Pharmaca Blog

  • Boost Your Heart Health with the Right Veggies

    A study that was published in the July 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating your veggies--particularly cruciferous vegetables--can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease.

    The study followed 73,000 men and 67,000 women for approximately five and 10 years, respectively, collecting information on their consumption of fruits and vegetables. The results showed that men and women who ate the most fruits and veggies were 16 percent less likely to have died of heart disease during the study than those who ate the least.

    BUT, people who ate the most cruciferous vegetables--meaning broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale--were 22 percent less likely to die of heart disease.

    Bonus: Another new study shows that cruciferous veggies are also good for boosting immunity!

  • Botanical Ingredients for Better Skin Care

    If you’re searching for the best skincare ingredients, botanicals get our vote every time. Boulder-based Pharmaca esthetician Camille Capone explains that botanical ingredients are not just a safer choice, they’re often more effective than synthetic ingredients. “Many can have moisturizing, hydrating properties, stimulate cellular regeneration, and work with the immune function of the skin,” she says. That’s in addition to the fact that they’re non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.

    So how to choose which botanicals are right for you? We recently talked ingredients with Terese Linke, Global Education and Training Director of Spa for PRIMAVERA, a German skincare line. (Though PRIMAVERA products are sold in spas, Pharmaca is PRIMAVERA's only U.S. retail outlet.) Here are some tips and highlights from PRIMAVERA’s NATRUE-certified line, broken down by skin type.

    Sensitive skin: Soothing chamomile is great for sensitive skin, says Camille. PRIMAVERA’s Revitalizing Serum contains chamomile extract as well as organic rose essential oil to help reduce broken capillaries and promote cell renewal for a radiant, even tone. Also try PRIMAVERA’s Replenishing Cream, which contains organic, EFA-rich cassis seed oil and organic shea butter to lock in moisture and strengthen skin.

    Dry skin: Find everything for your skincare regimen in the Moisturizing line. Each product in this line features Neroli oil, an essential oil from orange blossoms that Therese says is exceptional for balancing and soothing dry, flaky skin. Also good for dry skin are cassis oil, jojoba oil, fig oil and apricot oil—all of which help prevent moisture loss and together make up the super-softening contents of PRIMAVERA’s Moisturizing Multi-Purpose Face Oil.

    Other skin challenges, solved
    As Capone says, many botanicals have the ability to “stimulate cellular regeneration.” We got the skinny on Linke’s top tips for common skin problems, based on the botanical ingredients they contain.

    • For rosacea, Linke suggests the Revitalizing Intensive Firming Cream. Its Matcha Tea Powder is anti-inflammatory and helps prevent free radical damage, while Green Algae Extract increases collagen and moisture, decreases expression lines and wrinkles, and enhances skin's firmness and density. She says another perk is that “since the color is slightly green, it takes away the severity of redness.”
    • For sun-damaged or aging skin, go with the Restoring Body Care line. It features organic rose essential oil, which Linke says is good for broken capillaries, as well as “organic sallow thorn oil, which helps restore the condition of sun-damaged skin and helps heal and calm overexposed skin, and organic rose hip seed oil, which helps refine skin texture.”
    • For puffy eyes, try Revitalizing Anti-Puffiness Eye Cream. Linke says its “organic eyebright extract helps soothe irritation and is wonderful for skin around the eyes because it brightens and stimulates the eye area.” It also contains organic Madonna Lily extract “to fight free radicals around the eyes.”

    Sourcing is everything
    It’s not just about choosing the right botanicals, it’s also about their origins. Therese emphasizes PRIMAVERA’s dedication to working closely with small organic and biodynamic farms, and finding farms in the country in which each ingredient grows its healthiest and best--e.g., lavender from France, tea tree oil from Australia or sage from southern Italy.

