Herbal Medicine

  • Adaptogens in Focus: Cordyceps

    A few years back I took a trip to Nepal, and spent nearly a month hiking through the Annapurna mountain range. It was absolutely breathtaking scenery, to say the least—miles of trails on which we rarely saw other people. Other than a daily dose of donkeys and porters, our encounters were limited to local Nepalese and their yaks spread thin through tiny, scattered villages.

    On one morning hike, however, I came across an unusual sight. I rounded a bend in the trail and entered a huge subalpine meadow, recently dusted with snow. There in the meadow, where one would expect quiet and emptiness, were multiple white figures milling about; men fully garbed in hazmat suits, collecting something from the ground and placing it in buckets.

    I think I chalked up the experience to high-elevation hallucination and continued on. It was only days later that I remembered to ask a local guide about what they were doing. His answer, “collecting mushrooms,” left me baffled.

    As it turned out, however, this wasn’t just any (perhaps radioactive?) mushroom these men were collecting, but a long sought-after medical fungus called cordyceps, one of the most powerful fungal adaptogens on the planet.

    Our phenomenal fungal friends

    Cordyceps sinensis is a tiny, strange-looking sac fungus that behaves as a rather nasty parasitic species. Documented in traditional Tibetan Medicine since the 15th century, cordyceps has been and still is used as a “primary Jing tonic” in Chinese Medicine, taken to reinvigorate the life force. As it was such a rare and difficult thing to find, the fungus was purportedly reserved for use by only the Emperor, ingested to ensure his long life and vitality.

    Fortunately for us, a Catholic priest visiting China in the 17th century was given some of the medicine, and consequently brought cordyceps home with him to the West. It is now a widely used herbal supplement, a healer with what seems like endless benefits for body and mind.

    Cordyceps, like other adaptogens, assists the body in creating and maintaining balance during times of stress. It directly influences how our cells make ATP, the body’s energy currency, and enhances oxygen utilization. Where stress depletes overall vitality—and specifically can take a toll on sex drive and physical exertion—cordyceps acts as a stimulant and phenomenal aphrodisiac, reinvigorating the neuro-endocrine system.

    As long-term stress also diminishes the activity and balance of the immune system, cordyceps has been found to be extremely effective at reducing infection and enhancing defense mechanisms in the body, specifically the T lymphocyte activity involved in cell-mediated immunity. Particularly in cases of respiratory illness, cordyceps significantly reduces healing time, and appears to prevent future infections if taken regularly. Given this natural affinity for the lung system, it is also used as an effective treatment for asthma and elevation sickness.

    Compounds found in cordyceps also assist in the removal of excess cholesterol, increasing the fluidity of the blood and reducing the potential of cardiovascular challenges and damage. Through protecting liver function it helps to reduce the production of excess cholesterol and to balance glucose utilization, protecting against blood sugar imbalances, detoxification issues and the potential for diabetes.

    Finally, cordyceps appears to act as an antioxidant in the body, picking up the damaging free radicals produced in metabolic processes. In this way it protects against overall cell aging, memory loss, and damage to cellular membranes during times of excess stress.

    Cordyceps has still more healing properties, and I encourage you to research and experience it for yourself. It appears that there are very few conditions we experience in our stressful lives that it won’t help in some way.

    Fortunately we no longer have to wait on men in hazmat suits to gather cordyceps for us, as it can be grown in culture and will still retain its healing ability. But ensure you are getting the CS-4 strain of cordyceps, the only strain that is capable of developing the necessary compounds in the absence of the elevation and environmental stress that would normally stimulate their development.

    While you can still buy cordyceps sourced from the Tibetan plateaus, the global demand for this healer has resulted in significant ecological damage to those areas, and I don’t personally endorse it.

    Standard dose is 1000 mg per day, and I recommend the Mushroom Science brand. Their extract is made using a hot water process that significantly enhances the availability of the healing components. Depending on the condition that you’re attempting to treat or balance, you may want to try higher doses as well, and a Pharmaca practitioner can advise you in this. Side effects are relatively unknown, though it has been suggested that those people taking immuno-suppressive drugs may want to avoid it, and so far it has not been studied enough to be considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

    Ciel is a certified Wellness Coach and Holistic Health Practitioner in Berkeley, Calif., and works at the Rockridge Pharmaca in Oakland. She employs her background in herbs, nutrition, psychoneuroimmunology and Shamanic practices (and a few hundred other modalities) to guide people to a greater understanding of their life processes, leading to vibrant health and much more laughter.

