always better!
Biotin is a cofactor for a number of enzyme reactions, but seems especially important for healthy hair, skin and nails. Although it may take a year for hair loss to recover on this protocol, I am amazed at how many people are thrilled that their nails and hair have become strong and healthy along with the rest of their body!
Calcium is a chemical element that is essential for humans. People need to consume a certain amount of it to build and maintain strong bones and healthy communication between the brain and various parts of the body.
Calcium continues strengthening the bones of humans until they reach the age of 20-25 years, or when they reach their peak mass. After that age, the element helps bone maintenance as well as slowing down bone density loss, which is a natural part of the aging process. People whose calcium intake is inadequate before the age of 20-25, have a considerably higher risk later on in life of developing brittle bone disease or osteoporosis, because calcium is drawn from the bones as a reserve.
Calcium regulates muscle contraction, including the heartbeat. It also plays a key role in normal blood coagulation (clotting).
Caprylic acid is an eight-carbon saturated fatty acid whose compounds are naturally found in certain mammals’ milk. It is also a minor constituent of coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
Taken as a dietary supplement, some studies have shown caprylic acid can help as a good Candida killers, as can other herbals such as Pau D’Arco, olive leaf extract, oregano extract, and grapefruit seed extract.
Choline is critical nutrient for brain function and production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is also a "methyl donor," which is helpful in CFS.
Results of animal studies published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology have demonstrated that choline exposure in the womb may increase the size of brain cells associated with memory and help them function more efficiently. A pilot study assessing choline supplementation in pregnant women hopes to replicate these impressive findings. Conducted by nutrition researchers at the University of North Carolina, women participants will take the equivalent of twice as much choline as is in a normal diet by eating three eggs a day or taking a supplement from their 15th week of pregnancy until one month post partum.
Chromium (and glutathione) is critical for proper insulin function and preventing diabetes and it can also decrease many of the symptoms of low blood sugar (super irritable when hungry and have to eat immediately). It can even be useful in treating some cases of depression, particularly when carbohydrate craving is a prominent symptom. A study of 113 people found that chromium supplements reduced depression-related cravings for sweets and starches, and provided an overall general improvement in depressive symptoms. Some physicians feel that it also helps cause weight loss.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is similar to a vitamin. It is found in every cell of the body, where it is used it to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 is also responsible for harvesting over 75% of the ATP energy from food.
Coenzyme Q10 also acts as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. It also help enzymes work to digest food and perform other body processes, and they help protect the heart and skeletal muscles. It is also believed to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise.
Coenzyme Q10 can become depleted during periods of excessive energy demands. Levels of it are also significantly lower in women who use oral contraceptives, which may in turn increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, most cholesterol-lowering drugs deplete coenzyme Q10.
Copper is a "double-edged sword." Although critical for antioxidant production (such as SOD — super oxide dismutase, one of the body’s natural free-radical scavengers that reduce pain and inflammation) it also is a potent free radical trigger and is quite toxic in excess. For example, one study showed that men in the highest 25% of serum copper values were 50% more likely to die during the study when compared to subjects in the lowest quartile. To strike an optimal balance, I recommend 1/2 mg/day of copper.
The two key Omega-3 essential fatty acids in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docohexaenoic acid (DHA), the latter being a major component of brain tissue. Perhaps the old wives tales were right in calling fish "brain food."
Fish oil decreases anger, anxiety, and depression and increased vigor — while improving various types of cognitive and physiological functions, and mood. It fights dry eyes and may help promote heart health while decreasing stroke risk.
Fish oil intake (containing Omega-3 fatty acid) during pregnancy may boost a baby’s growth rate. Research suggests the benefits may extend throughout a child’s life — helping prevent asthma, as well as decreasing the risks of bipolar disorder and cancer (in females). It also helps prevent postpartum depression. Many consider fish oil deficiency to be the most important nutritional deficiency in pregnancy, but do not want to recommend increasing fatty fish for fear of their having high mercury levels. Taking pure and mercury free fish oils avoids this problem.
If you would not eat a piece of fish that tastes like the oil, then the oil is rancid and don’t use it.
Optimal levels of folic acid (folate) are critical because of its role in immune function. The benefits of it begin early in life. Folic acid is known to protect against serious neural tube birth defects that develop in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. For this reason, doctors recommend that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant take a vitamin supplement that includes folic acid.
Mothers-to-be with lower levels of the vitamin folate in their body during early pregnancy are also more likely to have low birth-weight babies. A review of many studies suggests that taking 800 mcg of folic acid per day was associated with a 15% lower risk of heart attack and a 24% reduction in stroke. Folate may also increase bone strength, along with vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, lowering the risk of life-threatening hip fractures.
Interestingly, since food makers began adding extra folate to flour in 1998 to prevent birth defects, heart disease, stroke, blood pressure, colon cancer and osteoporosis have all fallen. Researchers are now advocating that the current fortification level, 140 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of grain, should be doubled. Supplementing with 800 mcg of folate a day can also help memory. In one study, 818 cognitively healthy people ages 50 to 75 took either folic acid or placebo for three years. On memory tests, the supplement users had scores comparable to people 5.5 years younger.
In addition, low folate is associated with Alzheimer’s. In a study of over 1,400 participants, the participants who had intakes at or above the 400 microgram recommended dietary allowance of folate had a 55% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Folate may also decrease the risk of ovarian
cancer and hypertension.
Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide and is an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radicals. Glutathione is not an essential nutrient since it can be synthesized from the amino acids L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycine. While all cells in the human body are capable of synthesizing glutathione, liver glutathione synthesis has been shown to be essential.
Glutathione exists in reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSG) states. In the reduced state, it is able to donate a reducing equivalent (H++ e–) to other unstable molecules, such as reactive oxygen species. Glutathione (GSH) participates as a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. It is also important as a hydrophilic molecule that is added to lipophilic toxins and waste in the liver during biotransformation before they can become part of the bile. Glutathione is also needed for the detoxification of methylglyoxal, a toxin produced as a byproduct of metabolism.
An increased GSSG-to-GSH ratio is considered indicative of oxidative stress.
