Pharmaca Blog

  • Coffee: Is it Really Good For Us?

    Young woman drinking tea at homeFor coffee drinkers, nothing beats the aroma and taste of a freshly brewed cuppa. Considering so many of us start the day with a cup or two, here are a few things to know about whether to imbibe or abstain?

    It’s full of antioxidants and nutrients.

    Coffee is a pretty complex drink, as it’s made up of hundred of compounds, from caffeine to vitamins and minerals. A single cup of coffee contains 11 percent of your daily recommended riboflavin (vitamin B2), and also has small amounts of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), magnesium, potassium and niacin.

    Coffee also contains powerful antioxidants called quinines that become more potent after the beans are roasted. And the antibacterial compound trigonelline in coffee has been shown to prevent cavities in black coffee drinkers.

    Coffee’s caffeine may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

    Alzheimer's research studies have shown that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day in midlife can slow down the start of the illness by up to 65 percent later in life. This is perhaps because caffeine blocks inflammation in the brain and suppresses the rise of amyloid plaques that are strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine also slows the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and eases tremors by blocking certain receptors in the brain that cause symptoms.

    Coffee protects us against type 2 diabetes.

    Drinking more than four cups of coffee each day can help keep type 2 diabetes at bay, according to scientists at Harvard. Seems the antioxidants and minerals in coffee, including magnesium and chromium, help your body use insulin which controls blood sugar levels.

    Skip it if: You’re pregnant.

    Caffeine is the culprit here—it can go through the placenta and reach the fetus, and can keep you and your baby awake (it has also been linked to higher incidences of miscarriage). For pregnant women it may be better to reduce coffee consumption to one or two cups a day.

    Skip it if: You have trouble controlling high blood pressure.

    If you’re not a coffee drinker and you start, the first week or so of drinking it can raise your blood pressure significantly, though after a few weeks those readings usually go down. If you have a hard time controlling your hypertension, limit coffee intake or switch to decaf coffee.

    Skip it if: Your decaffeinated coffee is processed with solvents.

    There are a few ways to remove caffeine from coffee beans, and a common process uses the chemical solvent methylene chloride. Although the FDA has approved its use in decaffeinating coffee, this solvent’s side effects in higher exposures include headaches, dizziness and other central nervous system troubles. Instead, be sure your decaf coffee is processed by the Swiss water process, a chemical-free method that uses green coffee bean water and filters to remove nearly 100 percent of the caffeine.

  • Natural Perfumes: A Chemical-Free Fragrance Guide

    CheekyPerfumes often have such sweet, uplifting names...Happy, Heavenly, even Curious. That's why it may come as a surprise that most mass-marketed fragrances are formulated with toxic chemicals—ingredients that give these fragrances staying power or mimic a natural scent. But these ingredients are also linked to a host of health troubles, from asthma to hormone disruption. Here’s what you need to avoid and safe ways to add fragrance to your life.

    Avoid “fragrance” as a labeled ingredient

    This generic term is used by cosmetic and perfume companies and they are not required to disclose what ingredients actually make up their fragrances. Many mass-marketed perfumes include synthetic chemicals that are known allergens and sensitizers (chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, including asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis).

    Avoid phthalates and parabens

    These chemicals are often added to perfume products to increase their staying power on your skin and in the bottle. But they’ve been linked to hormone disruption, breast cancer and reproductive toxicity—especially in teens, since they’re some of the largest consumers of fragranced personal care products.

    Avoid synthetic musk (including Nitro-Musk, Galaxolide and Tonalide)

    Musk is a common scent found in perfumes. Fragrance companies may say it’s a sexy animal scent, but its side effects are decidedly not sexy. Synthetic musk is a toxin that accumulates in our body, especially in fatty tissue and breast milk, and acts as a hormone disrupter.

    Use natural essential oils

    Natural essential oils are pure oils distilled from plants—flowers, leaves or seeds. These oils have distinct aromas like woody, spicy, green, herbal or floral. Here’s what you’ll smell with some of the common scent families.

