Tag Archives: product labels

  • Chocolate: A Tasty Way to Get Your Antioxidants

    ChocolateThink of superfoods and names like kale and quinoa come to mind. The good news is that studies have shown chocolate has some pretty impressive health benefits, too (we’ve always secretly believed that anyway). Here’s what some top medical institutions have to say about chocolate’s healthy benefits.

    Flavonols: The secret ingredient
    Cacao seeds are rich in flavonols, which protect the plant from environmental toxins. When we eat chocolate, our cells get the same antioxidant benefits. Flavonols have anti-inflammatory properties too, potentially lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and reducing blood clots, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

    If those weren’t reasons enough, chocolate can improve mood and help you think more clearly, especially in elderly people. And according to the University of Michigan Health System, the healthy fats in cocoa butter can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

    In order to reap these substantial benefits, it’s important to eat the right type of chocolate—i.e. with a cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. That’s because the higher the cocoa content, the more flavonols are preserved in processing. Since the extra calories can still be a concern, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating no more than three ounces a day to reap the best health benefits.

    Eat chocolate, save the world!
    Cacao trees need a unique tropical environment to grow and produce the best chocolate, and most chocolate is grown in developing countries in Central America and West Africa. But throughout the history of its production there have been problems with the way chocolate has been grown and produced—toxic pesticides were used, rainforests destroyed, unscrupulous middlemen took profits, and children and other laborers were compensated with poor or no wages.

    Thankfully, many of these issues have been remedied by Fair Trade and organic programs. Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive a fair price for their goods and requires producers to follow strict social and environmental standards. Chocolate that’s certified organic means no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used in the growing or processing of the chocolate. An added benefit is that organic cacao is typically grown on small plots under existing forest canopy, preserving precious habitats for birds and other wildlife.

    Ones to try

    Divine Chocolate is the world's first farmer-owned, certified Fair Trade chocolate brand. The highly prized beans are grown on small-scale cocoa farms in Ghana. The taste is bold and full-bodied, with low bitterness for a smooth ultra-chocolaty taste.

    Alter Eco artisans create chocolate bars with both traditional and unique ingredients. Their almond, mint and toasted quinoa bars are made with organic and Fair Trade-certified chocolate from Ecuadorian beans, with a rich chocolaty flavor, no bitterness and light floral and fruity notes.

    Dagoba Organic adds flavorful herbs and spices to their chocolate bars—look for additions of lavender, ginger and chai to create a unique, zesty flavor. All of their beans come from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Peru, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic, using sustainable farming practices.

    Endangered Species donates 10 percent of net profits to environmental causes that support at-risk species and habitats, and the beans are grown on Fair Trade certified, small family-owned farms. With vitamin and mineral-packed ingredients like superfoods yacon, acai and golden berries, we think it’s safe to call this one a “health food!”

    Look for these and other great chocolate brands on the shelves at your local Pharmaca store.

  • What Do Those Expiration Dates Mean, Anyway?

    Chances are you’ve got a few bottles of expired medicine lying around the house. So what happens when you’re in dire need of some cold medicine and the only package you’ve got is two years old? Here’s how expiration dates work.

    Prescriptions and OTC drugs  
    In 1979, a law was passed that mandated that all drug manufacturers put a stamped expiration date on their drugs. This stamp represents the manufacturer’s guarantee of the full efficacy and safety of the drug. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug is not stable after this date; it simply guarantees that it is stable in a sealed container with full potency up to this date. The average expiration date is between one and five years.

    A study conducted by the FDA found that 90 percent of more than 100 tested prescription and over-the-counter drugs were found to be safe and effective far past their expiration date—many up to 10 years. While the original effectiveness of the drug may decrease over time, many drugs can be considered safe for use past expiration (with the exception of certain drugs such as nitroglycerine, insulin, EpiPens and liquid antibiotics).

    Dietary supplements
    While the FDA does not require expiration dates for nutritional dietary supplements, manufacturers often include this information in an effort to ensure products provide consistent results. To set an expiration date, a manufacturer must perform stability tests to determine active ingredient degradation over time. And the FDA requires that manufacturers who put an expiration date on their products can prove that the product maintains the original potency listed on the label until the stamped expiration date.