Glutathione taken orally is not well absorbed across the GI tract. However, tissue and serum glutathione concentrations can be raised by increased intake of the precursor cysteine, or in chronic conditions, by S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Glutathione precursors rich in cysteine include N-acetylcysteine (NAC), glutamine, glycine, vitamin C and undenatured whey protein and these supplements have been shown to increase glutathione content (all present in the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder — for this reason).
An important advance? Key problems in supplementing with glutathione is that the supplements got digested and oxidized before they were absorbed, making them ineffective. A key advance has resulted in a form that gets absorbed and stays in the critical reduced form. This is called "Clinical Glutathione" by EuroPhrma. Dissolve 1 under the tongue 2x day for 3 months, then 1-2x day.
Inositol is a key component of your nerve coverings (called the "myelin sheath") and losses of inositol in the urine of diabetics likely contributes to their nerve pain. Inositol is also helpful in treating anxiety.
Optimal levels of iodine are critical for both healthy thyroid and breast tissue function.
One of the main problems caused by iodine deficiency is hypothyroidism, which can cause a host of problems. These include not only fatigue, weight gain and pain, but also infertility and miscarriages. Iodine deficiency is also a common trigger for breast tenderness and fibrocystic breast disease.
Iodine deficiency used to be epidemic in the US, until it was added to salt and wheat. Though bromide in wheat/bread is banned in many countries as being toxic (it blocks iodine from working), most U.S. bread has stopped using wheat with iodine and is using wheat with bromide instead. Meanwhile, iodine intake in the U.S. has dropped 50% in the last 30 years and toxic bromide intake is increasing. Much to their credit, Pepperidge Farm breads use bromine free flour.
Bottom line? Iodine supplementation is a good idea in general. High-dose iodine is recommended in those with breast cysts or tenderness, unexplained severe fatigue with low body temperature, or thyroid problems.
Iron is important because an iron level that is too high or too low can cause fatigue, poor immune function, cold intolerance, decreased thyroid function, and poor memory. Chronic fatigue patients should have their iron level and total iron binding capacity (TIBC) checked. Although not useful by themselves, dividing the iron level by the TIBC gives you a percent saturation, which is a useful measure and which should be at least 22%. In addition, they have their ferritin blood level checked, which should be over 40. These three tests all measure iron status. Even if a person’s iron percent saturation is low but still normal, that person will often feel fatigued, despite not being anemic. The ferritin level, however, will pick up subtle deficiencies. Unfortunately, even minimal inflammation will falsely elevate the ferritin measurement and make it appear to be falsely normal. This is why all three tests are necessary to determine iron deficiency.
One study reported in the British medical journal Lancet showed that infertile females whose ferritin levels were between 20 and 40 — a ferritin level over 9 is technically normal — were often able to become pregnant when they took supplemental iron. Treating those with fatigue or restless leg syndrome whose ferritin levels were under 60 also resulted in improvement. Other research shows that low-normal iron levels cause poor mental functioning and poor immune function. This suggests that levels considered sufficient to prevent anemia are often inadequate for other body functions. Because too much iron can be very toxic, you should take a multivitamin without iron unless your blood tests show that you are low (using my normal ranges — not the labs!) in that mineral. Although iron is important, it is also pro-oxidative (that is, it promotes free radical activity) and can cause inflammation, arthritis, and liver and heart disease if the level is too high. This helps remind us that more is not always better.
Iron deficiency also contributes to hair loss and women with hair loss should aim to raise the ferritin level to between 50 and 100 ng/ml.
Iron supplements are not a cure for baldness. But as part of a multipronged approach, optimizing iron levels can be a big help.
It is normal for iron to cause constipation and a black stool. A bleeding ulcer can also cause black stool, but this is usually very foul smelling. Fortunately, if you take the iron every other day you get almost as much benefit as taking it daily — with fewer side effects. I aim to get the ferritin blood level over 60.
The neurological effect of the lithium ion Li+ makes some lithium salts useful as a class of mood stabilizing drugs, mostly for bipolar disorder. Therapeutically useful amounts of lithium (about 0.6 to 1.2 mmol/l) are only slightly lower than toxic amounts (>1.5 mmol/l), so the blood levels of lithium must be carefully monitored during treatment to avoid toxicity.
An important point that is often ignored is that at much lower doses, lithium is actually an important and natural nutrient. It helps protect brain function against injury from neurotoxins, improves mood, decreases aggressiveness and even has anti-viral properties. It is usually left out of multi-vitamins because of confusion between its use as a nutrient at very low dose (5-10 mg a day) and its use as a medication with significant side effects at 30-90 mg (300-900 mg of lithium carbonate) daily.
Lysine is an essential amino acid in human nutrition. However, the human the body does not naturally produce it. So it must be taken in either by diet or supplementation.
Lysine has been studied for the prevention and treatment of herpes infections and cold sores. It also increases the intestinal absorption of calcium and eliminates its excretion by the kidney, suggesting that it might be helpful in osteoporosis. Lysine has been investigated for its effects on increasing muscle mass, lowering glucose, and improving anxiety. Case reports suggest lysine may ameliorate angina. Lysine acetylsalicylate has been used to treat pain and to detoxify the body after heroin use. Lysine clonixinate has been used to treat migraine headaches and other painful conditions.
Magnesium is a mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in the body. The average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Magnesium is required for the proper growth and maintenance of bones. It is also required for the proper function of nerves, muscles, and many other parts of the body. It also helps neutralize stomach acid and helps move stools through the intestine.
Some people take magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of "bad" cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of "good" cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), and heart attack.
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, leg cramps during pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones, migraineheadaches, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, restless leg syndrome, asthma, hayfever, multiple sclerosis, and for preventing hearing loss.
Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance.
Some people put magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Malic acid contributes to the pleasant, slightly sour taste of fruits and is used as a food additive for this reason. It is present in grapes and in most wines (it gives some varieties of wines their slightly tart taste) and most other fruits and vegetables..
The body produces malic acid when it converts carbohydrates into energy. Some people take malic acid by mouth with magnesium for treating pain and tenderness associated with fibromyalgia. Formulations with malic acid are also topically applied by some to the skin for moisturizing, for treating acne, and to help smooth skin.