    Nurturing close relationships with small farms also means that PRIMAVERA has much better control over handling and manufacturing, from harvest to bottling. For example, they use a custom cold-pressed distillation method just once; Therese says that many companies purchase oils that have been distilled three to five times, diluting their natural benefits. Camille prefers the same simple distillation processes that don’t require lots of heat. “This keep enzymes and other aspects of the herb intact, making it more beneficial,” she says. “As you distill it multiple times, the concentration gets weaker and weaker.”

    Setting high standards for distillation means that PRIMAVERA knows for a fact that most of its natural essential, seed and plant oils are also organic. “We are not only in control of how the plants are grown, but also how that oil or extract is taken out of that plant,” she says. “Most of our oils are certified organic because we’ve extracted it naturally and haven’t used a synthetic solvent to take it out.” Camille agrees that it’s important to understand the distillation process, as oftentimes essential oils are distilled in cheap, synthetic solvents that contain parabens.

    To find out more about better botanicals or about which products are great for your skin type, speak with a Pharmaca esthetician today.

  • Yoga Beneficial for Blood Sugar Control in Type 2 Diabetics

    Turns out that yoga doesn't just feel great, it can also have far-reaching health benefits. A new study shows that yoga, in combination with standard care, may improve blood sugar control and help reduce body mass index (BMI) for type 2 diabetes patients. It has been proposed that health may be affected by the mind-body interactions involved with various yoga techniques, and the daily practice of yoga may therefore help to maintain wellness.

    In a recent study, 123 type 2 diabetes patients were assigned to receive either standard care alone or in combination with yoga for three months. The researchers found that the patients who practiced yoga in addition to standard care had a significant reduction in BMI, improved blood sugar control and increases in vitamin C and glutathione. There were no notable differences between groups for blood pressure, waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio.

    Want to learn more about the health benefits of yoga? Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about how yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, increase fitness, help you sleep better and more. Namaste!

  • Improving Colon Health with Okra


    Though not many of us want to talk about it, the colon is a vital organ. When the colon is damaged and does not function to its fullest potential, serious health problems can occur. If you're not thrilled with the idea of a colonic or some other type of colon cleanse, then consider this natural alternative for boosting colon health: Lady Finger. More commonly known as okra, Chinese okra, bindi or bamia, it’s not only delicious but it’s also easy to prepare. Okra provides numerous health benefits to your body, and especially to your colon.

    Lady Finger is a great source of important vitamins and minerals that naturally improve colon health. Some of the powerhouse nutrients found in Chinese okra include vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc.

    Let's discuss what Lady Finger specifically does to improve colon health. Chinese okra releases a dietary fiber that’s able to clean out the gastrointestinal system, which can easily become clogged with fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, toxins, bacteria and other harmful substances. By cleaning out the intestinal tract, okra can improve colon health by simply allowing it to work more efficiently.

    Additional benefits of okra? It's fat free, low in calories and high in fiber. But okra can do so much more than improve colon health. The health benefits of okra include reducing the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and colon cancer.

    Interesting tidbit: The edible part of the flowering plant (or okra) is long and tapered, resembling a woman's fingers, thus giving it its name. Lady Finger was originally only found in Africa, but is now grown all over the world.

    To learn more about natural remedies to various diseases and conditions, please consult a Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • Adding Life to Your Years

    As the average life expectancy continues to increase, more adults are looking for ways to remain healthy well past their AARP induction. Fortunately, Pharmaca empowers you to take control of your health with a wide selection of helpful products and a knowledgeable staff to provide guidance. Whimsy Anderson, a naturopathic doctor at our Brentwood store, shares some of her favorite recommendations for living a healthier, more active life.

