Pharmaca Blog

  • Fish Oil or Flax?

    The average American gets only half the daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the World Health Organization. These promoters of heart health and brain function are sometimes called essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from dietary sources or nutritional supplements. We asked Clare Bauermeister, ND, of Pharmaca in West Seattle and Kristine Mestaz of our Los Gatos store to help break down the pros and cons of fish and flax sources of omega-3s.

    Our bodies work with three major types of essential fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. The body must convert ALA into EPA or DHA since those are the more usable forms. Flaxseed oil is nature’s richest source of vegetable-based omega-3 fatty acids in the form of ALA. Fish oil contains both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.

    “The body can convert the ALA in flax to DHA and EPA, but it doesn’t do it very efficiently. If you’re going to be taking flax or fish oil supplements for therapeutic reasons, you generally have to take more flax to get the same benefits that fish oil provides,” says Clare.

    Clare also adds that the clinical evidence supporting plant-based fatty acids isn’t as high. “But given what we know about the benefits of DHA and EPA, I would say you’re bound to get some of the same health benefits from ALA,” she says.

    Both Clare and Kristine will most often recommend fish oil over flaxseed oil for inflammatory problems like arthritis or heart issues. However, flax has some extra benefits that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

    “Flaxseed oil is 100 times richer in lignans than other whole grains,” says Kristine, who adds that there have been a lot of promising studies on lignan’s effectiveness at lowering breast and colon cancers. “Lignans are a phytoestrogen that bind to estrogen receptors,” she says, which keeps our own estrogens in check and decreases the chances of gynecological cancers.

    Kristine often recommends flaxseed oil for constipation, since it’s so high in fiber, as well as post-exercise recovery and even weight loss. “I’d also recommend it for skin problems like eczema and dandruff,” she says. “If someone came in who really wanted perfect skin, I’d recommend both fish and flaxseed oil.”

    Flaxseed oil also raises fewer sustainability issues, and is an ideal option for dedicated vegans and vegetarians. Another benefit? “You can pour a flax oil supplement over your food, or make a salad dressing out of it,” says Kristine. “You can even put it into your smoothies! With fish oil? No way.”

    Pharmaca offers a wide range of both fish and flaxseed oil products, as well as combination formulas, that have been chosen for their purity and potency. Ask one of our practitioners which option is best for meeting your personal health goals.

  • Practitioner of the Month: Karin D, Wellness Counselor

    Because Pharmaca stores are staffed with such unique practitioners--from acupuncturists to herbalists to naturopaths, every once in awhile we like to highlight one who is particularly great at their job. Our practitioner of the month is Karin D., wellness counselor and assistant manager at our store in south Boulder, Colo.

    Says Leslie, store manager at South Boulder: “Karin is an exceptional practitioner.  She is very knowledgeable and we have many customers returning to our store on a consistent basis to report how much she has helped them.”

    Before coming to Pharmaca, Karin practiced as a naturopath in Germany, where she specialized in herbs, homeopathy and Kneipp hydrotherapy. She also has an M.A. in psychology.

    Leslie adds that Karin is a wonderful model of Pharmaca's integrative approach. “Karin goes the extra mile to ensure the health care needs of our customers are met," says Leslie. "She frequently does consultations with our pharmacists to ensure that customers needs and concerns have been addressed.”

    Congratulations, Karin!

  • Products we love: Muscle Remedy Massage Oil

    This year Pharmaca began formulating our own line of massage oils and lotions. They’re filled with pure essential oils that make massage a warm, aromatherapeutic experience.

    We especially love our Muscle Remedy Massage Oil because it’s great for soothing tired muscles. A combination of camphor, juniper, rosemary and sweet birch oil make for a warming, relaxing oil that’s perfect for a post-workout massage, or just to soothe tight muscles.

    And now through June 7—take $1 off Muscle Remedy and any of our other Massage Oils and Lotions. Just use code MASSAGE at checkout.

  • 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.

  • Essential Oil of the Month: Rosemary

    Rosemary is one of those quintessential herbs that add flavor to almost any dish. It's native to the Mediterranean region, and is a member of the mint family. Maybe that's why, as an essential oil, it's known for its ability to revitalize and clarify.

    What it does
    Rosemary has been clinically shown to improve cognition, increase alertness and elevate mood. Another study showed that rosemary's active ingredient, carnosic acid, can shield the brain from free radicals that contribute to stroke and other neuro-degenerative conditions (when taken internally).

    Bonus use
    Rosemary has anti-bacterial properties that can make it useful as a household cleaner or disinfectant.

    Ways to use it

    • Inhale directly from the bottle to feel energized
    • Add 5-10 drop to a carrier oil for a nourishing scalp massage
    • Pour a few drops on a damp cloth and wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces--any areas you want to disinfect.

    Interesting tidbit
    Rosemary is so at home in the Mediterranean that it is thought to survive only on the humidity brought on sea breezes. In fact, the herb's name originated from the Latin rosmarinus, which is from "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus).

  • Why We Love jane iredale Cosmetics

    With all of the cosmetic choices available today, it’s nearly impossible to decipher which ones work well and are good for your skin. That’s why we love jane iredale—THE SKIN CARE MAKEUP, and why so many of our team members have made the switch. Here, they talk about their favorite jane iredale products, and the toxic products they left behind.

    Diane, Graphic Designer
    Old favorite: Lancome All Done Up Lipstick
    jane iredale favorites: PureGloss, Lip Fixation (“It’s ridiculous how many lip products I carry around!”)
    “I love how they plump your lips. And they last forever.”