  • Adaptogens in Focus: Rhodiola

    On nearly every continent, there are plants that contain particular substances and chemicals capable of altering the human physiological and emotional reaction to stress. Known for thousands of years and utilized by cultures around the globe, these healing herbs and fungi—what we now call adaptogens—convey a resistance to chemical, physical and psycho-emotional stressors when consumed, providing resiliency to both our minds and bodies by balancing neurotransmitters, increasing cellular energy production, and supporting neuro-endocrine functions.

    As most health practitioners will attest, stress and the resulting physical effects of stress are at the core of many health conditions; our societies are just moving and working at a pace that our bodies and minds struggle to keep up with, and it’s taking a huge toll on our health. Because of this, I feel these herbs are an invaluable addition to a healing protocol or supplement regimen, and are needed like never before.

    In this series on adaptogens, I’ll be exploring some of the most potent and effective of these adaptogens, outlining their incredible history, physiological and psycho-emotional effects, and appropriate usage guidelines.

    So let’s jump right in and start at the top with my absolute favorite, rhodiola.

    Siberian strength

    Rhodiola rosea (also called Arctic or Golden Root) is an adaptogen that hails from the highlands of Siberia and northern Europe. A staple healer for centuries in the Russian and Arctic cultures, rhodiola has been classically used to increase physical resistance to the cold and stress of such an inhospitable climate. This effect has been consistently proven in laboratory studies, along with seemingly countless other beneficial effects.

    Rhodiola has a profound effect on neurotransmitter balance. In laboratory studies, it has been found to increase the sensitivity of neurons to the presence of dopamine and serotonin, two prominent neurotransmitters involved in motivation, focus, enjoyment and mood. Because of this, rhodiola has been used as a successful alternative to antidepressants in Europe, and may offer benefit to those suffering from attention issues or memory loss.

    To prevent fatigue, especially at high altitudes, rhodiola is second-to-none. The herb appears to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of our red blood cells, and has been used by Olympic athletes and Russian cosmonauts for endurance and strength. This effect is also due to the ability of rhodiola to reduce cortisol in our blood, a hormone released in times of stress, and one responsible for various detrimental effects when chronically present.

    One of those detrimental effects, as you may know, is stress-related weight gain. Our bodies preferentially store excess weight around the midsection during times of excess and perpetual stress, anticipating that we may be in some kind of physical danger and so must protect the internal organs. By reducing cortisol, rhodiola may help to calm the body and reduce this effect, while at the same time turning on an enzyme, hormone-sensitive lipase, which stimulates the body to break down and utilize the fat stored in abdominal cells. And as extra weight support for those of us who are challenged by stress-related eating behaviors, rhodiola can also help to adjust satiation through increasing dopamine sensitivity, reducing carbohydrate cravings and potentially increasing the pleasure response we get from eating.

    This is just a tiny sampling of this plant’s incredible potential benefits, and I encourage you to research and read more on it if you’re interested. Personally, I have been taking rhodiola on and off for about six years, and have never found an herbal supplement to be more powerful or multifaceted in its healing abilities.

    Note: Look for a rhodiola supplement that is guaranteed Siberian-grown, as other plants grown in more temperate regions of the world don’t develop the same stress-balancing compounds. New Chapter’s Rhodiola Force is a personal favorite.

    Ideal dose has been set at between 100-600 mg per day, depending on your physiology and the effects you’re looking for, taken once a day in the morning. Side effects are minimal to none, though those with high blood pressure conditions are advised to avoid rhodiola. Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner to learn more about appropriate dosage levels.

    Ciel is a certified Wellness Coach and Holistic Health Practitioner in Berkeley, Calif., and works at the Rockridge Pharmaca in Oakland. She employs her background in herbs, nutrition, psychoneuroimmunology and Shamanic practices (and a few hundred other modalities) to guide people to a greater understanding of their life processes, leading to vibrant health and much more laughter.

