Rise + Shine
Rhodiola rosea (also known as golden root, roseroot, Aaron’s rod and arctic root) is a flowering plant abundantly found in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Its root contains more than 140 active ingredients and has long been used in traditional herbal medicine for its several therapeutic and health benefits.
Rhodiola has long been known as an adaptogen – a natural substance that increases your body’s resistance to physical and environmental stress. Furthermore, the herb is known to deliver its stress resistance effects quite swiftly. It is able to achieve this by strengthening the anti-stress mechanism of the central nervous system, the immune system, heart, lungs, and the endocrine system.
Rhodiola rosea has been an important component of traditional herbal medicine. From leaves to roots, indigenous populations have used the herb for various health purposes. It is used during frigid winters to improve physical endurance and as a remedy for cold. Additionally, the tea made from the leaves of Rhodiola rosea is a popular tonic for seasonal upper respiratory, viral and bacterial infections and has also been used in the treatment of tuberculosis.
Improves cognitive function
Rhodiola’s stress relief effects are mainly reliant on its ability to affect the central nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by suppressing the impact of an enzyme called prolyl endopeptidase (PE), also known as prolyl oligopeptidase (POP).
This enzyme is highly active in the central nervous system where it facilitates an increased release of several neurotransmitters and neurohormones e.g. proline-containing peptides such as substance P, neurotensin, thyrotropin-releasing hormone, bradykinin and angiotensin II.
Rhodiola rosea is believed to help regulate and conserve these neurotransmitters and neurohormones. This regulation is known to have a positive impact on several neural areas such as learning, memory, mood, appetite, and circadian rhythm. It may also prevent untimely brain aging and may prove supportive in the treatment of several neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and autism.
According to a meta-analysis (of over 200 studies) published in 2012, there is a widely held consensus on Rhodiola rosea’s positive impact on cognitive and mental health. 11 studies were shortlisted. 10 were described as randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 1 as a controlled clinical trial (CCT). Two of six trials examining physical fatigue in healthy populations report Rhodiola rosea to be effective as did three of five RCTs evaluating Rhodiola rosea for mental fatigue.
Rhodiola rosea has been referred to as an ergogenic aid – a herb used to boost physical and mental performance. Rhodiola rosea has been known to bring about a noticeable improvement in physical performance, fatigue resistance and it may also help reduce depression. Trials have shown that as little as two weeks on Rhodiola rosea can improve fatigue resistance, physical exhaustion time, peak O2 uptake and CO2 output.
1- Rhodiola rosea: Standardized formula for sustained energy in biological systems. VLADIMIR BADMAEV et al; 2010.
2- Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review. Sana Ishaque et al; 2012.
Rise + Shine
Bacopa monnieri (also commonly known as brahmi, water hyssop or herb of grace) is native to the wetlands within the Southern and Eastern regions of India, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Bacopa monnieri has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine within the Indian subcontinent and is an extremely useful herb with health benefits ranging from stress relief to improved cognitive performance.
Improved cognitive function
Bacopa monnieri has a long history of medicinal use within the Indian subcontinent, especially in India and Pakistan. It has been used to improve various aspects of cognitive performance such as memory, learning, attention and also to treat symptoms of anxiety and epileptic disorders. Additionally, Bacopa has also been used to improve cardiac health, digestive system, and to improve respiratory function to treat bronchoconstriction.
Empirical research data also seems to agree with the herb’s positive impact on human cognitive function. It seems that a constant supplement regime of bacopa extracts can bring about a noticeable uptick in memory, learning, and focus.
Australian researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial where 46 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 were recruited for the study, which lasted for 12 weeks. The subjects were divided into treatment and placebo groups. The treatment group was given a daily dose of 300mg bacopa monnieri with a potency of 55% bacosides – chemical compounds isolated from Bacopa monnieri.
After the 12-week period, significant progress in verbal learning, memory consolidation & speed of early information processing was observed among the treatment group.
Due to its bacosides, Bacopa is able to improve inter-neuron communication. The bacosides also facilitate the repair of damaged neurons by improving kinase activity, neuronal synthesis, and restoration of synaptic activity.
A second study conducted according to a similar design evaluated bacopa monnieri’s efficacy on cognitive performance in 76 healthy adults. The trial lasted for 3 months and a significant improvement in a test for new information retention was observed.
Relives anxiety and stress symptoms
Bacopa monnieri is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it increases your body’s resistance to stress. Research suggests that Bacopa monnieri helps reduce stress and anxiety by elevating your mood and reducing levels of cortisol, a hormone that is closely linked to stress levels. Bone (A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs, 2003) sheds light on positive effects of bacopa monnieri on mental health and cognitive function. He explains that the herb has been used as a cognition-enhancing agent, a nervine tonic, mild sedative, mild anticonvulsant, anxiolytic and may also help strengthen stress resistance. Indications include improving concentration in healthy individuals, improving mental performance & memory, nervous disorders, nervous debility, anxiety.