    Woody or spicy aroma: stimulating, clearing, grounding
    Look for: clove, frankincense, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver
    Try: Pacifica's Sandalwood Perfume Roll-On, a warm, velvety woodsy scent

    Green or herbal aroma: brisk, clean
    Look for: citrus, bergamot, eucalyptus, rosemary, chamomile, basil
    Try: Love & Toast's Gin Blossom Perfume, a fresh, crisp citrusy scent

    Floral aroma: sweet, serene, feminine
    Look for: lavender, rose, ylang ylang, neroli
    Try: Jurlique's Essence of Rose Roll-On Fragrance, a pure rose scent made from Gallic roses

    Make your own

    It’s also easy to make your own fragrance creations. For tips on scent combinations that work well, check out this guide to the aromatic blending of essential oils. Remember, some essential oils are skin irritants due to the high concentration of active compounds, so make sure to dilute them with a carrier oil or alcohol.

    Cologne

    15-20 drops of essential oil (in whatever combination of scents you like)
    2 tablespoons unflavored vodka (100 proof is best) or pure grain alcohol

    Pour alcohol in a glass bottle first, then add essential oil. Let it age for at least 2 days, and up to 1 month. Finally, dilute with 1 tablespoon distilled water.

    Body Oil/Lotion

    15 drops of essential oil
    2-3 tablespoons of jojoba oil, almond oil or unscented body lotion.

    Blend and store your fragrance in a dark glass bottle.

    Explore the essential oils and natural fragrances at a Pharmaca near you!

  • Q & A: Good Breast Health

    Mom and DaughterAt what age should I begin being concerned about breast health? 

    Optimally, we would teach our young girls to be aware of the importance of diet and exercise on breast health for the future. It's also important to start early because certain foods, such as soy foods, can improve breast cell differentiation in pre-puberty and thus reduce the risk of breast cancer. Educating girls/women about healthy diets, regular exercise, weight management, and low alcohol consumption is a message that can be revisited throughout their lives.

    What are the biggest risk factors for breast cancer? 

    It starts with gender—approximately 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Other non-preventable risk factors include a family history with a first-degree relative with breast cancer, and age, as more than two-thirds of invasive breast cancers are in women age 55 and older.

    Environmental risk factors play also a meaningful role, including:

    • Diets high in saturated fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates, and low in fruits and vegetables
    • Exposure to chemicals from industrial and agricultural processes
    • Excessive weight gain as an adult, obesity and/or a sedentary lifestyle
    • Lack of pregnancy and full term birth
    • Excess alcohol (greater than 7 drinks per week)

    Post-menopausal women on estrogen and synthetic progestin for longer than 3-4 years have a slight increase risk of breast cancer.

    Aside from self exams, what can I be doing to encourage good breast health? 

    Not all current guidelines even recommend self exams, and surprisingly, research is showing that screening mammograms in low risk women and early detection of a breast cancer may not lead to reduced rates of women dying from breast cancer. This confusing and contradictory state of the research has made it more difficult to understand what a woman should do to monitor breast health.

    Nevertheless, a regular annual physical exam is still something I urge all women to do. Checking in with your doctor regularly is important because you get a routine physical exam and the opportunity to optimize health by talking through your habits and getting necessary tests.

    I would also focus on the following:

    • Healthy weight management, with a minimum of 3.5 hours of exercise per week,
    • Low alcohol consumption
    • Reducing exposure to environmental toxins (e.g choosing “green” cleaning products and organic foods)
    • A healthy, whole foods diet with a focus on brightly colored vegetables, some fruits, whole grains, quality soy foods, olive oil, a few saturated fats (cheese, butter, meats) and fish twice per week.
    • Healthy relationships

    Good stress management—including time spent in nature to take advantage of the healing power of nature on body, mind and spirit

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about other recommendations for maintaining good breast health.

  • Essential Herbs for Summer First Aid

    BoyonbeachSummer's not over yet...and neither are our outdoor activities! To get some insight into unique herbal remedies for the bumps and bruises, stings and scrapes that come with outdoor fun, we turned to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board.

