Friday, September 30, 2011

Echinacea: The Natural Antibiotic that Works!

A Bit of History
Before the introduction of allopathic antibiotics, the herb Echinacea was used exclusively to boost the immune system, without ever producing a single side effect! This is a lot more than we can say for many of the synthetic alternatives that conventional doctors proscribe today.  Native Americans used the plant for its powerful medicinal properties that help avert and cure a myriad of problems, followed by the early Americans and then the Europeans who learned even more about Echinacea’s ability to strengthen the immune system.  In bygone days when syphilis, scarlet fever, diphtheria, malaria, and blood poisoning were prevalent, Echinacea was the medicine of choice as it helped prevent infection while strengthening and arming the body’s army of disease-fighting white blood cells.

The Plant
Echinacea is a member of the daisy family and known as Asteraceae, or purple coneflower for its brilliant petals that stand out when in bloom.  There are two types of Echinacea:  E. Angustifolia, which grows best in colder climates and at a high elevation, and E. Purpurea, which can be grown at a lower elevation in milder climes.  Both types can be grown from seeds and then kept in partial shade rather than full sunlight.  If you grow Echinacea in your outdoor garden, you will marvel at the proliferation of butterflies it attracts!

Echinacea’s Many Attributes
Most of the scientific research done on Echinacea has been in Germany where research shows how it helps to stimulate cells that fight infection.  Where allopathic vaccinations generally target a specific problem and conventional antibiotics often weaken the body’s natural ability to heal itself, Echinacea strengthens the immune system.  In this regard, the body is better able to fight viruses, bacteria, and abnormal cells on its own.  Echinaea does this by activating white blood cells and lymphocytes so that they can do their job of attacking and overcoming invading organisms that cause illness and disease.

A short list of Echinacea’s attributes:
·      Increases the number of immune system cells necessary for health
·      Works as a mild antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral
·      Prevents bacteria from entering healthy cells
·      Stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing
·      Helps with skin regeneration
·      Reduces inflammation in skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
·      Reduces inflammation in cases of arthritis
·      Increases resistance to infections
·      Helps heal candida, herpes, urinary tract, and other similar infections
·      Helps reduce inflamed lymph glands
·      Helps reduce symptoms of sore throat
·      Helps reduce upper respiratory problems in general
·      Helpful in averting and shortening the duration of the common cold

In Europe Echinacea is so respected that it is sometimes used as IV supplement for some forms of cancer and is often injected for the treatment of urinary tract infections.  In the United States, where pharmaceutical drugs are the mainstream, it takes good personal research to understand the importance and power of Echinacea as an alternative or supplement. 

The University of Maryland Medical Center confirms that many laboratory studies show that Echinacea contains active substances that enhance the immune system.  In this regard the plant has received positive feedback in a more conservative setting for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and helping to boost anti-oxidant and hormonal strength.

In terms of the common cold, 14 clinical trials throughout the United States show that the use of Echinacea reduces the odds of developing a cold by 58% and reduces the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days .

Using Echinacea
I have used Echinacea throughout the years whenever I feel a cold coming on.  As soon as the first symptom rears its head, I place approximately 30 drops in a glass of room temperature water and drink this twice a day to completely avert any problem. It is best to use Echinacea on a short-term basis, as this way you get the most from its power.  I use it until my symptoms go away, or as a preventative, for two to three weeks with a break of a few weeks.  

You can find Echinacea in many forms: as a tincture (alcohol or glycerine based), liquid extract, tea, capsule, as well as in creams and gels for topical use.  Make sure you follow directions in terms of dosage. 

Words to the Wise
Echinacea is not a substitute for critical medical cases.  Make sure you consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a protocol.  Though there is no known toxicity, it is advised not to use the herb in cases of progressive systemic and autoimmune diseases such as TB, lupus, and connective tissue disorders.

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Four Serious “Healthy Food” Myths

The food industry is big business.  Just witness all the marketing hype, especially these days when everyone is jumping on the “health” bandwagon.  Now that mainstream companies are aware of the consumer trend leaning towards more conscious habits, marketers are using labeling ploys to lead the non-researching public by the nose.

If you want to be healthy there is no other way but to read labels and to do your own research.  What might be time-consuming in the beginning will become a sure fire way to insure that you are informed and getting what you pay for, rather than falling for outrageous health claims that are antithetical to smart eating practices. 

Here is a very short list of some foods on what I call the “hype” list:

Canola Oil
Canola oil was initially one of the biggest exports from Canada, hence the “Can” in Canola.  This oil is pressed from the rapeseed plant, which is a member of the mustard family.  In order to get the oil out of this plant, on a commercial level it requires processing at extremely high temperatures using mechanical pressing procedures.  At about 300 degrees F, a whole lot of trans-fats (hydrogenated, artificial fats that raise cholesterol levels) are created.  Additionally, the high heat factor tends to make the oil rancid and foul smelling, requiring a deodorizing process using chemicals to do so. On top of this, the oil gets refined, bleached, and de-gummed ~ with the results obviously going into our bodies when we consume the oil.  Canola’s high sulfur content also makes the oil become rancid quickly, and if any of you out there have used it to create baked goods, you’ve already noticed how fast they develop mold.

