Pharmaca Blog

  • Hit the Hay

    For many people, getting to sleep or even getting back to sleep can be a struggle. We spoke with pharmacist Anne Friar and Ayurvedic practitioner Sunny Rose at Pharmaca in Albuquerque to find out about the range of solutions available to help the sleepless get more rest. From time-tested herbal formulas to doctor-recommended prescriptions, Pharmaca can help you conquer short-term sleeplessness and chronic insomnia.

    Sunny: Insomnia is often a result of stress, worry and having too much on the mind. I like to start by recommending remedies that gently relax the nerves-ones that don’t interact or have side effects. Bach’s Rescue Sleep is great because people can use it if they wake up in the middle of the night and it won’t make them drowsy the next day. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to herbal combinations like Deep Sleep from Herbs, Etc. with things like valerian, lemon balm, poppy and passionflower.

    Anne: Ambien or its generic versions and Trazodone are the two prescriptions we see most often for insomnia. For people who are prescribed Ambien, I tell them not to take more than the recommended dose and to avoid drinking alcohol. It’s a pretty quickly metabolized drug, so it’s best to have 6-8 hours of sleep time to avoid the “hangover” the next morning. Ambien is really only recommended for occasional sleeplessness, a few times a week, but a lot of people start taking it every night. Because it can be mildly addictive, we can advise on alternative options so people don’t become reliant.

    Sunny: I try to recommend melatonin in moderation because people can become habituated to it and need increasing amounts. In certain cases, I suggest Natural Health International’s Herbatonin, because it is a low-dose, plant-based melatonin that is safer for the long term. I also like Pharmaca brand Sleep Formula, which combines an herbal blend with melatonin-perfect for taking during an especially stressful period or for jet lag.

    I see more people with insomnia than almost anything else. Being an Ayurvedic practitioner, I also encourage people to try restorative yoga and good breathing practices. In my opinion these are some of the most important things you can do.

    Speak with one of Pharmaca’s pharmacists or licensed practitioners for advice and information that suits your specific needs. And enjoy getting your zzzs.

  • Top 5 Healthy Aging Supplements

    Aging can bring with it many gifts, from growing families to a better perspective on life. To support your greatest gift (health, of course!), consider our top five healthy aging supplements.

    1. Calcium
    Bone mass peaks around age 30, after which point bone loss begins to exceed bone creation. Much of this loss is preventable with proper nutrition in combination with exercise and good lifestyle habits. Adding a calcium supplement to your regimen will help make up for the fact that most people do not get sufficient levels from their diet.

    2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    Properly caring for your heart can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease which remains the leading cause of death for Americans. Omega-3 fatty acids come from certain fatty fish, marine life, plant sources and nut oils. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, have been shown to help keep blood triglyceride levels in check and lower elevated blood pressure.

    3. Ginkgo Biloba
    Most people experience age-related forgetfulness beginning in their 50s and 60s. Keep your mind sharp with activities like reading and socializing. Additionally, supplementing with Ginko biloba has been shown to benefit those with Alzheimer's/multi-infarct dementia, and promising evidence has been shown for its memory enhancing properties.

    4. Probiotics
    If mealtime is followed by misery, take steps to support your digestive system. Even those who have seemingly unrelated health conditions can often benefit from the improved nutrient absorption that comes with better digestion. Probiotics contain cultures of friendly bacteria that are naturally present in the digestive system. When taken with a meal, these supplements can help boost the body’s natural ability to break down food.

    5. Glucosamine
    Temporary or chronic inflammatory conditions can be associated with injury or various forms of arthritis. Glucosamine is a natural compound found in healthy joint tissue which research has shown to be helpful for reducing inflammation, maintaining the integrity of joint cartilage, and enhancing flexibility.

    Speak with one of our licensed practitioners to learn more about aging well and living better.

  • Addressing ADHD

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric conditions affecting children. According to the centers for disease control, an estimated 4.4 million youth between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with this condition, with over half receiving prescription drug treatment. Prolonged symptoms, such as chronic inattention and constant hyperactivity, can be treated with prescription medication or complementary therapy. David Villareal, pharmacy manager at Pharmaca’s Monterey store, and practitioners Julie McGinnis and Erin Stokes from the South Boulder store share both options.

    DV :: The two most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are Concerta and Adderall XR. These drugs help people gain focus although classified as stimulants. The side effects depend on the individual, but can include agitation, insomnia, and loss of appetite. These two formulas can be addictive, so some physicians prescribe Strattera because of its lower abuse potential. Treating someone affected by ADHD properly is like giving a new pair of glasses to someone who really needs them.

    JM :: Fish oils, especially DHA omega-3 fatty acids, can help promote brain health in those affected by this condition. We carry a high potency, flavored liquid supplement by Pharmax, as well as chewable options by Nordic Naturals, that are both great for children. It is best to get between 1,000 and 1,500 mg of fish oil per day.