Manganese is an essential trace nutrient in all forms of life.
Most organisms living in the presence of oxygen use it to deal with the toxic effects of superoxide. The human body contains about 10 mg of manganese, which is stored mainly in the liver and kidneys. The classes of enzymes that have manganese cofactors include oxidoreductases, transferases, hydrolases, lyases, isomerases, ligases, lectins, and integrins. The best known manganese-containing polypeptides may be arginase, the diphtheria toxin, and Mn-containing superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD).
Mn-SOD is the type of SOD present in eukaryotic mitochondria, and also in most bacteria. Manganese is also important in photosynthetic oxygen evolution in chloroplasts in plants (photosynthesis). Most broad-spectrum plant fertilizers contain manganese.
Though adequate amounts are helpful, too much can be toxic to the brain and nerves.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a form of sulfur that has been reported to be helpful for some people with fibromyalgia. It can take as much as 12 to 15 grams a day (12,000 to 15,000 milligrams, or 24-30 capsules) to see the benefit. Start with 6 grams a day in the beginning, as it is best to always use the lowest dose possible of any supplement. If MSM helps within three to four weeks, then you can reduce the dose to the lowest dose that maintains the benefit. Taking it with vitamin C probably helps the absorption of the MSM.
Supplementation Made Simple
Every vitamin and nutritional mineral is very important in some way to health. The body depends on receiving vitamins and minerals from the diet because it cannot make them itself. If you are low in vitamins and minerals — whether because you eat junk food and are not taking in the required nutrients or because you are consuming the proper foods but your body is unable to metabolize them correctly — your health may suffer.
Even if you feel great it is worth trying vitamin supplements for a month to see if you feel even better.
Why I Favor Vitamin Powder Over Vitamin Pills
One of the biggest problems I saw early in my medical practice was that patients often had to take handfuls of vitamin and mineral pills to get their basic nutritional needs met. This was annoying and expensive for those who needed it, and also an absolutely unreasonable burden to take on for life.
I made the decision that if ever I was in a position to fix the "handful club" vitamin problem, I would. I got that chance some years ago when I was invited to work with a leading supplement company to develop a line of nutritional supplements. I made it my first priority to develop a way for people to get their daily nutrition without the hassle of gobbling handfuls of pills every morning. I found that the answer was to create a vitamin powder drink mix — because by mixing a powder into an enjoyable fruit drink, you could much more conveniently ingest large combinations of vitamins than trying to take the same amount in pill form. Why? Because the added binders and fillers that are required to package pills make it very difficult to combine much more than 500 mg of nutrients in a single pill (or capsule). In contrast, vitamin powder formulations exist that are able to combine 17,000 mg of nutrients in a single scoop that can be mixed as a single 8-ounce drink! The math itself says that it is hard to pack that much punch into fewer than 34 tablets.
NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) (250-650 mg). NAC is critical for making a key antioxidant called glutathione and for keeping Vitamins C and E in their active forms. It has been speculated that glutathione deficiency may be a major "root cause" in CFS. Although taking glutathione by mouth has no effect on blood levels (it simply gets digested), taking NAC, glutamine (1,000 mg/day, which also helps bowel healing), and glycine (500-1,000 mg/day) plus vitamin C can markedly increase glutathione levels. Supplementing these three amino acids is especially important in CFS, as NAC, glutamine, and glycine levels can decrease by 30-50 percent in this disorder. For NAC, I recommend 650-1,000 mg daily for 3-4 months and then 250 mg a day for maintenance. Low glutathione levels may contribute to your immune dysfunction, including low "natural killer cell" activity, as glutathione protects your immune system from harm.
NAC has other benefits as well. In one study, taking high dose NAC increased time to muscle fatigue by 30 percent while preventing a drop in glutathione. And, it may even help to protect the heart muscle during a heart attack. Antioxidants supplementation that includes NAC at doses of 600-3,000 mg/day even significantly decrease symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder which can trigger CFS/FMS. NAC also plays a role in detoxification.
Omega-7 fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids found in certain fish, including salmon, and oils such as olive oil and sea buckthorn oil. Of these sources, sea buckthorn has an especially high omega 7 concentration.
Omega 7 can reduce risk of type II diabetes, prevent the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque, increase beneficial HDL and lower an inflammation marker called C-reactive protein, which is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Natural omega-7 fatty acids revitalize at the cellular level and provide whole body benefits. Scientific evidence supports that omega-7 plays a role in:
- Strong blood vessels and healthy circulation
- Proper heart function
- Healthy cholesterol balance
- Mucous membrane hydration — eye, mouth, digestive system
- Relief of menopausal vaginal dryness
- Smooth, hydrated skin*
Plant-based digestive enzymes work well over a wide range of pH levels, unlike animal-based enzymes, which are only functional in a much narrower range. This makes plant-based digestive enzymes much more capable of aiding overall function within the digestive system.
Enzymes are a special kind if protein that your body activates in response to the presence of food in your mouth or stomach. Your body requires digestive enzymes in order to break down food molecules into a form your small intestine can absorb.
Ribose (or D-ribose) is a simple, five-carbon sugar that is found naturally in our bodies. But ribose isn’t like any other sugar. Other sugars are used by the body as fuel, where they are "burned" by the body to recycle energy. But because they are used excessively, they are toxic. However, the body treats ribose differently and preserves it for the vital work of actually making the energy molecule that powers our hearts, muscles, brains, and every other tissue in the body.
Ribose is made in our bodies’ cells, but this process is slow in heart and muscle tissue. Although ribose is present in all living matter, only a small amount can be ingested through the diet. In clinical studies, providing supplemental ribose has been shown to significantly improve endurance during strenuous exercise, shorten recovery time, reduce cramping and soreness, and reduce fatigue in people suffering from energy depletion
Research has repeatedly shown that giving ribose to energy-deficient hearts and muscles stimulates energy recovery. A recent study showed that in people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, ribose increased energy an average of 45% in just 3 weeks.
Ribose looks and tastes like sugar. Dose is 1 scoop (5 grams) 3x a day for 3 weeks and then 2x a day. Give it 3 weeks to work. It can be added to any food or liquid.