Canola oil contains 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega 6, and 10 – 15% omega 3.  But studies at the University of Florida at Gainesville have shown that 4.6% of all the fatty acids in canola oil are highly hydrogenated (and known as trans-isomer fats) because of the harsh refining process.  Other studies were published in a 1997 article in Nutrition Research showing that piglets fed canola oil became seriously depleted of vitamin E, which is essential to health.  Yet another laboratory study showed that a strict canola diet actually caused the death of the animals that were a part of the experiment.

Cold pressed, organic canola oil is a safer bet, but of course if you really want to go for a healthy oil, especially for cooking, buy coconut oil.  Coconut oil does not contain any trans-isomers and boasts no nutritional depletion when heated.  There are many, many benefits of using coconut oil both internally and externally, and I will cover these in another article coming up soon!

Farm Raised Salmon
Here’s a frightening statistic given what you are going to read in a second:  over 60% of fish eaten in the United States is farm raised and 80% of the salmon in the marketplace today comes from farms.  Ok… now brace yourself…

Farm raised fish are placed in pens that can contain upwards of a million!  These fish cannot move and thus develop all sorts of diseases due to crowding and lack of space.  Farm raised fish are fed things they never eat such as grain, chicken feces, genetically modified canola oil, and fishmeal.  Because they are fattened with these highly foreign elements, farm raised fish are lower in protein than their luckier bretheren who are still in the open waters.  A wild salmon’s diet is krill, which is toxin-free and contains astaxanthin, a potent anti-oxidant that gives salmon its pink color.  Because nothing in a farmed salmon’s diet contributes to a hue we associate with salmon, they are fed artificial color. 

Farm raised salmon has 39 times more sea lice than wild salmon, especially due to the crowded conditions in their pens.  Strong pesticides are used to kill the sea lice.  Copper sulfate is also used as a way to remove algae that forms on the nets that capture farmed salmon for killing and packaging ~ another toxic chemical that we ingest when we eat these fish. 

Farm raised salmon contain up to eight times the level of carcinogenic PCBs as wild salmon.  They are lower in omega 3 fats than their free-swimming brothers and sisters who generally have a very high omega 3 concentration.

Farm raised salmon means great profit for producers, and the demand that comes from ignorance keeps putting money in their coffers.  Wild salmon remain more or less the way nature intended them to be, and for this they are more expensive for consumers, which is true with organically grown foods of all kinds.  As with everything in life, you get what you pay for and in this case if you buy farmed salmon, you may be paying dearly with the health of your body.

Popular Cereals and Energy Bars
Flashy boxes make big statements when you’re walking down a grocery store aisle.  Most commercial cereals are highly processed to make them sweeter, tastier, and easy to prepare.  Most commercial cereals are loaded with sugar and low on fiber content, often contrary to what they advertise on the box.  Because we’re often in a rush when we shop, we don’t stop to read the list of ingredients carefully and when Raison Bran uses the words “raison” and “bran”, we think, ah, two healthy foods, right?  Take a closer look and you’ll find loads of sugar and processed filler. 

The best cereals you can eat are whole grains that require cooking time, like steel cut, organic oats and the like.  Take the time to cook them and you will feel the difference in the way your body responds in terms of energy, cleansing, and reducing the propensity for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Energy bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, or granola bars… whatever they are called, they generally contain a very small amount of fiber and a whole lot of sugar and processed carbohydrates.  Why risk raising your blood sugar levels to experience the subsequent energy drop and mood swings when you can make your own?  Homemade bars using unprocessed whole grains will help control your weight, balance your moods, up the ante on your endurance, as well as keep your system regular.  Unprocessed whole grains help to stabilize the system and are recommended as part of an anti-cancer, anti-heart disease, and anti-diabetes diet.  Simply mix a handful of organic raw oats with coconut flakes, chopped raw almonds, organic raisons or currents, and raw honey.  Shape your mix into logs and freeze and you have the perfect healthful pick me up that won’t wreak havoc on your body.

Frozen Yogurt
Yogurt is healthy because of the live culture of beneficial bacteria it contains.  When yogurt is heated more than 112 degrees F, this culture is killed.  When commercial frozen yogurt is made, the milk it takes to make it is heated upwards of this index.  Additionally, artificial sweeteners are added to the mix, as well as chemicals that allow it to last longer.  Unlike fresh yogurt that benefits digestive health, frozen yogurt is just another desert that beckons because it contains less calories than ice cream. 

If you are a yogurt lover and want the benefit of live bacteria that assists in digestion, buy plain fat-free yogurt such as the Greek or Bulgarian kind.  Add a sliced banana, a pinch of cinnamon, and a bit of honey if you don’t like eating it plain and you’ll have a delicious, healthy dessert.

The moral of this article is: read labels, do your research, shop carefully, cook slowly, and don’t believe the hype!

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!