Herbal Medicine

  • Ask Pharmaca: 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

    Peppers

    Creative

    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.

  • Identify your nutrient deficiencies

    One of the perks of having so many expert practitioners around is being able to take advantage of their knowledge. Awhile ago, Cat Pantaleo, an herbalist and nutritionist at our downtown Boulder store, led a workshop for the office on nutrient deficiencies. She brought with her this handy worksheet that shows common health issues and the nutrient deficiencies that often cause them.

    Follow these three steps to resolve your nutrient deficiencies.

    Step 1: Circle any symptoms you have.

    Symptom Nutrient
    acne Essential fatty acids (EFA), vitamin A, vitamin B6, zinc
    agitation calcium, magnesium
    alopecia copper, EFA, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc
    anemia copper, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6
    anemia (megoblastic) folate
    anorexia folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, zinc
    anxiety calcium, chromium, EFA, magnesium, niacin, pyridoxine, thiamine
    apathy folate, zinc
    brittle nails calcium, iron, zinc
    canker sores niacin
    cognitive impairment calcium, potassium
    cold hands and feet magnesium
    cold, sensitivity to iron
    constipation folate, iron, potassium, thiamine, vitamin B12
    delusions calcium
    depression calcium, copper, folic acid, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, rubidium, thiamine, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc
    diarrhea EFA, niacin, vitamin D, zinc
    disorientation magnesium
    dizziness iron, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6
    eczema EFA, zinc, calcium
    edema magnesium, potassium
    fatigue chromium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc
    gallstones EFA
    gums, bleeding vitamin C
    hair, dry EFA, vitamin A
    hallucinations magnesium
    headache folate, iron, vitamin B12, niacin
    hyperactivity calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, niacin, pyridoxine, thiamine
    hypercholesterolemia chromium, copper, potassium, selenium, zinc
    hypertension calcium, magnesium, potassium
    hypotension magnesium, potassium
    immunodepression copper, EFA, folic acid, iodine, iron, magnesium, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc
    impotence zinc
    infertility (female) EFA
    infertility (male) zinc
    insomnia calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin D
    irritability calcium, iron, lithium, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C
    kidney stones magnesium
    legs, restless folate, calcium, magnesium
    lethargy zinc
    memory, poor folate, niacin, thiamine, zinc
    mental confusion iron, magnesium, niacin, thiamine
    muscle cramps calcium, magnesium
    muscle pain magnesium
    muscle spasms calcium
    muscle tension calcium
    muscle tremor magnesium
    muscle weakness magnesium, niacin, potassium
    nausea magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6
    nervousness calcium, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin D
    numbness of limbs calcium, thiamine, vitamin B12
    palpitations calcium, iron, vitamin B12
    paranoia folate, zinc
    periodontal disease calcium
    skin inflammation niacin, riboflavin
    tooth decay calcium
    vertigo magnesium
    vision, blurred riboflavin
    weakness copper, folate, thiamine, vitamin B6
    wound healing, slow vitamin C, zinc, EFA, vitamin B6
    *Source: Nutritional Influences on Illness and Nutritional Influences on Mental illness, by Melvyn Werbach, Third Line Press.

    Step 2: Put a checkmark next to each nutrient that shows up next to a symptom. Nutrients that have four or more checkmarks are those you may be deficient in.

    Retinol (Vitamin A) _____
    Thiamine (Vitamin B1) _____
    Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) _____
    Niacin (Vitamin B3) _____
    Panthotenic Acid (Vitamin B5) _____
    Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) _____
    Folate / Folic Acid _____
    Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) _____
    Vitamin C _____
    Vitamin D _____
    Vitamin E _____
    Essential Fatty Acids _____
    Calcium _____
    Chromium _____
    Copper _____
    Iodine _____
    Iron _____
    Magnesium _____
    Potassium _____
    Selenium _____
    Zinc _____

    3. Come speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about the best way for you to get these nutrients!

  • Ask Pharmaca: I need gluten-free cold remedies!

    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. Each week we'll be posting some of these questions with the hopes that our practitioners' advice can help answer some of your health questions.

    Q. I need a cough drop and nasal decongestant that are gluten free. Because of my sensitivities, and because most medications have these ingredients, I always get stuck with a cold without relief!

    A. Pharmaca has a number of gluten-free products to help with allergy and cold symptoms. For cough drops I would recommend Herbal Lozenges by Zand. They’re sweetened with brown rice syrup and come in many flavors such as Elderberry with Zinc and Umckaloabo, an African Cherry.

    We also have many zinc lozenges, which are always effective against a cold or flu. My favorite are the Wellness Zinc Lozenges by Source Naturals, which contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. I would also recommend one of our herbal throat sprays, such as a propolis throat spray, to deliver the medicine to the throat and gain some relief.

    As for a decongestant, one of the most popular is Astragalus. It has deep immune-boosting properties and Pharmaca makes a certified organic brand in both tincture and capsule form. Gaia Herbs also makes a great product called Respiratory Defense, which is an all-natural herbal formula to aid in mucus secretions.

    Another suggestion is MucoStop by Enzymedica, which is made from plant enzymes and acts as a decongestant. It contains no artificial ingredients, or allergens such as soy, yeast, wheat or corn.

    -Shannon Wood, Naturopath, Menlo Park Pharmaca

    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.

  • Green up your St. Patrick's Day with Chloroxygen!

    Need an all-natural way to dye those cookies (or beer!) green? Just add a few drops of Chloroxygen by Herbs, Etc. It's full of chlorophyll to boost the oxygen intake in your blood--and it acts as a safe green dye for your St. Patrick's Day goodies. Just add a few drops to whatever you're making.

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