    An Active Mind
    Research such as a 2005 Harvard University study has shown the importance of antioxidants in combating free radical damage to neurons. That's why Dr. Anderson recommends supplementing your diet with an antioxidant-rich powdered greens formula to ensure you are getting enough. She also stresses the importance of increasing intake of DHA from fish oil, regulating blood sugar, and even avoiding deodorants that contain aluminum.
    TRY: Orac-Energy Greens and Natural Factors PGX Slim

    A Healthy Heart
    Heart disease remains the leading killer of Americans, despite the fact that it is an avoidable and reversible condition. According to Dr. Anderson, "it really boils down to eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise," to protect your heart. For those who want additional support, she recommends EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of clotting. She also says CoQ10 and niacin are great for lowering blood pressure.
    TRY: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega and Jarrow Formulas Q-Absorb CoQ10

    Stronger Bones
    Osteoporosis is a preventable condition that causes a weakening of bones, making them more susceptible to breaks and fractures. Supplementing with calcium, magnesium and boron can help support bone deposition. Additionally, Dr. Anderson recommends looking for a formula that includes vitamins K2 and D3 since they work together to carry calcium into bones. She also encourages everyone to get regular exercise including weight-bearing activities.
    TRY: Jarrow Formulas Bone-Up

    A Steady Mood
    Practicing activities like yoga, meditation, and breath work can go a long way toward reducing daily stress and anxiety. "Never underestimate the importance of breathing," says Dr. Anderson. To help boost overall mood, supplement daily with 5-HTP which acts as a precursor for serotonin. Dr. Anderson also notes that it may be helpful to take a blood sugar test since hypoglycemia is sometimes misdiagnosed as depression.
    TRY: Pharmaca Brand 5-HTP

    Be sure to speak with one of our professional staff members at your local Pharmaca for information and advice that fits your individual needs.

  • Pharmaca Brands Supporting Breast Cancer Research

    October is an important time of year--when we reflect on loved ones we've lost to breast cancer and celebrate the lives of those who have survived. This pervasive cancer affects one in eight women in their lifetimes, so it's no wonder that it's the focus of many fund-raising efforts, especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

    Want some easy (and indulgent!) ways to support breast cancer research? Here are a few special campaigns that are going on with products we carry at Pharmaca, in stores only:


    During the month of October, Juice Beauty is donating a percentage of sales to the Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that focuses on prevention and eliminating the causes of breast cancer. Juice Beauty’s support in October will help sponsor the Breast Cancer Fund’s Heroes Celebration, which honors the organization’s groundbreaking work to prevent breast cancer.

    Now's the perfect time to check out their award-winning Tinted Moisturizer and Green Apple Peel (check out what Kate Hudson said about it on!). Plus, take 10% off any of Juice Beauty's ColorCare cosmetics this month, only in Pharmaca stores!



    jane iredale is also contributing by donating 100% of sales of their special Roses & Lollipops lip color locket to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, an organization that empowers women to live the best quality lives possible--for as long as possible--with breast cancer.

    Finally, pick up a SpaRitual nail lacquer from their In Pink Collection and they'll donate 20% to the Cancer Schmancer Movement, which highlights the importance of early detection. The In Pink lacquers are fun shades of pink, infused with shimmery powders.


    What's your favorite way to support breast cancer research?

  • Natural Ways to Treat GERD

    Millions of Americans suffer from the painful symptoms of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes heartburn and other uncomfortable symptoms. The good news is there are plenty of natural ways to treat GERD.

    How does GERD occur, exactly? When we eat and drink, food and liquids pass from the throat to the stomach via the esophagus. A group of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) sits at the base of the esophagus. If the LES does not close properly, hydrochloric acid and food and drink can make their way back to the esophagus, and, because this tissue is not intended to handle strong acidity, inflammation occurs. The inflammation causes the feeling we know as heartburn. Risk factors for GERD are smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity, as well as some prescription medications.

    People diagnosed with GERD often take over-the-counter antacids or even prescription medications such as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI). But don’t fret—there are plenty of natural remedies for GERD that won’t just relieve the pain of heartburn but will actually improve the pH level of the stomach, allowing for better digestion and less esophageal inflammation. (There’s also a danger of magnesium deficiency that comes along with prolonged PPI use, but we’ll cover that at a later date).

