Pharmaca Blog

  • The B Vitamin Breakdown

    Vitamin B1Know that you need B vitamins, but not sure which ones you need (or why?). Here's a breakdown of different types of B vitamins often found in B complexes, and why they're important. Follow the links to learn more about dosage recommendations, dietary sources and supplement suggestions.  

    B1 – Thiamine

    Vitamin B1 plays an integral role in the brain and central nervous system. B1 assists in the synthesis of acetylcholine, which is critical in preventing memory loss and nerve inflammation. B1 is also important for the digestive system, as it supports the production of stomach acid and provides nourishment for all digestive organs, helping us get maximum nutrition from our food.

    Read more about vitamin B1 >

    B2 – Riboflavin

    Vitamin B2 is a powerhouse of energy, and a key member of the B vitamin family. As a potent enzyme, riboflavin helps us to synthesize essential fatty acids and amino acids, and enables better absorption of iron and B6. Riboflavin is so vital to the system that cells cannot grow without it, and deficiency is quickly seen in cells that are frequently reproducing, like the mucous membranes, eyes and hair.

    Read more about vitamin B2 >

    B9 – Folic acid

    This powerful nutrient is used to nourish and repair tissues, and plays a key role in the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that help regulate sleep, pain and mood. Folic acid is one of the more well known B vitamins because of its importance during pregnancy for healthy fetal development, particularly during the first trimester.

    Read more about vitamin B9 >
    B12 - Methylcobalamin

    This energy booster is vital for amino acid synthesis, DNA replication and the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that are partially responsible for stabilizing mood and sleep patterns. Signs of deficiency include gastrointestinal disturbance, hypotension, fatigue, numbness, tingling in extremities, confusion and agitation. B12 is also needed to metabolize essential fatty acids. Prolonged deficiency of B12 can lead to a variety of central nervous system symptoms, and some neurological disturbances can become permanent.

    Read more about vitamin B12 >

  • Easy Switches for Naturally Healthy Teeth & Gums

    Good dental healthYou know the drill (or how to avoid one!) for good dental care: Brush, floss, rinse. But ingredients like fluoride or alcohol in many dental care products are potentially harmful. Here are a few natural ways to take care of your teeth and gums—and keep you smiling!

    No to: Fluoride
    Yes to: Xylitol

    Fluoride is added to dental products (and many public water supplies) because the American Dental Association says it helps remove the plaque that causes gum disease and tooth decay, and it helps strengthen tooth enamel. But there is a downside: according to the Fluoride Action Network, it has been linked to several illnesses, allergies and compromised thyroid functioning. Alarmingly, the FDA requires a “poison” label on fluoride toothpastes, due to its toxicity if even small amounts are ingested.

    Xylitol is a natural sweetener (look for xylitol made from birch bark), that actually stops the production of tooth-decaying acids and helps recalcify tooth enamel. Try Xlear's Spry Fluoride-Free Toothpaste with Xylitol that combines xylitol with bacteria-fighting aloe vera. For flossing, single-use Xylitol Antibacterial Cranberry Floss Sachets from Radius amp up protection from cavities with both xylitol and cranberry compounds that help stop bacteria from attaching to teeth.

    No to: Alcohol
    Yes to: Oxygen & Coconut Oil

    Mass-marketed mouth rinses rely on alcohol to fight bacteria in our mouths, but long-term use of these alcohol-based products has been linked to oral cancer. A safer way to keep acid-forming bacteria at bay is with oxygen, in the form of hydrogen peroxide. Essential Oxygen's Organic Brushing Rinse is free of alcohol, fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate to keep gums healthy, teeth white and breath fresh.

    Another way to rinse: “oil pulling," an ancient Ayurvedic technique that’s been in the news lately. Take 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for 10-20 minutes, then spit it out. Fans claim oil pulling draws harmful bacteria away from your teeth and gums and cleans much better than brushing alone.

    No to: Teeth Whitening Strips and Trays
    Yes to: Activated Charcoal

    Teeth whiteners often contain high concentrations of bleaching agents that can cause extreme tooth sensitivity—especially systems that use trays or strips to keep bleach on the teeth for 20 minutes or more. Instead, try brushing your teeth with activated charcoal. Take ½ teaspoon (or one capsule) and dissolve it in a small amount of water or coconut oil, then brush your teeth gently for 2 minutes. Your teeth will be black when brushing(!) but after spitting it out and rinsing you’ll see brighter teeth and tannin stains (coffee, wine, tea) gone.