    What should I stock in my herbal first aid kit?  

    Choose what you need in your herbal first aid kit based upon where you live, how you live and who lives with you! Here are the basics that most of us should keep around the house:

    • Calendula salve for skin irritations and rashes
    • Arnica salve or tincture for bruises, strains and sprain
    • Oregon grape root or goldenseal tincture—a powerhouse antimicrobial that can be used internally or topically
    • Echinacea tincture and/or elderberry syrup for colds and upper respiratory infections
    • Slippery elm lozenges for sore throat and occasional heartburn
    • Bentonite or French clay for insect bites
    • Witch hazel extract for bug bites and swelling
    • Grindelia tincture for poison ivy/oak and for chest congestion
    • Tea tree oil for fungal infections
    • California poppy tincture for use as a mild sedative and pain relief
    • A variety of herbal teas (e.g. chamomile for tension, ginger for nausea or upset stomach, peppermint for colds, etc.).

    Other first aid essentials: acetaminophen for pain, diphenhydramine for allergic reactions, tweezers for removing splinters, oatmeal and baking soda for itchy skin, and an assortment of bandages, gauze pads, etc.

    What herbs are safe for babies and children? 

    If you have children in the house, make sure that you keep some remedies that are appropriate for their age. Chamomile, for example, soothes a fussy 2 year old or can ease crampy diarrhea in a 5 year old; slippery elm lozenges can soothe sore throats; honey can reduce coughs in children over a year; and echinacea glycerite (an alcohol-free version) and elderberry syrup are good for colds and coughs, etc.

    Remember, any child under the age of two months who appears ill should be seen by a qualified health care professional. You can also find extensive information on safely and effectively treating children and adults at home in my book, Healthy at Home—as well as information about when you should seek medical care!

    Give us your go-to herbs in the summer for the following

    Insect bites. French or bentonite clay mixed with a little water to make a paste—apply to bite and then cover with cloth or plastic wrap for 30-45 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times per day if needed. Witch hazel extract can also be applied as a compress to the bite.

    Poison ivy and poison oak. Grindelia tincture is hands down my favorite treatment. It can be applied directly to affected area, or you can mix 1 teaspoon in 1/4 cup of witch hazel extract and then apply (repeat as needed).

    You can also make an oatmeal bath to soothe skin: Whirl 4 cups of oatmeal in blender or coffee grinder until powdered, then add 1/2 cup baking soda. Put in a cloth bag, sock or pantyhose and throw in bathtub of cool water and soak. You can also make a compress out of the oatmeal/baking soda blend and apply topically to the affected area.

    Scrapes and bruises. For scrapes, wash with soap and water to remove any debris. If necessary, you can get extra antimicrobial protection by rinsing the cut with either of the following: Dilute 5 ml of Oregon grape root or goldenseal tincture in 50 ml of water, OR dilute 60 drops tea tree oil in 1 ounce water. Calendula ointment can then be applied and the cut can be covered with an appropriate bandage. For strains, sprains or bruises (not an open cut), arnica salve or tincture is the best you will find.

    Earaches from swimming. If you’re prone to getting swimmer’s ear, use this remedy to prevent infection (Caution: Don’t use this if your ears are already hurting, because the alcohol will burn). Mix 1 oz rubbing alcohol and 1 oz white vinegar in a jar (mark EXTERNAL USE ONLY!). Apply 2 to 3 drops of room temperature mixture in each ear after swimming or showering. The alcohol will effectively remove the water, while the acidity in the vinegar prevents bacteria from growing.

    Sunburn. You can use aloe vera topically, but one of my other favorites is to make a strong pot of green tea, let cool, and apply to the sunburn every 3-4 hours. Prevention is the best remedy here, however. Wear a hat, protective clothing and/or safe sunscreen!