Colloidal silver interferes with the cell reproduction in bacterial pathogens, killing the bacteria’s ability to sustain itself. Used as a spray, it can restore healthy bacterial balance in the nose to keep it clean and healthy.
Strontium is one of the many trace minerals essential for bone health. Studies indicate that strontium positively effects bone strength and helps maintain normal bone density. Strontium may support bone formation and decrease bone resorption (or breakdown), thereby enhancing bone mineral density (BMD).
Strontium supplementation may be contraindicated for individuals with impaired renal function. Those who have this impairment should therefore consult a healthcare practitioner before beginning use of stontium.
Tryptophan is critical for production of serotonin, which is important for sleep and is also called the "happiness molecule" as serotonin decreases depression.
Vitamin A is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth. There are two types of vitamin A. This discussion focuses the active form of vitamin A, called "retinoids." This comes from animal products. The second form of vitamin A is beta-carotene, which comes from plants.Topical and oral retinoids are common prescription treatments for acne and other skin conditions, including wrinkles. Oral vitamin A is also used as a treatment for measles and dry eye in people with low levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is also used for a specific type of leukemia.
Vitamin A is critical for mucosal immunity and zinc function, but be careful not to get too much. Birth defects can occur in women taking over 8,000 units/day, and higher doses of vitamin A (not beta carotene) can also aggravate osteoporosis. At doses of over 50,000 units/day, vitamin A can even cause liver injury. Use doses over 8,000 units daily under the supervision of a holistic practitioner. Two examples of when higher doses may be used by your practitioner include acne, which is associated with low vitamin A and improves with high dose vitamin A plus zinc (which augments vitamin A activity) and heavy menstrual periods during peri-menopause. Called "Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB)," the bleeding often resolves without the need for a hysterectomy by taking 50,000 units of vitamin A (with 25 mg zinc) daily for 3 months. It is, of course, important to also treat the low thyroid and low iron (even if blood test levels are "normal") which are 2 other (and more common) important causes of heavy periods.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex provides all of the types of B vitamins. This consists of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12. B vitamins help the body to produce energy and form red blood cells.
Each vitamin in B complex plays a role in the healthy function of different areas of the body.
- B1 and B2 support healthy function of muscles, nerves and heart.
- B3 supports the nervous and digestive systems.
- B5 and B12 support normal growth and development.
- B6 supports the immune system.
- B7 helps produce hormones.
- B9 helps cells make and maintain DNA.
Supplementing with vitamin B complex may promote healthy mood and mental state, increased energy, healthy heart function, healthy immune function, and healthy skin.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an important vitamin that can be found in meat, green leaves and vegetables. The body uses it to help breakdown fat and protein and keep mucous membranes healthy.
Vitamin B1 acts as a coenzyme to oxidize sugar, which helps the body produce energy for smooth functioning of the heart, brain, lungs and kidneys. Vitamin B1 also promotes a health cardiovascular system by producing acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that relays messages to the muscles and nerves. Vitamin B1 deficiency can weaken this communication and thereby lead to an irregular heartbeat. Severe deficiency can even lead to congestive heart failure.
Along with Omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin B1 helps support healthy eyes and helps protect against the formation of cataracts. It also helps ensures smooth functioning of the brain and supports healthy memory function and concentration.
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient, and works in tandem with folic acid. Technically, the B12 level is normal if it is over 208 pg/dL on your blood test. However, studies have shown that people can suffer severe and sometimes long term nerve and brain damage from B12 deficiency even if their levels are as high as 300 pg/dL.
Many studies suggest that many people need significantly higher B12 levels than what is currently considered normal. It is no surprise then that many people respond dramatically to B12 injections. If a patient’s vitamin B12 level is under 540 pg/mL, and they have unexplained fatigue, nerve pain, or confusion, I treat that person with a 1 cc (1,000-3,000 microgram) injection one to five times a week for fifteen injections. These shots are very safe and fairly inexpensive. Usually, if a patient is going to benefit from the shots, I see improvement by ten weeks. I usually stop after ten to fifteen shots. If a patient feels worse when the injections are stopped, I resume giving the shots, usually every one to five weeks (but as often as three to four times a week in some cases) for an extended period of time.
Treating patients with vitamin B12, even if their levels are technically normal, often results in marked improvement. This is good, as vitamin B12 is both very safe and cheap — even in high doses.
In addition to helping energy and mental clarity, B12 helps in many other ways. For example, in a study of people being treated for depression, participants with higher levels of vitamin B12 tended to get a greater benefit from antidepressants. Clinical trials are currently assessing the effects of high doses of oral B12 on mental function and depression. If such trials can demonstrate that the reported associations of vitamin B12 deficiency with cognitive impairment or depression are causal and reversible by B12 treatment, the benefit of treating vitamin B12 deficiency in older people could be substantial. Instead of waiting 10 years for those studies, I recommend people get 500 mcg/day of B12 now.
In addition, low B12 levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis and also increase the risk of stroke. High intakes of folate and vitamin B12 are also associated with decreased breast cancer risk, particularly among postmenopausal women.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helps support the body’s formation of red blood cells and antibodies. It plays a key role in pregnancy, as insufficient levels of B2 in the body can lead to damage in a developing fetus. Healthy levels of the B2 also help relieve cramps related to pregnancy and may help decrease the risk of postpartum depression. Vitamin B2 is especially critical for energy production. In higher doses (75-400 mg/day) it has been repeatedly shown to decrease migraine frequency by 67% after 6-12 weeks.
Symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency are sometimes evident as cracks and sores around the corners of the mouth and skin lesions.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) provides numerous health benefits. It helps reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), while elevating levels good cholesterol (HDL). It also assists in the energy production of cells. It is naturally present in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and green vegetables.
Vitamin B3 supports a healthy nervous system and a well-functioning digestive system, though intake of B3 can sometimes cause an stomach upset. To reduce this, it is recommended that vitamin B3 always be taken with food. Caution should be used when taking high levels of vitamin B3, as this can lead to liver problems, muscle damage, low blood pressure, and changes in heart rhythm. Taking high levels should there fore only be done under a doctors supervision.
Vitamin B3 deficiency may cause pellagra, a disorder of the digestive and nervous system.