    No to: Sugary & Starchy Snacks
    Yes to: Apples

    Granulated sugar is a leading cause of tooth decay, and starchy foods mix with saliva forming an “acid bath” in our mouths that erodes tooth enamel. Instead, reach for an apple (nature’s toothbrush!), as it increases saliva flow and its astringent qualities help reduce the build-up of cavity-causing bacteria.

  • Get Your Electrolytes the Natural Way: Two Recipes

    electrolytesFrom our friends at WishGarden Herbs

    With summer at its peak and the sun at its zenith, it’s a great time to do a little thinking about electrolytes. These naturally occurring substances – minerals such as sodium, potassium and chloride – are present in all our body fluids; they are also called ions because they carry an electrical charge. By maintaining electrical gradients across cell membranes throughout our body, they play a vital role in nerve impulse transition, muscle contraction and many other imperative processes that are required for life. Because we lose these salts when we sweat during intense exercise or exposure to heat, it is extremely important that we find ways to replenish them. The repercussions of not doing so can be dangerous – even deadly.

    But think again before you reach for a sport’s drink or vitamin water.

    These drinks not only deliver unnecessary amounts of calories, sugar and sodium – but are also often packed full of harmful ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors and preservatives. You might think you are doing a good thing by replenishing electrolytes when drinking these beverages, but instead you are setting yourself up for a sugar crash and pumping your body full of questionable things.

    So, how should one replenish electrolytes? The answer is very simple, inexpensive and involves nothing artificial of any kind: brew yourself up some herbal electrolyte replenishing tea. There are a plethora of herbs to choose from (from nettles and red clover to alfalfa) and most contain minerals in concentrations very close to that found in our own blood stream. They taste great, contain no high fructose corn syrup and will deliver nothing artificial or nasty into your body. I promise once you start, you will never be tempted by the neon sugar water marketed as ‘sports drinks’ again.

    Here’s two easy recipes to get you started:

    Nettle Tea with Peppermint and Lime

    Makes 1 quart.


    • 1/2 cup dried nettle leaf
    • 1/4 cup dried red clover flowers
    • 1/4 cup oat straw
    • 1/8 cup peppermint, spearmint or a combination
    • juice of 1 lime


    1. Place the herbs in a quart sized container (a glass mason jar works well) and cover with 1 quart of just boiled water. Let infuse several hours or overnight.
    2. Strain the herbs out by pouring the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Squeeze the lime juice into the tea and refrigerate until use. The tea can be lightly sweetened to taste with honey or stevia.

    Hibiscus Punch

    Makes 1 quart.


    • 4 tablespoons hibiscus flowers
    • 1 tablespoon orange peel, dried or fresh
    • 4 slices fresh ginger root
    • 1/8 teaspoon Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
    • juice of 1 orange


    Place the herbs in quart sized container and cover with 1 quart just boiled water.  Let infuse 15 to 20 minutes and then pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container to remove the herbs. Squeeze the orange juice into the tea and sweeten with honey or stevia to taste. Refrigerate until use.

  • 5 Healthy Reasons to Eat More Nuts

    Mixed NutsIsn’t it great when one of our favorite snacks turns out to be good for us? Here’s why eating a handful of nuts every day isn't such a bad idea.

    1.     Nuts are heart healthy.

    Studies have shown that eating a small portion of nuts each day helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Almonds and walnuts are two of the best for heart benefits, since walnuts are high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that slow the growth of plaque in our arteries, and almonds are full of good monounsaturated fats that improve blood cholesterol levels and stabilize heart rhythms.

    2.     Nuts can help us breathe better.

    Nuts that are high in vitamin E, like almonds and hazelnuts, help improve lung function. The oil in nuts is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce mucus production, so they're a great thing to include during allergy and cold seasons.

    3.     Nuts (just a handful!) fill us up.

    Nuts make a great snack because they are high in protein and fiber. Choose nuts that are low in calories and saturated fats. Almonds, for example, are high in protein and low in fat: a ¼ cup serving has about 160 calories and 4 g of fiber. Cashews and pistachios are good low-cal choices, too. Just eat macadamia nuts and pecans in moderation, as these have the highest amount of saturated fats and calories.

    4.     Peanuts count.

    Although technically a legume, peanuts offer many of the same benefits as tree nuts. In addition to being a good source of protein and fiber, peanuts have high levels of vitamins E and B, as well as antioxidants such as resveratrol (which helps reduce diabetes risk and heart disease) and p-coumaric acid (a beneficial probiotic that helps digestion). Dry-roasted (or boiled!) without salt are the ones to choose, as these have fewer calories and lower sodium.