    For more first aid advice, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • No Adults Allowed! Kid-Friendly Supplements

    ClassroomStart those healthy habits early with a variety of supplements specially formulated with the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy development for brain and body. With a new school year rapidly approaching, it's all the more important to give them a nutritional edge for increased energy and strengthened immunity against the germs lurking in their classrooms.

    To prevent nutritional deficiencies, get your child into the healthy habit of taking a daily multivitamin—and turn it into a fun morning (or nightly) ritual instead of a chore. Bluebonnet's Super Earth Rainforest Animal Chews Multi-Vitamins feature a superfruit blend along with with extracts of bone-building vegetables (broccoli, broccoli sprouts, brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, onion, spinach and tomatoes) in one yummy, raspberry-flavored chewable. The tasty tablets also help facilitate calcium and phosphorus absorption and increase the formation and density of children's growing bones.

    Rainbow Light's Sunny Gummies Vitamin D3 is a delicious lemon-flavored gummy that delivers a potent level of vitamin D3 to support bone and muscle strength, immune function, and circulatory and cellular health. Vitamin D3 is the most effective form of vitamin D, and Berry D-Licious contains 2,500 IU of this important vitamin. Totally natural and free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and additives, this delicious supplement is also allergen safe, created without gluten, soy, yeast, milk, eggs, nuts, fish or shellfish.

    Fish oil, known for its fantastic benefits, isn't just for adults. Kids everywhere love Nordic Naturals' strawberry-flavored Children's DHA. Made entirely from Arctic cod liver oil, this supplement is rich in the omega-3 DHA–essential for the proper development of the brain, eyes, and nervous and immune systems. Easily swallowed or chewed by children over three, Children's DHA also contains healthy levels of naturally derived vitamins A and D.

    Babies can also benefit from supplements. Nordic Naturals' Baby's DHA Vegetarian is formulated for the specific omega-3 nutritional needs of infants, and is a safe, effective way to ensure that babies 6 months or older (or as directed by your pediatrician) get the DHA they need for healthy development. And don't forget the vitamin C! Ensure your toddler receives crucial quantities with Hyland's Vitamin C tablets. These no-fuss tablets dissolve quickly and deliver 71 percent of the daily value for babies under a year, and 63 percent for kids between 1-3 years.

    Should a cold strike–despite your best efforts–treat your child with Hyland's 4Kids naturally soothing Honey Cough Syrup, Cold 'N Cough, or Sniffles 'N Sneezes. Safe and effective, these homeopathic remedies quell the symptoms of the common cold, cough or congestion for fast recovery.

    Pharmaca is committed to offering a holistic and well-rounded approach to children's health. Visit one of our stores to talk to a licensed practitioner about your child's health and nutritional needs.

  • Is it a Cold or Allergies?

    SnifflesYou have a runny nose, cough and congestion…but is it a cold or allergies? It's a common question during summer, when pollen counts are high but colds are still going around. Allergies and colds share many of the same symptoms, but causes—and treatments—are different for the two.

    Allergies

    Allergies happen when the immune system reacts to a substance it believes is harmful, called an allergen. During the immune reaction, histamine is released from immune cells, causing the typical symptoms of allergies: congestion, red and itchy eyes, nose and throat, coughing and sneezing.

    In severe cases, hives and rashes can develop. Allergens are specific to the individual and can be anything, including pollens, dust, food, grasses, mold and other environmental substances. Allergies are not contagious and symptoms can continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergen.

    Common colds

    Common colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. Your immune system recognizes a virus and mounts an attack by producing different proteins and antibodies. The attack can result in common cold symptoms: sneezing, coughing and congestion. Colds are contagious and are spread from person to person through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), and bodily contact such as shaking hands. Colds generally last less than 10 days.

    Sinus Infections

    Sinus infections develop when mucus builds up in the sinus cavities, creating a welcome environment for bacteria to collect and cause infection. The reason for the mucus build-up is because the nasal lining is unhealthy and inflamed, most often due to allergies, a cold or, less frequently, an underlying dental infection. Sinus infections can be acute or chronic, but allergies are the main cause for chronic sinus infections. Sinus infection symptoms include pressure around and behind the eyes and cheeks, runny/stuffy nose lasting more than a week, headache, fever, cough and thick green/yellow mucus.