Research suggests that damage caused by free radicals is linked to many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Bacopa monnieri has been shown to aid against free radical damage by strengthening the body’s internal antioxidant mechanisms. For example, bacosides, the main active compounds in Bacopa monnieri, have been shown to neutralize free radicals and prevent fat molecules from reacting with free radicals. It appears to suppress free radical proliferation and activity.
FUCUS VESICULOSUS (Kelp)
Rise + Shine
Kelp (Fucus vesiculosus) is a type of large brown seaweed found in shallow oceans. Kelp (Fucus vesiculosus) contains varying amounts of iodine and is often used in alternative medicine to treat various health conditions such as; thyroid disorders, iodine deficiency and obesity. Kelp is also quite rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E, zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper, and calcium.
Normal thyroid hormone production
There is strong unanimity on iodine’s health benefits especially the positive impact it can have on thyroid hormone regulation.
Jane Higdon, Ph.D (in her book, An evidence-based approach to Vitamin & Minerals) talks about the importance of normal thyroid function for human health and the role iodine plays in thyroid hormone regulation.
She explains that although iodine is required in minute amount by the human body, it plays a crucial part in ensuring adequate production of two key thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Several biological functions are very much dependent on normal thyroid function such as physical growth and development, metabolic rate and normal reproductive function. Iodine deficiency has been known to cause conditions such as goiter – swollen neck because of enlargement of the thyroid gland.
It may also cause hyperthyroidism – a condition caused by a hyperactive thyroid gland, which produces an excess amount of the thyroxine hormone resulting in an abnormally fast metabolism. Recent studies have shown that the neural impact of hyperthyroidism may be more acute in children than in adults. Two of its major effects are slower response time and a suppressed mental function.
Similarly, Jennifer R. Jamison (in her book, Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management) discusses how iodine deficiency affects thyroid function and overall health. She explains that there is a strong agreement among the medical and scientific community that iodine deficiency is the single greatest cause of preventable brain damage and mental retardation.
Iodine deficiency results in a wide spectrum of illnesses collectively termed “iodine-deficiency disorders”. They include unexpected weight gain, fatigue and weakness, hair loss, dry, flaky skin, feeling colder than usual and changes in heart rate.
In addition to thyroid gland enlargement, the deficiency causes a surge in basal metabolic rate, which speeds up metabolism. This negatively impacts how the body uptakes and uses oxygen. This also affects how effectively the body can extract energy from nutrients.
1- An evidence-based approach to Vitamin & Minerals. Jane Higdon; 2003.
2- Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management. Jennifer R. Jamison; 2003.
CAMELLIA SINENSIS (Green Tea)
Rise + Shine
Camellia sinensis (also known as tea plant) is a species of evergreen shrub that it native to China and Southeast Asia. The various teas made from the camellia plant have been consumed by humans for thousands of years and have a wide range of medicinal properties and benefits.
Helps control body weight
Both human and animal studies have shown that green tea consumption can help maintain adequate body weight. It does so by stimulating the process of thermogenesis, which is the process of heat production within the human body.
Caffeine is often viewed as the chief stimulant when it comes to green tea’s thermogenic ability; however, it is now known that there are other elements at play facilitating the process. It is believed that it occurs because of the interaction between catechin polyphenols (natural plant compounds found in tea) and caffeine, leading to the breakdown of a hormone called noradrenaline.
Studies comparing the effects of caffeine and green tea have shown that green tea consumption can bring about a significant uptick in the caloric burn in a 24-hour period as compared to caffeine. Also, it may lead to increased urinary noradrenaline excretion.
Other studies have also shown encouraging results. A study with moderately obese subjects found that green tea can help lower body fat. The study lasted for 3 months and the subjects were given a green tea extract AR25. A 4.6% decrease in body weight and a 4.5% decrease in waist circumference was observed after the study.
Animal trials have also shed light on green tea’s appetite regulation impact. It has been observed that that green tea intake cuts appetite, reduces the concentration of a fat-storage hormone, leptin, reduces body weight and enables increased thermogenesis.
Boosts metabolism and fat burning
Green tea polyphenols have shown to suppress the impact of amylase’ which is a carbohydrate digesting enzyme. This essentially slows down carbohydrate digestion thus inhibiting a sharp rise in blood insulin levels. The insulin suppression process has shown to enable rapid fat burning and metabolism.