    5.     Nuts are easy to add to our diet.

    Here are a few easy ways to incorporate more nuts.

    • Pick up Pharmaca's healthy nut mixes for ready-made nutrition! Try our Antioxidant Trail Mix, a blend of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cherries, cranberries, apples, cashews and peanuts. Gorp with Chocolate is another favorite, featuring peanuts, raisins and chocolate gems. Or go for straight nuts with Raw Almonds or Organic Raw Cashews.
    • Add nuts to salads. A sprinkle of nuts offers an extra protein boost even to pre-made salads.
    • Try incorporating the best of a Mediterranean diet (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts) and add nuts to whole grain pasta dishes or sautéed greens like spinach or broccoli.
    • Use nut flours in soups or stews, or to replace white flour in baking recipes.
    • Make a quick, tasty dessert.  A quick recipe? Chopped bananas, honey, a sprinkle of almonds and walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon.

    Tell us: What's your favorite way to eat nuts?

  • Plant-Based Antioxidants and Their Benefits

    You may know why antioxidants are good for the body—they fight free radicals and slow the signs of aging. Here, Dr. Tori Hudson talks about how plant-based antioxidants can help prevent inflammation and oxidative damage. Look for them in brightly colored fruits and veggies, or through dietary supplements such as green tea, ginkgo and hawthorn, and superfruits such as acai and mangosteen.

  • Why Sugar and Glycation May Be Keeping You From Youthful Skin

    WomanonBedWe’ve heard rumblings about the dangers of refined sugar for awhile now. It’s linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It’s addictive, has no nutritional value and might make us fat. Need one more reason to avoid the stuff? Glycation: The process by which sugar can cause wrinkles and sagging skin.

    Simply put, glycation is the process that happens in our bodies when sugar hooks up with proteins. Normally, sugar is converted to fuel for our bodies. But when we eat too many sugar-laden foods, excess sugar molecules find proteins and fats to latch onto, creating abnormalities called Advanced Glycation End products (AGE). These AGEs cause collagen and elastin proteins in our skin to lose flexibility and weaken. The result? Sagging, dull and wrinkly skin.

    We can slow down glycation and help repair the damage with diet changes and targeted skin care products. Here’s how to fight glycation from both the inside and the outside.

    Slow glycation with a healthy diet.

    • Eat less (or no) refined sugar.
    • Say no to high-fructose corn syrup (it speeds up glycation to 10 times the rate of simple glucose!).
    • Stick with good carbohydrates like brown rice and whole wheat products. They produce less glucose and they’re absorbed more slowly so your body isn’t bombarded with excess sugar.
    • Avoid highly processed food that’s full of refined sugars.
    • Get lots of fiber, especially from raw vegetables—it helps absorb AGEs.
    • Choose low-fat dairy products and eat more fish like salmon, tuna and sardines. (Studies show high fat red meats and cheeses produce more AGEs.)
    • Try carnosine supplements (like Jarrow Formulas' L-Carnosine), a potent anti-aging, antioxidant amino acid that helps protect against AGE buildup.

    Use glycation-targeted skin care products.
    After age 35 glycation really speeds up, making it a good time to switch to anti-aging products that hydrate, firm and detoxify.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner about other anti-aging skin care products that might help in your skin's fight against glycation.

  • The Latest Diet Recommendations: Low Fat is Out

    Eggs are in. Eggs are out. Healthy fats are in. Transfats are out. As research evolves about how diet affects our health—and different recommendations seem to come out every week—it can be hard to know what to believe anymore.

    “We've been told for decades that eating a low-fat diet is helpful for heart disease and stroke prevention," says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and chair of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board. "It turns out we were wrong. Now, a lot of the data is showing that a low-fat diet is no better for us, and can actually lead to more weight gain and more risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease." The rationale is people on a low fat diet typically replace fat calories with carbohydrates (grains, bread, pasta) which causes surging levels of sugar in the body, inflammation and even more hunger.

    Dr. Jacobs cites three studies published this year that show that low-fat diets aren’t doing us any good. “The thought is that certain types of fatty acids are actually helpful—like the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that you find in avocados, olive oil, nuts and fish oils.”

    First, the body needs fat and cholesterol to help our brains form the myelin sheaths that protect our neurons, says Dr. Jacobs. He adds that fat is also vital to many of our body’s cellular processes. In addition, new research is showing that saturated fats, like those found in vegetable and dairy products, can help increase the good part of our low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, normally thought of as the “bad” cholesterol).