    Is it an allergy or a cold?

    The most notable difference between a cold and allergies is the duration; a cold usually doesn’t last longer than 10 days. If your symptoms persist beyond two weeks, contact your doctor to determine if it could be allergies or something different such as a sinus infection.

    Allergies tend to have itchiness in the eyes, nose and throat where colds do not. Seasonally speaking, allergies (hay fever) predominate in the spring and summer, and colds predominate in the winter and fall.

    Here are a few other rules of thumb when it comes to determining the difference:

    Characteristic Common Cold Allergy Sinus Infection
    Pathogen Virus Allergen Bacteria
    Duration 3-14 days Indefinitely Acute or chronic
    Time of Year Most frequent in fall and winter, but possible anytime Any time, but seasonal allergies predominate in spring and summer Any time
    Symptom Onset 12-36 hours following exposure to germs Can begin immediately following exposure to allergen Usually a history of cold, allergies or dental infection prior to symptom onset
    Symptom Common Cold Allergy Sinus Infection
    Cough Often Sometimes Occasionally
    Aches Occasionally Never Occasionally
    Fatigue Occasionally Sometimes Occasionally
    Fever Rarely Never Sometimes
    Itchy, watery eyes Rarely Often Rarely
    Sore throat Often Occasionally Occasionally
    Runny or stuffy Nose Often; usually yellow mucus Often; usually clear Often; yellow or green mucus

    So I know what I’ve got. Now what? 

    Relief from the common cold

    The key to preventing and treating colds (and sinus infections) is boosting the immune system and avoiding germs. Remember to wash your hands often, drink plenty of liquids, avoid sugar (it impairs the immune system) and get plenty of rest. You can also try the following products:

    Vitamin C is antiviral and reduces the severity of symptoms and duration of a cold. Try MegaFood’s Daily C-Protect or American Health’s Ester-C.

    Zinc lozenges serve a dual purpose: they relieve sore throats and are a critical nutrient for optimal immune functioning. Try Nature’s Way’s Sambucus Organic Zinc Lozenges or Source Naturals’ Wellness Zinc Lozenges.

    Umcka, (aka South African Geranium or Umckaloaba) is very healing for a cough and shortens the duration and severity of a cold. Try Nature’s Way’s UmcKa ColdCare Original.

    Shop all cough & cold relief >

    Relief from sinus infections

    Anything that causes swelling of the sinuses can result in obstruction of drainage and a subsequent sinus infection. Keep the nasal passages healthy and drained to avoid infections—daily nasal irrigation with a neti pot can help to keep the passages clear—and don’t forget to support the immune system by using the products suggested for a common cold. For sinus support specifically, try these products:

    Pharmaca brand Sinus Relief Soother, a traditional Chinese formula for immediate sinus support and relief

    XClear’s Sinus Nasal Spray with Xylitol helps to wash, hydrate and moisturize the nasal passages.

    Mucolytics help to break down mucus. You can find them in Jarrow Formulas’ N-Acetyl-l-cysteine (N.A.C.), Enzymedica’s SerraGold or Jarrow Formulas’ Bromelain.

    Shop all sinus care >

    Relief from allergies

    Reducing exposure to allergens and stabilizing histamine reactions is key to preventing allergies. Some common allergens are pet dander, trees, pollen and grasses, dust mites, cockroaches and molds such as mildew and fungi.

    Try the following products to tame allergy symptoms:

    Plantiva’s AllerDx can help to quickly calm histamine reactions and improve nasal airflow.

    Ortho Molecular’s D-Hist provides nasal and sinus support by breaking down mucus and stabilizing cells that release histamine.

    Learn more about Dr. Tieraona Low Dog's recommendations for natural allergy relief >

    Shop all allergy relief >

  • 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.

    Ingredients

    • 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

     Directions

    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.

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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?

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