In a small, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted with 60 middle-aged obese women (30-45 yrs. old); subjects were placed on a diet of 1800 calories per day. Capsules were taken at each meal for 30 days (250mg x 8 per day in 3 divided doses). After two weeks, the Green tea group had lost twice as much weight as those in the placebo group on the same diet.
Fights oxidative stress
Green tea is known to be a rich source of antioxidants, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Green tea’s ability to limit free radical damage is formally recognized by Health Canada – the Federal department tasked with assisting Canadians to maintain their health.
They recommend taking green tea extract with food, for both antioxidant benefits and weight management. They have cited the dosages from various studies conducted from 1999 to 2005.
Following are the dosages for each: Antioxidant - Not to exceed 690 milligrams total catechins, and 150 milligrams of caffeine, per day (Nagao et al. 2005; Henning et al. 2004; Nakagawa et al. 1999). Weight management: 136 - 300 milligrams (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and 75 -150 milligrams of caffeine, with an EGCG: caffeine ratio of 1.8:1 to 4:1, per day (Nagao et al. 2005; Westerterp-Plantenga et al. 2005; Chantre and Lairon 2002).
1- Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidence-based guide. Braun L, Cohen M, 2005.
2- Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults. Kevin C. Maki et al, 2009.
3- Evidence-based review. Green tea extracts. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, Health Canada, 2008.
UBIQUINONE (Coenzyme Q10)
Rise + Shine
Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is an important coenzyme that is abundantly found in animals and most bacteria. From providing cellular energy to protecting against oxidative stress, this ubiquitous coenzyme offers a lot of value in terms of maintaining robust physical health.
CoQ10 is produced naturally by your body, but its production tends to decrease with age. Fortunately, you can get CoQ10 through supplementation and food sources - Spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, soybeans, lentils, peanuts, sesame seeds, liver, kidney, pork, beef, chicken and trout.
Maintains adequate energy levels
Prof. Micheal Zimmermann brings attention to the importance of Coenzyme Q10, in his book, Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease.
Coenzyme Q10 is a crucial constituent of the respiratory chain in cellular mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles (or structures) within a cell with the main job to facilitate the process of “cellular respiration”. During the process, mitochondria feed on the nutrients from the cell. They then breakdown those nutrients, and convert them into energy, which the cell then uses to perform its various physiological functions
This entire chain of energy production events can be severally hampered in the case of Coenzyme Q10 deficiency thus leading to several conditions such as lack of energy, upset stomach, nausea, and heartburn.
Similarly, Jennifer R. Jamison explains the role of Coenzyme Q10, in her book, Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management.
Explaining the main job of coenzyme Q10 as a cofactor in the electron transport chain, a series of oxidation-reduction reactions involved in cellular respiration and the production of energy through ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – a nucleotide responsible for the efficient transportation of chemical energy within cells to enable metabolism.
Moreover, coenzyme Q10 is believed to assist in membrane stabilization, which may help with pain management and also enables normal ionic transport through membranes of the heart muscle cells and acts as a protective mechanism for the heart against arrhythmia.
Protects against free radicals
Unchecked oxidative stress can cause severe neural and physical damage. It speeds up the process of aging by damaging cells, proteins, and DNA. It may also contribute to the onset of several health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Coenzyme Q10 plays a vital role in free radical damage control. It aids in the production of lipids, which are crucial to energy production and storage throughout the body. It also helps maintain adequate vitamin E levels, which is essential for a robust immune system and for the production of red blood cells.
Continued strenuous physical activity can negatively impact the level of coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 has shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness resulting from oxidation during strenuous exercise. CoQ10 may also facilitate a slight uptick in metabolic rate and may help with weight management.
1- Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition - Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease. Michael Zimmermann, 2001
2- Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management. Jennifer R. Jamison, 2003
THIAMINE (Vitamin B1)
Rise + Shine
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays a pivotal role in regulating various key physiological functions. From cardiovascular and neural health to nutrient metabolism; there are several core bodily processes that rely on this water-soluble nutrient. Vitamin B1 is abundantly found within some of the most common food sources such as red meat, liver, nuts, oats, oranges, eggs, seeds, legumes, and yeast.
From a biological perspective, Vitamin B1’s core purpose is to enable energy production. After consumption, carbohydrates are converted to glucose (sugar), which is the principal fuel source for the key organs including the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs. Sugar alone, however, is not enough; it still needs to be converted into a form that the body can utilize. Vitamin B1 is the catalyst that facilitates the conversion of sugar into usable energy for the human body.
There’s a strong global agreement on Vitamin B1’s positive impact on human health. Even small daily dosage of 1.2mg/day has shown to bring about several benefits.