    ES :: Good nutrition can also help children affected by ADHD. By consuming enough protein during the day, blood glucose levels can be kept stable. Try making protein powder shakes as an after school snack. I also recommend L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea plants, to increase the production of alpha brain waves for improved mental focus and concentration.

  • Food for Thought: Nutrition for a Better Brain

    Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for a reason—they’re actual structural components of all neural cells. In other words, they’re part of the brain’s building blocks. Because the body can’t manufacture this nutrient on its own, fatty acids have to be obtained through food and dietary supplements. This is especially important for developing babies and children whose diets often don’t include omega-3–rich fish.

    Scientists and doctors are beginning to explore the role omega-3s like DHA play in the cognitive development of children. DHA is vital to both the nervous system and visual functions (particularly the development of the retina), especially during gestation and in the first few years of life. Infants receive DHA in the womb and through breast milk, provided the mother has enough in her own diet. Experts now think adequate DHA intake could have a positive effect on curbing ADD and ADHD symptoms.

    While the human body can convert ALA—another omega-3 that is found in plants like flax oil and evening primrose—into DHA, it’s much less efficient than ingesting DHA in its whole form from fish. That’s why so many doctors are recommending that patients of all ages take a fish-oil supplement that will provide them with the brain boost they need.

    So how do you ensure your children are receiving enough DHA throughout the important stages of cognitive development? Once they’re weaned from breast milk, our practitioners often recommend Nordic Naturals’ Children’s DHA. “Most kids comply with them just fine because they taste good and are easy to swallow,” says Asia Real, a certified nutritionist at our Pacific Palisades store.

    “Nordic also has phenomenal standards for cleanliness,” adds Real. That’s especially important to parents concerned about mercury content in their fish oil: Nordic’s special distillation process ensures that all heavy metals are removed from the final product, and third-party testing continues to confirm Nordic’s purity.

    Nordic Naturals’ Children’s DHA is sold in chewable, soft gels and liquid form, both of which are infused with strawberry essence to make the cod liver oil palatable for little taste buds. Though DHA intake is important in the first few years of life, Real encourages parents to consult with their pediatrician before starting a fish-oil regimen with kids under 3 years.

  • Brain Boosters

    Our favorite brain-boosting supplements:

    Jarrow Formulas BrainBoost
    Helps increase brain circulation and support the synthesis of neurotransmitters to improve memory, recall, focus and mood.

    Thorne Research Memoractive
    Combines ginkgo biloba, Acetyl-L-carnitine, Ayurvedic herbs and more to enhance alertness, learning and reaction time.

    Pharmaca PS Phosphatidylserine
    Increases cell flexibility in the brain, which in turn boosts memory, focus and clarity.

    Turns out that keeping our brains working hard throughout our later years can be governed by how we treat our bodies throughout our lives. We got advice about what you can do to keep your brain working smarter, longer from Dr. Bruce Price, MD, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Associate in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Price also served as a member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board.

    Dr. Price has four major areas he encourages people to focus their energy on to ensure good brain health throughout their life: exercise, followed by good nutrition, sleep and happiness.

    1. Exercise. In addition to helping everything from mood to blood pressure, exercise increases blood circulation in the brain, decreases inflammation and can lower the risk for dementia. Dr. Price recommends at least 45 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week, in addition to 2-3 strength-training sessions per week. He adds that a healthy exercise routine can help you maintain independence and mobility much longer, adding to your quality of life.

    2. Good nutrition. Dr. Price recommends getting the majority of your necessary vitamins and nutrients from food sources. The best plan? Mimic the Mediterranean diet:lots of fruits, veggies and good fats (like olive oil and fish), and low in dairy, meat and poultry. Add on nuts filled with good fats (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds); antioxidant-rich foods (berries and greens); and an essential fatty acid supplement that contains at least 1200 mg of combined EPA and DHA.

    3. Sleep. Without a full night's sleep, mood, memory, attention, reaction time and learning suffer, says Dr. Price. For most people, 7-8 hours of sleep is optimal, but the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity. As we age, the required sleep time decreases, but it conversely increases the need for those mid-afternoon naps to keep the brain focused.

    To optimize your quality of sleep, Dr. Price suggests maintaining consistent schedules (especially getting up at the same time everyday), eliminating any bad habits that you might do in bed-watching TV, paying bills or worrying-and spending time outdoors during the day to help reinforce the body's natural circadian rhythms. And don't necessarily rely on prescription or over-the-counter sleep remedies; for many people they can hinder quality sleep more than they can help it.