The benefits of vitamins B3 can be obtained by consuming small amounts based on recommended dietary intake. One should eat enough fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food. Since most adults do not eat these kinds of food, the National Academies of Science (NAS) recommends that adults over the age of 50 take vitamin B supplements to prevent possible deficiencies.
Vitamin B6 provides numerous health benefits, including supporting healthy brain function, helping the body synthesize the antibodies that are used to fight various diseases. It also helps in maintaining normal nerve function, as it plays an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. It also helps normal nerve cell communication.
Vitamin B6 aids in the breakdown and digestion of proteins. Because of this, those who consume higher amounts of protein benefit by also taking vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 deficiency is marked by such symptoms as a sore tongue, impaired nerves, general irritability, morning sickness, confusion, depression, anemia, CTS and arthritis.
Vitamin C is provided by many fruits and vegetables, and is a powerful antioxidant that combats infections. Vitamin C helps support the formation of healthy bones, teeth and joints. Its antiviral and antibacterial properties also help prevent infections, boost the immune system by reducing toxins in the body caused by free radicals, and generally help protect the body from long-term illness and infections.
Vitamin C promotes good cardiac health by helping maintain healthy levels of triglyceride, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. It also helps in the absorption of iron and helps convert food to energy.
Vitamin C deficiency may lead to digestive disorders, periodontal disease, joint ache, bruises, fractures, slow healing of wounds, general weakness and loss of appetite.
Vitamin D is important in aiding the body’s ability to process calcium and phosphorous. It is essential for the development of healthy teeth and bones Dairy products and milk are natural sources of vitamin D in, as are cereals, liver, eggs, cod liver oils and oily fish such as sardines, salmon and herring.
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to sleeplessness, weak bones, muscles and osteoporosis.
Vitamin E has antioxifant properties and provides many health and beauty benefits. It supports cardiac health by helping maintain healthy cholesterol levels and helps protect the body of free radicals, which enhances the body’s immune system.
Applying vitamin E topically on the skin can help remove stretch marks and scars. It can also help relieve burns and can help prevent the formation of lines and wrinkles caused by aging.
This critical antioxidant serves many functions, but more is not always better. Many nutrients (such as beta carotene) are part of a larger "family," so taking very high doses of only one type can actually suppress the others and become problematic. This is the case with vitamin E as well, as there are many types of tocopherols. Research suggests that taking over 150 units a day can actually be problematic, so I recommend taking 100 units a day as the optimal level in multi-vitamins. If you are taking higher levels to treat a specific problem, take it for only a few months and use natural vitamin E (mixed tocopherols)
which contains all of the different types of vitamin E.
Although more is not better, deficiency is a significant problem. For example, research suggests that 91% of 2-5 year olds are vitamin E deficient. Taking vitamin E (200 units twice a day) can also significantly reduce the severity and duration of menstrual period pain. Vitamin E in optimal doses (about 100 units a day) may also be cancer protective. Adequate vitamin E may also decrease the risk of breast cancer.
Given the above, one could argue that you’d need to be demented not to get adequate antioxidant support. I guess it’s not surprising then, that in a study on 1,033 people aged 65 years and older, low plasma levels of vitamin E were found to be associated with a more than doubled risk of becoming demented and of suffering from cognitive impairment!
Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. It plays a major role in supporting the body’s ability to clot blood when needed, and is therefore used to counter the effects of blood-thinning medications when too much is given.
Vitamin K can help promote stronger bones. It can also relieve the itching that often accompanies the liver disease biliary cirrhosis.
People apply vitamin K topically to skin to reduce spider veins, bruises, scars, stretch marks, and burns. It can also help in treating rosacea, a skin condition that causes redness and pimples on the face. After surgery, vitamin K is often used to help reduce bruising and swelling.
Zinc is a metal that the human body needs in only very small amounts. It is because of this that it is in the classification of "essential trace elements." It can help boost the immune system and is used to treat colds and ear infections. Some use zinc for the eye disease "macular degeneration" and for cataracts. It is also used to help cases of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne.
Zinc has been shown to be a common deficiency, and it is critical for optimal immune and antioxidant function. Zinc may also help people think more clearly. One study gave 44 children with ADHD either 55 mg of zinc or placebo each day for six weeks along with their Ritalin (which is overused in ADD). While the behavior of all of the children improved during the study, those who had taken zinc had a more marked improvement. Zinc may play a role in regulating the production of dopamine in the brain, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward and deficiency has been linked to ADHD. In addition, a study of seventh graders showed that 20 mg a day of zinc improved school performance with improved memory and attention span. Zinc is found in high protein foods.
Although only small amounts are needed, zinc deficiency can lead to slow wound healing and, in children, stunted growth and acute diarrhea. Low zinc levels can also be associated with male infertility, sickle cell disease, HIV, major depression, and type 2 diabetes.
Angelica is an herb widely cultivated in northern Europe who’s root, seed, and fruit extract are used by some for medicinal purposes. It is used to increase urine production, improve sex drive, kill germs, and to provide relief from skin disorders when applied directly to the skin.
Angelica is an excellent way to help maintain urine continence. It works for both men and women as it relaxes smooth muscle contractions in the bladder to reduce urgency and increase bladder volume, with no adverse effects on libido or testosterone levels.
In one study where participants supplemented with angelica, men with nocturia (an urgent need to urinate at night) who had been making 3 or more bathroom trips per night reduced this frequency by about half. In addition, the oldest participants increased their duration of first sleep (time before their first awakening to use the bathroom) by 101 minutes — almost triple the amount of time asleep until their need to void.
Ashwagandha is a plant that has roots and berries that people use medicinally to help with occasional stress or fatigue, and improve energy and stamina. It is also used by people to help with a number of health conditions, including fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, balance, OCD, sleep issues, asthma, and menstrual problems. It can also be used to reduce the side effects of some medications used in treating cancer. It is also to reduce fat and sugar levels in the blood.
Berberine is a bioactive compound that comes from a group of plants called Berberis. As a chemical it is classified as an alkaloid. Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions have promoted it medicinally for many years as a treatment for a variety of health disorders.