    Yup, LDL isn’t all bad news. LDL is actually made up of two different types of cholesterol: type A, the lighter, bigger cholesterol particles, and type B, which are smaller and more dense. Type B is the one linked to health problems, and is the one that increases when we eat too many simple carbohydrates. Type A, on the other hand, seems to increase through intake of fat.

    Cholesterol aside, Dr. Jacobs says, there are a few other reasons why low-fat diets can stifle weight loss efforts and create other health problems as a result.  “When you go on a low-fat diet, you have to replace those calories with something—either with more protein or more carbs,” he says. “Fat makes you feel satisfied and full, so low-fat diets may cause you to eat more calories because your brain never registers that feeling of satisfaction.”

    Finally, foods that are marketed as “low fat” are often filled with salt and sugar to make up for the absence of fat. Make sure you’re reading labels, Dr. Jacobs says, to ensure there’s not a lot of other bad stuff in place of fat.

    To make sense of it all, Dr. Jacobs offers these good eating rules of thumb.

    Fill your plate first with vegetables. “Vegetables are good for you in abundance because they have lots of fiber, and lots of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients,” he says. “Studies show that if you eat seven servings of vegetables each day, you reduce your chance of dying from heart disease, cancer and all other causes of mortality of by 42 percent! Even if you can’t get in seven, every serving helps lower that risk.”

    Make sure refined carbohydrates don’t take up more than one-quarter of your daily calorie intake. For a woman on a typical 2,000 calorie diet, that means no more than 500 calories, or 125 g. And, says Dr. Jacobs, “You want carbs that take a long time for your body to digest, so the sugar enters your bloodstream slowly rather than all at once. Simple carbs immediately get converted into sugar and increase your insulin levels.” That throws your blood sugar out of whack, and can affect our energy and hunger levels—and make it hard to eat healthy.

    Limit saturated fat from animals. The European Perspective Investigations into Cancer (EPIC) study showed that consumption of more than 8 oz of red meat—especially processed meats—lead to a greater incidence of cancer and death. So, while your body needs a little saturated fat now and then, the emphasis is on a little.

    Choose healthy sources of fats. Dr. Jacobs recommends avocado, fish, nuts and nut oils, olive oil and coconut oil as the best place to get the fat your body needs to feel full and perform best.

  • Better Brain Health (Video)

    Keeping your brain strong throughout your life can help slow cognitive decline as we age. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talk about the importance of social relationships, good sleep, a healthy diet and consistent exercise when it comes to brain health. In addition, he talks about supplements such as vitamin D, CoQ10 and B vitamins and their role in brain function.

  • On-The-Go Nutrition

    Woman smiling in fieldWant to start your day with a little extra nutrient boost? Pharmaca offers a variety of nutritional supplements that are easy to slip into a smoothie or add to your favorite juice. Here are a few to consider—and why.

    Muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, heart, brain and internal organs all use protein as their primary building material. Collagen, a special type of protein, is important for strong arteries, tendons, ligaments, teeth and connective tissues. A diet rich in protein can also help produce dopamine and norepinephrine, two powerful brain chemical neurotransmitters that keep you alert and mentally powerful.

    Protein powders are available from a variety of sources: whey protein is the most bioavailable and easily absorbed by your body; egg protein is great if you can't tolerate dairy products; vegan proteins, such as those from peas, hemp or chia, are complete and bioavailable, and many are organically grown.

    Green Foods
    Powdered greens contain the highest concentrations of easily digested nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They may also contain beneficial substances like proteins, phytochemicals and good bacteria, all of which can protect against disease and illness while they detoxify and energize key organs.

    Greens such as seaweed are also excellent blood purifiers, alkalinizing the body and helping reduce the burden of environmental toxins.

    Fiber is essential for a variety of processes, but one of its most important roles is to promote regular, rapid elimination, which can relieve constipation, improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and even decrease your risk of colon cancer.

    Other benefits: Fiber contains oligosaccharides, which feed the friendly bacteria in the gut (called "prebiotics") to enhance digestion and improve nutrient absorption. Fiber is also great at regulating blood sugar.

  • Herbal Remedies for Stress Relief (Video)

    Discover herbal remedies that can help your body manage stress, alongside meditation, exercise and good diet. Here, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog talks about studies that have shown how the herbs chamomile and ashwaghanda, an adaptogen, can help calm the mind, help you get better sleep and replenish the body.

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