    A more holistic treatment for GERD involves a diet rich in phytonutrient-dense vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. Coconuts, avocados, olive oil and omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements (cod liver oil, for instance) are healthy fat sources. Healthy protein sources are wild-caught fish (salmon), grass-fed meat and free range poultry and eggs.

    In addition, anti-inflammatory herbs such as cinnamon, ginger, oregano, garlic and turmeric can greatly aid in the digestive process. Avoid large, heavy meals and always eat at least two hours before going to bed. Another idea: drink water with 2 teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar before a meal high in protein, as this will lower stomach acid and help prepare the stomach for digestion.

    Finally, Pharmaca carries a number of natural and herbal formulations for GERD relief. Winnie, herbalist and lead practitioner at our South Boulder store, really likes treating heartburn symptoms with products like these:

    Winnie says she’s also seen great success with New Chapter’s Supercritical Omega-7, which helps repair the digestive lining instead of just treating symptoms (and is also great for the skin!).

  • Aging Has Met its Match in Resveratrol

    How can French people stay so healthy while eating rich foods and drinking red wine? Recent research may have the answer: Red wine is a good source of resveratrol, a natural compound also found in red grape juice, peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. This wonder nutrient shows promise in promoting heart health, increasing life expectancy and preventing cancer.

    The resveratrol found in wine is extracted from the skin of red grapes during the fermentation process. The longer a wine ferments in the presence of grape skins, the greater its final resveratrol content. However, you'd have to drink a lot of red wine to get maximum benefit from resveratrol.

    While a typical glass of wine can contain less than a milligram of resveratrol, supplements like Jarrow's Resveratrol 100 formula contain as much as 100 times that amount. "It's on our 'A list' of healthy aging supplements," says Paul Clark, a clinical herbalist at our Sonoma store, who emphasizes that Jarrow's supplement delivers the compound in an active form.

    So what exactly does resveratrol do? According to aggregated research from the Linus Pauling Institute, laboratory tests have shown the compound boosts heart health by inhibiting clot formation in the arteries and promoting dilation of the arteries.

    The compound may also make people live longer and slow the signs of aging. In studies with yeast, worms and fruit flies, resveratrol stimulated enzymes that lengthened the organisms' lives by as much as 59 percent. Resveratrol had a similar effect on the human version of the enzyme in test tubes.

    In another study, elderly mice that were given resveratrol showed a marked reduction in signs of aging, including greater motor coordination, preserved bone strength and reduced cataract formation. Though the compound did not significantly increase the mice's lifespan, resveratrol showed great promise in reducing some negative effects associated with the aging process.

    Other tests have demonstrated resveratrol's promise when it comes to slowing the progression of cancer. Researchers who added resveratrol to cell cultures found that it inhibits the growth of many cancer cells, including those from breast, prostate, stomach, colon, pancreatic and thyroid cancers.

    Though definitive studies that show resveratrol's effects on humans are still on the horizon, practitioners continue to recommend this antioxidant to boost general health. If you are heart-conscious or young-at-heart, head to Pharmaca to speak with one of our practitioners about our selection of formulas containing resveratrol.

  • The Practice of Aging Gracefully

    Good nutrition and supplementation are a vital part of creating a foundation for optimal health. But there are other practices that can also help your body fight the effects of stress and add life to your years. A plethora of research is now showing that participating in regular practices like yoga, meditation and tai chi can help ease the aging process by boosting heart health, strengthening your body, reducing inflammation and more.

    Tai Chi

    This ancient practice mixes physical movement with meditation and martial arts. Different forms of tai chi have been practiced for hundreds of years in China as a form of fighting, and more recently the exercise has expanded throughout the world. (Find out more about the origins and benefits of tai chi from the Mayo Clinic.)