Typically taken orally, berberine affects the body at the molecular level and is thought to play a role in helping people with health conditions that include:
- Bacterial infections
- Blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
Black cohosh was first used for medicinal purposes by Native American Indians. It became a popular treatment for women’s health issues in Europe in the mid-1950s. Since then, black cohosh has been used to help relieve symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful menstruation, acne, weakened bones (osteoporosis), and for starting labor in pregnant women.
The root of black cohosh contains several chemicals that might have effects in the body. Some of these chemicals work on the immune system and might affect the body’s defenses against diseases. Some might help the body to reduce inflammation. Other chemicals in black cohosh root are thought to work similar to serotonin, which is a chemical that helps the brain send messages to other parts of the body.
In some parts of the body, black cohosh might increase the effects of estrogen. In other parts of the body, black cohosh might decrease the effects of estrogen. However, black cohosh should not be thought of as an "herbal estrogen" or a substitute for estrogen. It is more accurate to think of it as an herb that somewhat mimics estrogen in some people.
Taken over a two month period, two caps twice a day has been shown in some people to decrease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sweats.
Boswellia Serrata, also known as Frankincense, has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Boswellia has been found to be quite helpful in treating inflammation and pain, and it does this without causing ulcers like aspirin family medications. It has been shown in studies to be helpful for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
In the latter study, 30 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given 1,000 mg of either an extract of boswellia or a placebo for 8 weeks; the groups were then switched for the next 8 weeks. All of the patients on the boswellia showed significantly decreased pain and improved ability to walk. In fact, the improvement was quite remarkable, with the pain index falling by 90 percent after 8 weeks and a similarly dramatic increase in function. Boswellia has also been demonstrated to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Boswellia inhibits leukotriene synthesis by inhibiting 5-lipooxygenase activity. It also decreases the activity of human leukocyte elastase (HLE). Unique to Boswellia is that it blocks two inflammatory chemicals that are increased simultaneously in a variety of human diseases. This results in its being helpful in asthma and colitis, as well as pain. In one study of asthmatics, 40 patients were treated with 300 mg 3 times day for 6 weeks. Seventy percent of the asthma patients showed improvement in symptoms and lung function and a decrease in allergic blood cells (eosinophils). Boswellia also helped in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. In one study of 20 patients in which Boswellia, 300 mg 3 times a day, was given for 6 weeks, 14 went into remission, while with sulfasalazine (the standard prescription treatment), the remission rate was 4 out of 10. Test tube studies suggest that Boswellia also may inhibit cancer.
Boswellia does not appear to have any major side effects that resulted in people withdrawing from the studies and it rarely causes minor gastrointestinal disturbances or rash. A common dose is 350 mg 3 times a day.
Butterbur is an herb that is taken as a supplement to promote several areas of health. It is used to support brain health, respiratory health, blood vessel health and bladder health. The active ingredients in butterbur are petasins, which support healthy blood vessels and muscles. These work to reduce spasms and reduce inflammation, which are actions believed to help prevent migraines and reduce migraine headaches.
Cherries are a rich source of protein, sugar, ascorbic acid, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which provide important health benefits when included in a daily diet.
The beta carotene found in cherries is may help support healthy liver function and help protect against liver damage. Cherries also contain plant polyphenols, which are known to help promote cardiovascular health. Cherries also have an anti-inflammatory effect within the body, which helps alleviate the painful symptoms of arthritis and other degenerative diseases.
Curcumin is a substance found in the spice turmeric. Curcumin is thought to have antioxidant properties, which means it may decrease swelling and inflammation. It is also being explored as a possible treatment for cancer, in part because inflammation appears to play a role in cancer.
A study of 45 days of supplementation with curcumin showed marked decreases (60 percent ) in the level of serum lipid peroxide. It is suspected that the curcumin might therefore reduce the risk of heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions. It may also help asthma. A review of several studies suggests that curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral, and anti-infectious activities. A common dose would be 500 to 1,000 mg 3 times a day. Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed. Fortunately a new form that adds in the essential oils has been shown to increase absorption by 693%, dramatically increasing curcumin’s effectiveness for a wide host of conditions including pain and Alzheimer’s. Many studies are underway exploring curcumin’s effectiveness for these conditions. When used in combination with boswellia, this highly absorbed curcumin has been shown to improve both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis more effectively than, medications and placebo in double-blind placebo-controlled studies.
Turmeric/Curcumin contains at least 133 active compounds, and over 1,000 studies have been published on this remarkable herb.
Ginger has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat nausea, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, coughing, and rheumatism. Ginger root continues to be used today to provide relief for symptoms of motion sickness including sweating, vomiting, dizziness, and nausea.
Ginger has other uses including relieving arthritis pain, ulcerative colitis, menstrual discomfort, headaches, fevers from flu and colds, and sore throats. The muscles of the gastrointestinal tract can be strengthened by the use of garlic. Ginger is also used to provide relief of symptoms of arthritis.
Ginseng has been used for centuries world-wide as a popular herbal medicine. It is derived from a number of different varieties of a plant that has fleshy roots and can be used in extract form as a dietary supplement.
Taken as a dietary supplement, ginseng is thought to support mental and physical energy, reduce stress, and may promote a healthy immune system.
Glucosamine is a substance produced naturally by the body. It plays a key role in supporting healthy cartilage growth, the connective tissue that acts as a cushion within joints. Taken as as a supplement, glucosamine sulfate provides the raw material used by the body to manufacture the glycosaminoglycan (a type of mucopolysaccharide) that is found in cartilage. Because of this, supplementing with glucosamine may help support joint health by contributing to the normal processes that maintain healthy cartilage. It is thought to also help relieve the discomfort associated ith osteoarthritis.
I recommend the sulfate form (as opposed to glucosamine hydrochloride) because the sulfate can also help with joint healing.
Daily doses of less than 1,000 mg do not typically produce a significant health benefit. I therefore recommend a standard dose of 750 mg 2 times a day (though it can also be taken as 1,500 mg once a day). It can be taken with or without food and has no more side effects than placebo.
Hemp oil is obtained by pressing hemp seeds, which are seeds from the Cannabis plant. Cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil is dark to clear light green in color, with a nutty flavour. The darker the color, the grassier the flavour.