  • Natural Relief for Yeast Infections and Candida

    Experts think that more than 100 million Americans suffer from yeast overgrowth, commonly called candida. Women often experience it as a vaginal yeast infection, and it’s one of the most common reasons women go to the doctor. It’s also one of the most common health complaints we see at Pharmaca.

    Yeast overgrowth occurs when candida, a single-cell fungus that is nearly impossible to keep out of our bodies, gets out of balance. Our intestinal flora (or “probiotics” such as Lactobacillus acidophilus), usually do a good job of keeping candida in check. But when our flora is compromised, yeast can overpopulate our systems.

    Long-term antibiotic use is one of the most common causes of yeast imbalance, but certain prescriptions (e.g. birth control, steroids or cortisone drugs), and stress, poor diet and chlorinated water can all contribute, too. Pregnancy, diabetes and HIV infection can also be a factor.

    When candida becomes overgrown, it releases toxins into the blood, leading to a yeast infection that may be localized (i.e. vaginal or oral, which is known as Thrush) or systemic (i.e. candidiasis or Yeast Syndrome). Symptoms include itching, irritability, fatigue, allergies, depression, immune dysfunction, chemical sensitivities, irritability, dizziness and mental fog, loss of memory, digestive upsets and weight gain or loss.

    Doctors often recommend over-the-counter anti-fungals such as clotrimazole (Lotramin, Gyne-Lotrimin 3), miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-7) or prescriptions such as Nystatin, Fluconazole or Ketoconazole.

    But I think that treating yeast infections naturally is a much better option, especially when you’re looking to maintain proper flora balance throughout your system. Here are some options I like:

    Lactobacillus acidophilus. Supplement with this vital probiotic to strengthen your defenses against candida. Some of my favorite probiotics are Femdophilus by Jarrow Formulas, Udo's, Megafood Megaflora, Pharmax HLC Maintenance and New Chapter Probiotic All-Flora.

    Candex by Pure Essence. An enzyme formula that works to break down the fibrous wall of the yeast.

    Candidastat by Vitanica. Containing caprylic acid, garlic, Oregon grape root, grapefruit seed extract, lactobacillus acidophilus, milk thistle and vitamin E, this formula inhibits candida overgrowth, promotes intestinal balance and provides immune support.

    Tea tree. Provides relief for localized infections. Try suppositories from Tea Tree Therapy for vaginal infections, or dilute tea tree oil for use as a mouth rinse for thrush (speak with a practitioner about proper dilutions for this type of application.)

    Boric acid suppositories. These have long been used to treat chronic vaginal yeast infections. Try Yeast Arrest by Vitanica.

    If you have problems with candida, the best first step is to work toward bringing your flora back in balance. If you’re on antibiotics, which wipe out the good flora along with the bad, I always recommend taking probiotics, too. (Note that there are differing opinions about this—some doctors feel that taking probiotics can diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics, but I’ve always found them to be helpful. As always, people should follow the advice of their individual practitioners.) Nevertheless, after your course of antibiotics is finished, it’s important to repopulate your intestines with good flora. And, as always, make sure you’re getting a well-balanced diet that’s low in fats, sugars, refined carbohydrates and alcohol.

    Kate Brainard earned her degree as a naturopathic doctor from Bastyr University. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

  • Herbal Remedy: Nettle (Stinging Nettle)

    Hopefully you haven’t had many real life encounters with nettle (Urtica Dioica)—also called “stinging nettle,” it grows in temperate climates and its stinging hairs and leaves can cause nasty hives. The hives, formally called urticaria, produce pale red, itchy, raised bumps (in fact, the Latin root of Urtica is uro meaning, "I burn"). The upshot: Avoid the fresh leaves of this plant, and use it instead for its powerful medicinal qualities that can strengthen and support the whole body.

    Nettle is considered a nutritive; it provides the body with a multitude of minerals, vitamins, proteins and dietary fiber. Nettle can support the urinary tract and serve as a diurectic. Nettle is also readily known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects.