    The good news is that it's a low-impact exercise, meaning people of all ages can participate by adjusting the intensity of their practice. Here are a few recent studies that show how tai chi can address a variety of health issues:

    Tai chi for older people reduces falls, may help maintain strength

    Two different studies showed that older adults showed a marked improvement in balance, strength and agility after learning tai chi.

    Tai chi can reduce pain and increase physical functioning in arthritis patients

    A study from Tufts University on patients with severe knee arthritis showed that an hour of tai chi, twice a week for 12 weeks, reduced pain and increased physical function more than standard stretching.

    Find a local tai chi class or club by contacting your local YMCA or community center. And, if you or someone you know lives in the Boston area, Harvard University is currently recruiting adults ages 50-79 to participate in a six-month study on the effects of tai chi on overall health.


    Discover what yogis around the world know about this practice-it can relieve stress, strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility, a recipe for aging well. According to the American Yoga Association, it's been around for more than 5,000 years, and there are now more than 100 different types of yoga. Literally meaning "to join or yoke together," yoga brings together the mind and body in one holistic practice (learn more about the history of yoga).

    The yoga practice can also be adjusted for students of all ages and capabilities, and has been shown to dramatically improve health and longevity. Whether you practice every day or just a few times a week, yoga can be a vital way to reconnect your mind and body. Here's some recent research on the health benefits of yoga:

    Yoga reduces inflammation and the effects of stress in women

    An Ohio State University study showed that women who had been regularly practicing yoga at least twice a week for two years were much better at recovering from stress and had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.

    Yoga helps chronic back pain

    A brand-new study, organized in part by the National Center for Complementary Medicine, showed that people with chronic low back pain who took 12 weekly classes saw "clinically important improvements in their back-related dysfunction," which lasted well past the end of the study.

    Read more about specific yoga poses that can alleviate symptoms of menopause from Yoga Journal, check out Gaiam Life's guide to simple anti-aging yoga poses, or shop yoga products from Gaiam Life.

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Meditation
    Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an emerging practice that draws from the tenets of meditation and yoga, and involves a focus on breathing and awareness of your present surroundings. (Dr. Bradly Jacobs, the chair of our Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends learning more about MBSR here.)

    By increasing our awareness of the connection between body and mind through meditation or MBSR, we can take control of common health issues such as pain, menopausal symptoms and stress. Here are some recent studies on the benefits of mindfulness:

    Mindfulness lessens pain
    A study done at Wake Forest University showed that participants who were trained in mindfulness through four 20-minute sessions felt pain at a much lower level of intensity and unpleasantness than those who were not trained. Researchers concluded that mindfulness helps the brain restructure itself and take control of sensory experiences.

    Mindfulness soothes the discomfort of hot flashes
    Scientists at the University of Massachusetts showed that women trained in mindfulness felt less discomfort associated with their hot flashes (and slept better!).

    Meditation good for heart health
    A 1991 study reviewed the effects of Dhammakaya Buddhist meditation on markers for heart health in men. The meditating men saw significantly reduced cortisol levels and blood pressure, all good for keeping your heart calm and healthy.

    Whichever you choose, these practices can be integrated into a good supplement regimen--check out some of our favorite healthy aging supplements

  • Is TV Shortening Your Life?

    Who doesn't like to settle in to a Friday night movie with a bowl of popcorn after a long, hard workweek? If that’s your idea of heaven, consider this: A recent study by the University of Queensland and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in August claims that for every 60 minutes of television we watch after the age of 25, our life is shortened by almost 22 minutes! If the information in this Australian report is true, then watching too much television ranks right up there with smoking and obesity as health hazards. Of course, there are unknown variables that probably go along with television watching that also lend themselves to increased mortality

    When it comes to which activities you choose to engage in when relaxing, consider exploring outdoor (or even indoor) fun activities that don’t require turning on TV. Be creative (or check out these family-friendly activities from Parents) and know that it’s important to be paying as much attention to how you treat your body as you do to what you put in your body.

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