    4. Happiness. Strong social ties may help promote brain health, especially as we age, Dr. Price says. Studies have shown that friendships can be just as important to our wellbeing as our family relationships. So use those social ties to continue to engage the brain, through book groups or volunteer work, Dr. Price says. He also recommends spiritual and meditative practices like yoga or tai chi to keep the mind and body working well.

    To learn more about what to do now to ensure good brain health later, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner.

  • 5 Skin Care Ingredients You Need Now

    You may know that peptides are pretty popular in skin care right now, but do you know why? What about alpha hydroxy acids? To get the scoop on the science of beautiful skin, we spoke with Ben Fuchs, pharmacist, formulator and founder of Sanitas Skincare.

    “If you get stranded on a desert island and can bring five things for your skin, these are the things you want to bring,” says Fuchs. In no particular order, here’s what Fuchs recommends.

    Peptides: These act as signaling molecules, improving just about any chemical reaction you want to catalyze on your skin. Want to regrow tissue? Detoxify the skin? Stimulate collagen production? “Every process is enhanced by peptides,” says Fuchs. “They command the cells to do things.”

    Where to find them: listed as dipeptides, tetrapeptides, peptapeptides, etc.

    Products we love: Sanitas PeptiDerm Moisturizing Cream and Anti-Aging Serum

    Biogenic Lipids: These fatty acids are made in the skin, supporting cell growth and skin moisturization. They also improve the penetration of other beneficial materials.

    Where to find them: listed as squalane or ceramides

    Product we love: Jurlique Replenishing Cleansing Lotion

    Vitamin C: This one has protective properties, and turns on production of the skin’s own moisture factors. “The most powerful, effective forms are the stable, fatty forms,” says Fuchs.

    Where to find it: Listed as ascorbyl palmitate or ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate

    Product we love: Sanitas Topical C Moisturizer

    Vitamin A: Skin cells divide rapidly-Vitamin A helps them grow at the right pace. It’s also an important vitamin for stimulating collagen production.

    Where to find it: listed as retinol or retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid (prescription strength)

    Product we love: Astara Antioxidant Light Moisturizer

    Alpha Hydroxy Acids: This family of acids smooth and soften skin, even skin tone and stimulate the growth of connective fibers and sugars. Ultimately they can improve overall moisturization, as well as the appearance of wrinkles.

    Where to find them: listed as glycolic or lactic acid

    Products we love: Jurlique Herbal Recovery Gel, Night Mist and Neck Serum

    “I use all these ingredients liberally,” says Fuchs of his Sanitas formulations. “If you use all of them correctly, you’ll notice results as soon as you put them on.” Your skin should be smoother, softer and brighter, he says, and over time you’ll see a more youthful appearance and more tightness. With ingredients like these, Fuchs says, “You’re changing the health of the tissue, the inherent biochemistry of the skin. That is no small feat.”

    Talk to a Pharmaca esthetician today about how to integrate these ingredients into your skin care regimen.

  • Seasonal Allergy Relief

    When spring is in the air, allergens are also sure to accompany it. “There are a lot of things that set off the immune system,” says Peter Borregard, a homeopathic practitioner at Pharmaca’s Berkeley store. Peter reassures those who suffer from seasonal and consistent allergies that there are a wide selection of products and approaches to handle the problem.

    If you experience a reaction to a specific allergen, like pet dander or pollen, it is important to limit the exposure. Peter says he irrigates his sinus passages with a Neti pot after working in the yard.

    For deeper problems, he suggests that customers take steps to improve the gut, where much of the immune response is localized. Peter recommends probiotics and detoxification treatments as helpful stabilization tools for seasonal allergies.

    Some of Peter’s favorite products include natural remedies that incorporate homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, or herbal philosophies for healing. He usually directs customers to Boiron Sabadil, Bioallers, Alleraid Herbal, Gaia Herbs Aller-Leaf or stinging nettle leaf depending on individual symptoms and personal history.

  • Lower Stress, Healthier Heart

    By now you’ve heard it all—boost your heart health with omega-3s and CoQ10, keep your cholesterol low, watch your blood pressure. Even if you’re vigilant about taking the right supplements and watching what you eat, there’s another major factor in your heart health: stress.

    “When we’re under stress our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up and we secrete cortisol,” says Erin Stokes, naturopathic doctor at our South Boulder store. “All of that can be hard on your cardiovascular system.”

    Indeed, a 2010 study at the University of Western Ontario showed that increased cortisol levels, a good marker of chronic stress, were directly correlated to a higher incidence of heart attacks. So how to keep cortisol in check?

    “Meditation, getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition are all essential,” says Erin. “But you may also want to consider working on replenishing your adrenal glands.”