    Nettles help tonify [can be briefly say what this means?] mucous membranes in addition to helping stop bleeding (as a hemostatic) and supporting breast milk production. Nettle is a hypotensive, assisting the heart by decreasing blood pressure, and is considered an astringent as it helps to shrink or constrict body tissues.

    Talk to a practitioner about the potential uses of nettle for the following conditions:

    • Chronic inflammation in the body
    • Excessive mucus discharge (non-stop runny nose)
    • Burning or difficulty urinating
    • Allergies (runny nose and stinging eyes)
    • Hemorrhoids
    • Arthritis and gout
    • Profuse menstruation
    • Suppressed milk flow in breastfeeding
    • Skin conditions such as eczema (especially in children), psoriasis, chicken pox, poison   ivy, rashes and insect stings/bites
    • Benign prostatic hypertension (the nettle root is especially good for this)

    We carry the following nettle products at Pharmaca:

    Herb Pharm’s Nettle Blend
    Pharmaca Nettles Caps or Tincture
    Gaia Herbs’ Nettle Leaf Caps
    or Tincture
    Eclectic Institute (in stores only)

    Though nettle has a multitude of uses, one of its most common uses is for seasonal allergies. Try using nettle to combat your runny nose and itchy eyes thanks to its antihistamine and astringent properties, which is why, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, many practitioners recommend taking it throughout allergy season (including Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board).

    As always, please consult with a practitioner before taking any herbal remedies.

    Kate Brainard earned her degree as a naturopathic doctor from Bastyr University. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

  • Herbal Remedy: Turmeric

    SpicesEven if you’ve never taken turmeric as a supplement, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted it; it’s a common spice and kitchen staple used in almost all Indian dishes, as well as many Thai and Persian foods.

    Turmeric (Curcuma longa) grows mainly in southern and southeast Asia and is known for its brilliant deep yellow hue. As part of the ginger family, turmeric has a pungent, peppery taste that contributes a great savory flavor to many dishes. The rhizome, or underground stem, is the part of the plant utilized for medicinal purposes.

    Decades’ worth of research has shown that in India, where turmeric is a staple, the occurrence of chronic illness is dramatically lower than in Western countries (especially the U.S.). The active constituent of turmeric is curcumin (scientifically referred to ascurcumanoids), a compound that has a multitude of powerful, protective health benefits that provide more than 50 healing actions—probably why it has been used medicinally in India and China for more than 2,000 years.

    Turmeric’s diverse range of therapeutic uses include as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, a circulation stimulant, an antibacterial and an anti-fungal. It has also been used for its anticancer, liver-supportive and cholesterol-reducing properties. Turmeric can be used daily to maintain and prevent disease, or can be used in a range of health conditions, including:

    • Atherosclerosis
    • Cancer
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Fever
    • Gallstones
    • Liver dysfunctions
    • HIV/AIDS support
    • Indigestion
    • Infections
    • Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis, back and joint pain, or psoriasis and eczema

    Turmeric can be found in a number of different formulas, listed either as turmeric or its active constituent curcumin. Some formulas also contain bioperine—a natural, patented form of pepper (also known as piperine, Piper nigrum) that has been proven to increase the absorption of other nutrients.

    Here are some of my favorites:

    Thorne Research's Meriva-SR, Meriva is a patented time-release formula of curcumin that has superior bioavailability (i.e. absorption).
    New Chapter Turmeric Force, a very pure and potent formulation.
    Pharmaca brand Turmeric includes bioperine from an always-trusted source for herbal medicines
    Jarrow Formulas’ Curcumin 95
    Integrative Therapeutics’ Curcumax Pro, which uses the better-absorbed Meriva curcumin and pairs it with boswellia extract, which helps support range of motion in the musculoskeletal system
    Pure Encapsulations Curcumin 500 with Bioperine, a patented formula that includes black pepper for enhanced absorption
    Natural Factors' CurcuminRich Theracurmin is a newer curcumin formulation with markedly increased absorption by way of finer granulation and suspension technology. This enhanced form has absorption rates of over 30 times that of regular curcumin.