    Here is the general wisdom on the expiration dates of different types of supplements:

    • Herbal, vitamin, mineral, enzyme and amino acid supplements slowly weaken with age. As a general rule of thumb, these supplements may maintain potency for 1-2 years following their expiration date.
    • It is thought that quality B vitamins may not sustain potency following expiration, so it’s a good practice to purchase new B vitamins once yours are past the expiration date.
    • Fish oils and probiotics can maintain potency for around three months past the posted expiration date.
    • Juice or liquid and glandular supplements may maintain potency up to a year past the expiration date.

    Generally, the higher the quality and grade of the supplement, the longer a dietary supplement will maintain potency past the expiration date. Natural supplements generally do not degrade into anything toxic or harmful over time—this also would be dependent on proper storage.

    To ensure potency of any substance, make sure you store it safely. Always keep drugs and supplements in their original packaging. Keep them out of heat, moisture and light, and only refrigerate them if told to do so by your pharmacist. And never store your drugs in the bathroom cabinet, as the bathroom carries a lot of moisture.

    Lastly, never flush prescription medications or supplements down the toilet. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove and destroy drugs, and doing so can lead to contamination of drinking water as well as oceans, lakes and rivers. Polluting marine life in turn has a hazardous impact on our food chain and the drugs can end up back in our bodies. (Click here for more information about proper medication disposal.)

    Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store

  • "Natural" vs. "Organic" vs. "Homeopathic" Health and Beauty Products

    You will often see the words "natural" and "organic" used on a variety of health and beauty products, and some people believe these words are interchangeable. Here's how they're different.


    Let's first explain what "homeopathic" means when it comes to medicine or products. Simply put, homeopathic remedies come from natural substances such as minerals, botanical substances or other sources that are not man-made. The goal of homeopathy is to put the body back into homeostasis (its naturally balanced state) without using harsh chemicals or man-made drugs.


    Homeopathic medicines and remedies stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms. Practicing homeopaths believe that all physical disease has an emotional component, and take the whole being into account--a holistic approach to healing that has gained popularity in recent years.


    Health and beauty products like those in the Dr. Hauschka line are created on the homeopathic principle of "like cures like." This philosophy takes a wide range of natural substances and notes the symptoms they bring about in healthy people. Matching these substances to the individual and the symptoms they are experiencing encourages their own healing energy to return them to good health.


    Now let's discuss "natural" and "organic." While these words are often used synonymously, there are significant differences between organic products and natural products. If a product has "natural" on the label, it was produced by nature but is not necessarily "organic." Natural beauty products may contain ingredients that are not 100% organic, and there are no regulations regarding use of the word "natural" as there are with the word "organic." Natural products can contain chemicals, while organic products cannot. Organic strictly refers to product ingredients grown without pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilizers.


    An organic product must have between 95-100% chemical-free ingredients, while a natural product usually is 50-70% chemical free. A label that reads "certified organic" means 95% of ingredients are organic while "made with organic ingredients" means at least 70% of ingredients are organic. (Read more about organic certifications from our friends at Juice Beauty.) If you have questions regarding natural products vs. organic products, a Pharmaca representative will be happy to help you find exactly what you're looking for.


    Pharmaca carries a full line of homeopathic remedies and natural and organic personal care products. From dental care to hair removal, Pharmaca has the natural and organic products you need to maintain optimal health and wellbeing.

  • Reading your product labels


    We were intrigued by a recent email from the Environmental Working Group about how to read labels on personal care products. Unfortunately they list out all the big offenders to stay away from (parabens, triclosan, fragrance), but don't tell you what to actually look for when you're buying those personal care products.

    At Pharmaca, we've taken the guesswork out of finding personal care products that are good for you and your family. Sprinkled throughout the store you'll find signs like this one, where we talk about ingredients we love--and ingredients to stay away from. In most cases, you'll find it hard to find the ingredients to avoid, since we put such an emphasis on quality and safety within our product selection.

    Look for these signs the next time you're searching for a new personal care product. Then tell us: What ingredients do YOU love?

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