    When we experience the fight-or-flight response, which often happens as we drive busy roads or come up against tight deadlines at work, the adrenals secrete cortisol. Over time they become depleted, and the result is not only a feeling of exhaustion, it’s also stress on the cardiovascular system. “In this day and age almost all of us have some level of adrenal fatigue,” says Erin.

    To lower the physiological effects of stress, she first recommends some long-term adrenal support in the form of Ashwaganda, and especially likes Gaia Herbs organic formulation that offers quick delivery to your system. Another formula is Vital Adapt from Natura, which she likes because it supports the adrenals, the thyroid, and the nervous system all at once. For moderate levels of stress, these formulations can help relieve symptoms of adrenal fatigue in just a few weeks. For people experiencing more intense chronic stress, it could take months.

    That’s why it’s also good to look for short-term help. “Sometimes when people are working on adrenal health they need support in the moment,” says Erin. That’s when she recommends supplements that can help reduce situational anxiety. For example, for people experiencing panic attacks, Erin usually recommends GABA. For more low-grade anxiety, L-Theanine is a better fit. She also really likes the Emotional Ally formulation from WishGarden Herbs. Ultimately, it’s best to speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about your symptoms so they can help you find the right support.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt to slow down once in awhile, too. A 1991 study from Thailand found that men who practiced Dhammakaya Buddhist meditation had much lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and higher stress reaction time than those who did not meditate. Seems like all of our hearts could use a little om.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about heart-health-boosting supplements, stress-relieving herbs and all the other ways to support your heart.

  • Statins 101

    Cholesterol is a wax-like, fatty substance needed by the body for the production of bile acids, provitamin D3, male and female sex hormones, adrenal hormones and membranes that surround cells. It’s also essential for brain and nerve functions.

    But not all cholesterol is good. The body’s total cholesterol is made up of both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A total cholesterol count that is higher than 240 mg/dL or an LDL level greater than 130 mg/dL represents a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

    If you fall into one of those categories, your doctor might prescribe statins like Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol or Crestor to lower your cholesterol. Statins help reduce LDL levels and can also help increase HDL levels, thereby reducing overall risk. About 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men over age 65 were prescribed these medications in 2002 according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Health Statistics.

    Statins can cause unpleasant side effects like muscle and joint pain, nausea and potential liver damage. However, the advantages outweigh the risks in most cases. Additional benefits include reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure, plus new research is exploring the ability of statins to prevent arthritis, cancer and reduce the possibility of dementia.

    Other available prescription treatments for high cholesterol include bile acid binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors and niacin. Speak with your doctor about the best option based on your individual risk profile. Our pharmacy staff will provide a full consultation when you fill any prescription with us.

  • Healthy Heart Supplements: Pharmaca's Favorites

    Properly caring for your heart can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death in the U.S. While the American Heart Association’s year end update shows an approximately 30% decline in mortality rates due to heart disease since 1999, the data does not look as rosy when it comes to controlling risk factors.

    Living a healthy lifestyle, such as eating well, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking, is the most important way to protect your heart. However, supplementing a well-balanced diet with vital nutrients can have additional benefits. Nancy Brillault, a certified herbalist at the Carlsbad Pharmaca, shares her top five heart health supplements.

    Both EPA and DHA are types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil that help keep blood triglyceride levels in check and help lower elevated blood pressure. If you aren’t eating several servings of fatty fish each week, your diet may be lacking important omega-3s. Nancy recommends taking 1000–2500 mg for maintenance and 3000–5000 mg for a therapeutic dose. Her favorite brand is Nordic Naturals because it is produced with sustainable fishing methods, and exceeds the stringent European pharmacopoeia standard (EPS).

    CoQ10 is produced naturally in the human body, but low levels have been demonstrated in patients with heart conditions. Preliminary research suggests that supplementation with CoQ10 may be beneficial in the treatment of angina and elevated blood pressure. Nancy is a huge fan of New Chapter’s formula because it is fermented to be more bioavailable in the body. She also recommends pairing a CoQ10 supplement with d-ribose, since they work together to provide cellular energy.

    L-carnitine is used by the body to release energy stored in fat. It has potential therapeutic uses for heart health, like easing the symptoms of angina, reducing damage when taken soon after a heart attack, and lowering blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. Ask one of our practitioners about Jarrow’s professional grade L-carnitine formula.

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that is often depleted in those who take diuretics or laxatives, use alcohol, or have heart problems. Taking 200–300 mg of this mineral supplement twice a day helps reduce exercise-induced chest pain. Scientific studies have also shown benefits of magnesium supplementation for those with cardiac arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. Ionic Fizz by Pure Essence is Nancy’s favorite source since it works very quickly for an immediate effect.

    Hawthorn extract is an age-old heart tonic that has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Nancy recommends the formula created by Gaia Herbs whose products are organically grown on a farm in North Carolina.

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