    Jaime, Pricing Coordinator
    Old favorite: Benefit Ultra Shines Lip Gloss
    jane iredale favorites: Lip Fixation, Bitty Brow Kit
    “I love that I only have to apply the Lip Fixation once, and I’m good to go for the day. And the Bitty Brow Kit is one of the only things that’s always in my purse—perfect for shaping any time.”

    Mary, Esthetician, South Boulder Pharmaca
    Old favorite: Cover Girl, other drugstore brands (“I switched around quite a bit before I became an esthetician!”)
    jane iredale favorites: Active Light Concealer, PurePressed Base, Bronzer
    “I use a lot of iredale products. The PurePressed has nice coverage without a heavy look, and the bronzer adds light, natural-looking color. And though I used to have problems with breakouts, my skin has really cleared up since I switched to mineral makeup.”

    Julie, Graphic Designer
    Old favorite: Mary Kay Nourishine Lip Gloss
    jane iredale favorite: PureGloss
    “I love that it doesn’t have anything extra in it it shouldn’t have. Just natural shine!”

    Laura, VP of Marketing
    Old favorite: Stila Cheek Color
    jane iredale favorites: PurePressed Blush, PurePressed Base
    “I feel so much better knowing it’s not toxic, not making me sick. I think my skin looks brighter, healthier and fresher. And I love that it has SPF.”

    Tiffany, Communications Manager
    Old favorite: Clinique Superbalanced Makeup
    jane iredale favorites: PurePressed Base, Active Light Under-Eye Concealer
    “I love how light and nourishing they feel—I don’t feel guilty if I need to reapply because I know it’s actually feeding my skin! And the powder is perfect for toning down my naturally shiny skin.”

    Lani, Creative Director
    Old favorite: Laura Mercier Pressed Powder
    jane iredale favorite: Liquid Minerals “I need something extra light, so I mix the Liquid Minerals with my favorite moisturizer from Astara. It gives great coverage that hides blemishes but doesn’t feel heavy. It feels like your face, but better!”

    Donna, Project Manager
    Old favorite: N/A (“It’s been 10 years since I’ve used anything that wasn’t from Pharmaca—I used to buy whatever I thought was pretty!”)
    jane iredale favorites: PurePressed Base, PurePressed Blush
    “Before I started using iredale the liquid makeup always felt so heavy—this just looks so natural. You can’t even feel it but you know you look great.”

    To find your perfect jane iredale product, speak with a Pharmaca esthetician today.

  • 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!

  • Boost Your Skin Health from the Inside Out

    From our friends at Pure Encapsulations

    There are a number of different nutrients that provide key building blocks to support skin elasticity and hydration, healthy hair, and nail strength and thickness. Vitamin C, zinc, copper, manganese and silica are integral collagen and keratin cofactors, promoting skin elasticity. Vitamin C also supports skin resiliency and helps counter the effects of oxidative stress. Niacinamide and zinc promote immune function and healthy inflammatory balance in the skin. The proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract help to stabilize collagen and elastin by moderating the proteolytic enzymes collagenase and elastase. Clinical studies have indicated that the B vitamin biotin may adjust the cellular arrangement of the nail bed, helping to reinforce the keratin structure, promote strength and thickness, and reduce splitting.*

    In addition to supporting healthy skin, hair and nails, most water-soluble B vitamins also play a metabolic role in the conversion of carbohydrates, fat and protein into energy, and in the maintenance of muscle tone. Biotin in particular is an essential co-factor for a number of metabolic carboxylation reactions. Biotin forms a covalent bond to the following carboxylase enzymes: pyruvate carboxylase for glucose metabolism, acetyl-CoA carboxylase for fatty acid oxidation, and propionyl-CoA carboxylase and ß- methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase for amino acid metabolism. A clinical study reported that high dose administration of biotin helped promote healthy glucose metabolism. Biotin may also act to promote transcription and translation of glucokinase, an enzyme found in the liver and pancreas that participates in the metabolism of glucose to form glycogen. In addition, a double-blind study reported that biotin supplementation may promote healthy lipid metabolism. Furthermore, recent studies have expanded biotin's metabolic role, claiming that the vitamin maintains healthy genetic expression of the many enzymes for which it is a cofactor.*

    Pharmaca offers Pure Encapsulations’ Biotin 8 mg, Polyphenol Nutrients and B-Complex Plus products, which deliver the nutrients described above and provide the wide-ranging support needed to promote optimal health, inside and out.

    When you order Pure Encapsulations' supplements, you will receive the highest quality nutritional supplements and health information available. Ingredient quality, manufacturing excellence and quality control are their most important priorities.

    *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

  • Own sun care products lauded by Real Simple

    Discover Own Bio-Activating Skincare, now in Pharmaca stores!

    Real Simple magazine just lauded the Own Active Block Ball for its great protection, safe ingredients and innovate application method. Discover Own's other sun and skincare products at Pharmaca or online here.

  • Get that garden growing!

    Want some pointers on starting your own organic garden?

    Growing your own food can be one of the most rewarding and environmentally friendly activities we can engage in. Get started now and you’ll have fresh (and local!) veggies on your plate in no time. If you're new to gardening, check out Whole Living’s Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening.

    Conventional wisdom says to wait to plant seeds outside until after the last frost—usually around Mother’s Day (check out the Farmer’s Almanac for planting recommendations by zip code).  Whether you’re planning a serious vegetable garden or just a few herbs, start planning your plot with certified organic seeds from Seeds of Change (15% off in April!).

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