    Turmeric was once referred to as “poor man’s saffron,” due to its deep yellow hue (and much lower price). People now call it Indian gold because of its plethora of health benefits. Try taking turmeric for general illness prevention, maintaining good health or treating a current illness. With its wide range of therapeutic actions and powerful health benefits, turmeric can be a great asset to your wellbeing.

    Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: Carol Mitchell

  • Herbal Remedy: Ginger

    There's a reason ginger ale has long been the go-to remedy for anyone with an upset stomach: Ginger is an important aid for digestion--and a variety of other health concerns.

    Ginger (zingiber officinale) is most commonly grown in India, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal and Thailand. A member of the zingiberaceae family, the utilized part of the ginger plant is the rhizome, or the underground stem. Ginger is a commonly used worldwide medicinally and as a hot, fragrant spice in foods.

    Indeed, there a number of places we find ginger in our everyday diets: as pickled ginger (commonly served with sushi), in ginger tea (thinly sliced and simmered in hot water; add honey and lemon to taste), as candied ginger, ginger ale or beer, in ginger liquors, gingerbread, etc. Ginger has both antioxidant and microbial properties, which makes it a great food preservative, especially in countries where refrigeration is not always readily available.

    Ginger is primarily considered a carminative (a plant rich in aromatic oils that promotes proper functioning of the digestive system), which is why it’s frequently used for nausea (from motion sickness, pregnancy, vertigo, etc.).

    Here are some other ways it can be helpful:

    • Ginger is a powerful appetite stimulant and helps with other digestive upsets such as indigestion, heartburn and low stomach acidity.
    • Ginger is helpful in promoting circulation in the outer extremities making it helpful for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, poor circulation and cramps.
    • Ginger may help to thin blood and help to decrease cholesterol, making it useful in heart disease.
    • In fevers, ginger is helpful because it stimulates perspiration.
    • Sore throats can be soothed with the hot ginger tea described above; the antimicrobial properties help fight infection too.

    Here are some ginger products I recommend, depending on your health concern:

    And when you're dealing with an upset stomach, turn to these quick-relief ginger products in our stores:

    • Traditional Medicinals Ginger Aid tea
    • Ginger People Ginger Chews
    • Reed’s candied ginger
    • Newman's Own Ginger Mints

    Note: Ginger is considered safe by the FDA and is readily sold as a dietary supplement. Ginger should not be used with Warfarin due to its blood thinning effects and should not be used with gallstone issues as it promotes the production of bile.

    Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

  • Herbal Remedy: Goldenseal

    GoldensealWe often hear about goldenseal in combination with echinacea. But goldenseal is a powerful herb in its own right, useful in treating everything from digestive upset to canker sores. 

    Goldenseal commonly grows in southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, and was commonly used by Native American tribes, and later by European settlers, in the US. It is now available as a pill, tincture, tea or salve. Goldenseal is considered to be "endangered," as it has been overly harvested, so look to Pharmaca for goldenseal products that have been sustainably harvested to prevent further endangerment.

    Goldenseal has many practical uses, including, but not limited to the following:

    • For upper respiratory infections; specifically compromised mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. Goldenseal assists in drying the mucous membranes, especially when you have yellow/green phlegm.
    • Speeds healing of canker sores and ulcers in the mouth and throat
    • Aids internal digestion, including dyspepsia, chronic constipation, protracted fevers, chronic alcoholism and liver congestion
    • Boosts the effectiveness of other herbs in a formula (why you often see it in combination with echinacea)
    • As an antimicrobial that’s especially good at killing bacteria like Staph and Strep infections—making it ideal for systemic colds, flu and sore throats.
    • As a topical antimicrobial, making it good for use as a topical salve on infections
    • Helps ease contractions during labor

    I like the following forms of goldenseal:

    Herb Pharm Goldenseal (tincture)
    Gaia Herbs’ Plaintain Goldenseal Salve or Goldenseal Root (tincture)
    Pharmaca’s Goldenseal capsules or Goldenseal Extract (tincture)

    Note: Goldenseal should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation, as well as with elevated blood pressure, and should be used with caution in young children. Goldenseal is also known to be a cooling herb, so avoid it if you have chills more than a fever. As always, consult a qualified health practitioner before use if you are on any medications or concerns.

    Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University's doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca's La Jolla store.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: buckeye98

  • Herbal Remedies: Oil of Oregano

    You may already love it for what it adds to Italian meals, but true oregano is a potent herb that, when its oil is extracted, can serve a variety of health needs. Our practitioners often recommend it as a potent immune booster, and it’s also lauded for its antiseptic and antifungal properties, ideal for skin conditions, infections and candida.

    The wild oregano plant (origanum vulgare) grows mainly in the Mediterranean region, in countries such as Greece and Italy. The resulting oil contains powerful plant phenols, notably carvacrol and thymol, which help support a healthy microbial environment in the body.

    In addition, Oil of Oregano has been proven to be an effective anti-inflammatory for joint pain, sore muscles and other aches and pains. The oil contains naturally occurring calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, manganese and vitamins C and A, all of which can be beneficial both internally and externally.

    Oil of oregano is sold as a liquid extract and in capsules, and can be taken several times a day when trying to fight sickness. Taking it internally can also help alleviate allergy symptoms, respiratory problems and stomach problems. Because of its potency, most experts recommend that the oil first be diluted in extra virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil, but many extracts are already available in this diluted state (such as Pharmaca’s own Oregano Oil).

    Other uses:

    • Add a few drops of oil of oregano to your shampoo for natural dandruff relief
    • Rub into sore joints and muscles to relieve pain
    • Apply to bee stings and insect bites to speed healing
    • Apply to skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis or eczema
    • Inhale vapors directly from the bottle to relieve respiratory congestion

    Look for oil of oregano products at Pharmaca from Natural Factors, Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs. As always, please consult a Pharmaca practitioner or your physician before taking any herbal supplement.

  • Ask a Practitioner: How can I naturally lower my cholesterol?

    We get questions nearly every day via Ask a Practitioner from people with a variety of health concerns. Our practitioners take turns answering these questions, offering advice based on their experience and expertise. Every now and then we post some of these questions with the hopes that our practitioners' advice can help answer some of your health questions.

    Q. I've been taking Lipitor to lower my cholesterol, but I'm worried about the side effects. What are some natural options to cholesterol control?

    A. There are many natural solutions to high cholesterol. With that being said, you should always consult with your doctor before going off a medication so they can be informed and lower your doses appropriately. If you were to safely go off Lipitor, there are many dietary and supplement recommendations that you can try.

    The first recommendation I always start with is fiber, since increasing your dose of daily fiber is essential to good lipid health. Another dietary recommendations is including one serving of soy per day in your diet. Garlic also has very beneficial effects for cholesterol.

    Some common supplements that can be beneficial are Red Yeast Rice, B vitamins, policosanols, artichoke and plant sterols. We sell a product at Pharmaca called Meta-sitosterol 2.0 by Metagenics, which contains only the plant sterols in high doses. Another one of my favorites is Cho-Less by Natura. There are many formulas of herbs and nutrients that combine all of these ingredients together that can be very effective.

    After you consult with your physician, stop by one of our locations and a practitioner can help you select a few products that would be best for you.
    -Shannon Wood, Naturopath, San Francisco

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  • Cayenne pepper may aid in weight loss



    Long used for a variety of purposes in Chinese, Japanese and Ayurvedic medicine, cayenne pepper has now been shown to act as an appetite suppressant and to burn calories.

    A recent study in the journal Physiology & Behavior explained how capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers can help reduce hunger and encourage calorie burning.

    The six-week trial included 25 non-overweight adults, 13 of whom liked spicy food and 12 of whom did not. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a standard quantity (1 g) of red pepper, their preferred amount or no red pepper with meals. After each treatment period, the participants switched groups so they were able to try each dose.

    The researchers found that cayenne increased core body temperature, energy expenditure and the number of calories burned. Additionally, preoccupation with food and cravings for fatty, salty and sweet foods generally decreased more in the infrequent users of cayenne pepper compared to those who liked the spice.

    If you're not one for spicy foods, try taking a Cayenne supplement with meals. Because it acts as a stimulant, it can also be generally helpful for kick-starting digestion and warming the gut.

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