Hemp oil has an excellent ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 oils. Its ratio is ideal for what your body needs and it is this quality that produces its health benefits, both as a nutritional supplement and in its topical forms.
Hops is a member of the hemp family, and the female flowers are used in making beer. It also stimulates some hormonal activity; can suppress breast, colon, and ovarian cancer in test tube studies; and has been reported to reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. It also is associated with antibiotic and anti-fungal activity. It has a long history of being used as a mild sedative for anxiety and insomnia. A study using 120 mg of hops combined with 500 mg of valerian showed an improvement in insomnia with effectiveness similar to Valium® family medications. It is considered to be very safe.
Jamaican dogwood is an extract that acts as a muscle relaxant and also helps people to fall asleep while calming them. According to tradition, Jamaican dogwood was used by Jamaican fishermen. Large amounts were thrown in the water. The fish would then be sedated and easy to net.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is most commonly used to alleviate symptoms of chronic indigestion, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and canker sores. Whole licorice extract is used for menstrual and menopausal disorders and inflammatory disorders. Topical whole licorice is sometimes used for herpes, eczema and psoriasis.
While licorice is sometimes used as a flavoring in food, particularly in candy, most “licorice” or “licorice flavored” products available in the U.S. do not actually contain licorice. Instead, food makers use anise oil, which smells and tases very similar to licorice (though is not).
People use the bark and flower buds of the plant, magnolia, to make herbal medicine. It is used for weight loss, problems with digestion, constipation, inflammation, anxiety, stress, depression, fever, headache, stroke, asthma, stuffy nose or runny nose, common cold, sinus pain, hay fever, headache, and facial dark spots. Some people apply magnolia flower bud directly to the gums for toothaches.
Magnolia seems to have anxiety-reducing activity in animals, and it might also increase steroid production by the body, which can help treat asthma.
In traditional Chinese and Japanese (Kampo) medicine, magnolia bark is an ingredient in Hange-koboku-to, which is composed of five plant extracts, and in Saiboku-to, which is composed of 10 plant extracts. These extracts are used to decrease anxiety and nervous tension and to improve sleep. Some researchers believe honokiol, a chemical in magnolia bark, is what makes these medicines work.
Mastic gum provides relief for acid reflux by soothing the stomach and healing the stomach lining. It also helps eliminate the stomach infection (H. Pylori) that causes stomach ulcers and indigestion. The effective dose is 500-1,000 mg 2x day for 1-2 months.
This excellent herb is used throughout South America as a calming agent and is even present in sodas. In fact, when one is anxious, it is not uncommon for their friends to tell them "why don’t you go get a passionflower drink." In addition to being used in the treatment of muscle spasms, herbalists have also used it to treat colic, dysentery, diarrhea, anxiety, and menstrual pain. A number of studies support its having a calming effect. Early data also suggests that it may increase men’s libidos. The active component is in the leaves. Passionflower has other pain management benefits as well. In one animal study, it was shown to decrease morphine tolerance and withdrawal, thereby improving morphine’s effectiveness and safety.
Rhodiola is a plant that can produce a root extract that is used medicinally to help with r a number of health conditions, including improving energy, endurance, strength, and mental capacity. It is also used to help the body combat environmental and physical stress.
Rhodiola extracts are thought to also help regulate heartbeat and improve mental attributes for learning and memory.
Saw Palmetto is an herb that decreases conversion of testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). This can help decrease slow urine flow from prostate enlargement and reduce hair loss.
The usual dose is 160 mg twice a day. Give it 6 weeks to start working (though it often works sooner).
Sea buckthorn is a type of shrub that includes a number of different types of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. It is found native in areas of Europe and Asia. Since ancient times, it has been used for medicinal purposes (and in some instances, cosmetic purposes), most typically in the forms of oils and teas.
The most popular use of sea buckthorn is to provide relief from dry eyes. Though it has also been used to support healthy immune system, stomach, cardiovascular support, cholesterol and blood pressure. Some studies have even shown it to help slow tumor growth, though these studies are preliminary and no definitive claims are yet made for this.
Sea buckthorn is generally accepted as a safe oral supplement. Side effects are rare, though there are some reported reactions by those with high blood pressure (headaches and dizziness), and those who are already on blood-thinner medications (sea buckthorn can cause blood thinning, and therefore should not be used in combination with blood-thinner meds). In addition, women who are pregnant or nursing should consult a physician before consuming sea buckthorn.
St. John's Wort
St. John’s wort is an herbal remedy that acts as an antidepressant for mild depression. Though it is generally safe, it may increase sensitivity to sunlight, may have an additive effect if you’re taking SSRI antidepressants, and may change the metabolism of other drugs — which is of special concern to women taking birth control pills, people taking immunosuppressants, some cancer and HIV medications, and blood thinners. Anyone considering taking St. John’s wort for mild to moderate depression who are taking other prescription meds should, therfore, consult a physician first.
L-theanine comes from green tea and has been shown to improve deep sleep and to also help people maintain calm alertness during the day. Green tea also is helpful as an immune stimulant and has many other benefits.
People have used theanine and green tea historically as a way to reduce stress while remaining alert and avoiding drowsiness. Laboratory and animal tests indicate L-theanine may promote natural resistance to tumors and microbial infections. A study published in "Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry" in April 2002, for instance, found that dietary powdered green tea and theanine administered to rats had beneficial effects against induced liver cancer.
Valerian is commonly used as an herbal remedy for insomnia. One placebo-controlled study showed that people taking valerian (400 mg of extract each night for 2 weeks) fell asleep quicker and had better sleep quality without next-day sedation. Another placebo-controlled study using 450 and 900 mg doses for just 1 night also showed improved sleep, but there was some hangover with the higher dose. A number of other studies also show benefit, including an improvement in deep sleep. The benefits were most pronounced when people used it for extended periods as opposed to simply taking it for 1 night. A review of multiple studies found that "valerian is a safe herbal choice for the treatment of mild insomnia and has good tolerance. Most studies suggest that it is more effective when used continuously rather than as an acute sleep aid."
Wild lettuce has long been used for several purposes. It has mild sedative properties that can help calm nervousness, and restlessness, and mild anxiety. Its calming effect can also help people get better sleep.
Wild lettuce can help provide relief of muscle and joint pain. For this reason, it can be helpful in relieving the symptoms of arthritis. It also has antispasmodic properties, which can help provide relief for pain that is associated with spasms.
Some manufacturers have produced supplements that contain wild lettuce extract, so you can simply take these if you want to take advantage of the medicinal uses of this herb. Alternatively, you can boil the leaves and drink the extract as tea or take the sap it produces when a leaf is snapped off from the stem and use this as tincture.
Willow bark is the original source of aspirin, but when used as the entire herb it has been found to be much safer than aspirin. The active ingredient in it is salicin. White willow bark is typically taken in the form of a tea, or in the form of powdered herb capsules in doses of 60-240 milligrams of standardized salicin daily. Taking white willow bark can help to relieve pain associated with tension and migraine headaches.
The adrenal gland sits above your kidneys. It consists of two parts: the inner medulla and the cortex, both of which create hormones that your body requires. The medulla secretes adrenaline, whereas the cortex creates the hormones cortisone and aldosterone.
Adrenal extract is a chemical made from the adrenal glands of cows, pigs and sheep. This can be used medicinally, usually consumed orally or taken sublingually by placing under the tongue. Though it can also be administered intravenously.
When taken orally, adrenal extract can help conditions of low adrenal function, fatigue, stress, lowered resistance to illness, severe allergies, asthma, certain skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. When used sublingually, the extract is thought to help conditions of physical or emotional stress, general fatigue, allergies, autoimmune disorders, depression, pain, inflammation, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and drug and alcohol withdrawal. People sometimes take adrenal extract intravenously to improve low adrenal function, high levels of potassium in the blood, and ulcerative colitis.
Chondroitin occurs naturally in the connective tissues within the body. Taken with the supplement glucosamine, the pair promote healthy joint function and mobility while reducing joint pain.
D-Mannose is even more effective for bladder infections than cranberry juice and is what I most strongly recommend. Mannose is a natural sugar (not the kind that causes symptoms or yeast overgrowth) that is excreted promptly into the urine. Unfortunately for the E. coli bacteria, the "fingers" that stick to the bladder wall stick to the D-mannose even better. When you ingest a large amount of D-mannose, it spills into the urine, coating all the E. coli’s little "sticky fingers" so that the E. coli are literally washed away with the next urination.13-15
The nice thing about the natural approach, as opposed to antibiotics, is that cranberries and D-mannose do not kill healthy bacteria, and therefore do not disturb the normal balance of bacteria in the bowel. In addition, D-mannose is absorbed in the upper gut before it gets to the friendly E. coli that are normally present in the colon. Because of this, it helps clear the bladder without causing any other problems.
D-Mannose is quite safe, even for long-term use, although most people need it for only a few days. People who have frequent recurrent bladder infections may, however, choose to take it every day to suppress the infections. The usual dose of D-mannose is 1/2-1 teaspoon every two to three waking hours to treat an acute bladder infection or 1/2-1 teaspoon a day to prevent chronic bladder infections. It is best taken dissolved in water. If you get bladder infections associated with sexual intercourse, you can take a teaspoon of D-mannose one hour before and/or just after intercourse to prevent an infection.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is used by the body to make other hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, and is tied to energy levels and a general feeling of well-being.
DHEA levels normally decline with age. Patients often feel much better when their DHEA levels are brought to the mid-normal range consistent with a 29 year old.
As too high a level can cause acne or darkening of facial hair, it is good to have the blood levels monitored by a holistic practitioner. Many products have no effect on raising low blood levels (i.e., do not contain DHEA as they claim), so the forms below are recommended.
Melatonin is a sleep regulating hormone made by the pineal gland. For most people, all it takes to restore melatonin to normal levels is 1/3 mg. The usual dose you find in stores, however, is 3 mg, which is 10 times the level needed. The exceptions? Early evidence suggests that a 5 to 6 mg dose may help decrease acid reflux while sleeping.
Pregnenolone is a steroid precursor whose primary function is to help the body produce other hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone. A person’s level of pregnenolone generally declines with age, and by the time we are 75, we have only 40% of the pregnenolone we had when we were 35. Made in the adrenal glands from cholesterol, Pregnenolone helps maintain levels of key hormones while promoting mood and memory enhancement, as well as improved energy levels and enzyme activity.
Probiotics (healthy colon bacteria) can help restore normal bowel function. Excess antibiotics and sugar cause the overgrowth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria, and the healthy bacteria in the bowels are needed to keep them in check. Unfortunately, unless protected, over 99% of these bacteria are killed by stomach acid before they get to the bowels where they are needed. Because of this, you should take probiotics in a "pearl" form. Pearls do not dissolve in stomach acid, and keep the bacteria safe during their ride through your stomach (like troops in a tank). Once they hit the alkaline intestines, they dissolve and release the troops.
It is critical that your body has what it takes to make the three key "happiness" neurotransmitters that your body needs. These are called serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter released in the brain. It’s made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is a component of protein. High levels of tryptophan in the blood signal the brain to make serotonin, which has many beneficial consequences on mood, including the promotion of happiness, relaxation and the ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Serotonin secretes chemicals onto neurons in the brain which helps promote feelings of contentment and well-being. The brain makes serotonin when it’s signaled to do so. One signal is carbohydrate consumption, which explains why may people feel a sense of happiness upon eating a sugary or starchy snack.
Thymic protein is an excellent natural immune stimulant. Although not a hormone, thymic protein mimics the natural hormone produced by the thymus, the gland that stimulates the immune system.
The thymus gland, which is the centerpiece of the immune system, gradually decreases in size and functionality as we age. Eventually it becomes incapable of producing sufficient levels of a critical protein, Thymic Protein A, needed to program T-cells to jump-start an immune response.
Thymic Protein A has been demonstrated to have immune-enhancing properties. A dose of a mere 4 micrograms of Thymic Protein A may make a major difference in strengthening the immune system through its T-cell “programming” role. The more T-cells that are functioning properly, the greater the immune response against infections and pathogenic agents. The reported benefits of Thymic Protein A include increased stamina, energy, well-being and ability to ward off infections.