Elson Haas, in his book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, sheds light on Vitamin B1’s role in maintaining optimum energy production. He underscores Vitamin B1’s significance in glucose metabolism. Furthermore, it is explained that Vitamin B1 assists in carbohydrate to fat conversion for storage as potential energy.
Additionally, Vitamin B1 facilitates the production of a vital neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is crucial to maintain a robust nervous system. Similarly, thiamine’s role has been stressed in Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, authored by Siegfried Gursche and Zoltan Rona. Thiamine’s role in the maintenance of mental wellbeing has given birth to an apt term for it - the ‘morale vitamin’.
Thiamine has shown to have a positive impact on learning ability, especially in children. Moreover, it benefits the digestive system in several ways. It regulates appetite, facilitates efficient nutrient absorption and improves muscle tone in the digestive tract.
Prof. Michael Zimmermann, in his book, Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease, explains several ways Vitamin B1 benefits human health. To maintain adequate levels of Vitamin B1, it is necessary to have a daily dietary supplementation regimen, since the body’s own B1 reserves are quite insignificant – roughly 30mg.
Vitamin B1 plays a key role in the production of collagen – a protein, which is vital to maintaining the structural integrity of skin and connective tissue. Deficiency in Vitamin B1 can impair the body’s ability to heal properly from wounds.
The body’s muscle tissue houses most of its B1 reserves. This assists in energy production at the cellular level. Vitamin B1 also plays an important role in the metabolism of several brain neurotransmitters, one of which is acetylcholine. Acetylcholine has several key roles such as regulating muscle control and behavior. Moreover, it impacts memory and cognitive health as well.
1- Staying Healthy with Nutrition. E Haas; 1992.
2- Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. Siegfried Gursche, Zoltan Rona; 1997.
3- Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease. Michael Zimmermann; 2001.
RIBOFLAVIN (Vitamin B2)
Rise + Shine
Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is a water-soluble B group vitamin – a vital micronutrient that helps run various key biological functions such as energy regulation and nutrient breakdown. Vitamin B2 is abundantly found within; eggs, organ meats, lean meats, low-fat milk, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and fortified cereals, bread and grain products.
Maintains general health
Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen (in their book, Herbs & Natural Supplements – An evidence-based guide) discuss the importance of vitamin B2’s role in maintaining good health and energy production.
One of vitamin B2’s most important jobs is to facilitate the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – a nucleotide responsible for a strong immune function, tissue repair process, and normal growth. It is important for the healthy growth of skin, nails, and hair. It also helps with the efficient absorption of fatty acids and several other B vitamins.
Facilitates energy production
Vitamin B2’s role in energy production connects it with the synthesis of ATP, which enables the efficient transportation of chemical energy within cells to enable nutrient metabolism.
It belongs to the class known as the flavin coenzymes, which are important for redox reactions or oxidation-reduction reactions. These reactions are vital to enable electron transfer since this movement of electrons leads to energy release thus resulting in the production of ATP.
Coenzymes flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin-adenine dinucleotide (FAD) are largely dependent on vitamin B2 to perform their job. Both FAD and FMN are crucial to facilitate numerous chemical reactions required for efficient metabolism of carbohydrate, fatty acids, and protein.
Moreover, FAD and FMN are important to the process of “cellular respiration”. During the process, mitochondria feed on the nutrients from the cell. They then breakdown those nutrients and convert them into energy, which the cell then uses to perform its various physiological functions.
Jennifer R. Jamison also reiterates the above facts on riboflavin in her book, Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management.
Enables detoxification and protects against oxidative stress
Prof. Michael Zimmermann talks about riboflavin’s antioxidant properties and its ability to detoxify, in his book, Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease.
Vitamin B2 also strengthens the body’s free radical protection mechanism. Vitamin B2 is a cofactor of an important enzyme called glutathione reductase, which helps recycle oxidized glutathione, thus helping the body defend itself against oxidative stress
Riboflavin has also been known to facilitate liver detoxification. It helps the liver get rid of chemicals, pesticides, and other environmental toxins.
Riboflavin may also play an important role in maintaining healthy eye lens. Maintaining adequate riboflavin level is vital to maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes. A riboflavin deficiency is likely to cause several health complications such as lack of energy, depression and personality disorders.
1- Herbs & Natural Supplements – An evidence-based guide. Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen; 2004.
2- Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management. Jennifer R. Jamison; 2003.
3- Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease. Michael Zimmermann; 2001.
CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE (Vitamin B5)
Rise + Shine
Vitamin B5, also known as Calcium Pantothenate, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential nutrient within the body. Calcium Pantothenate plays an important role in human physiology as it enables efficient nutrient absorption. Vitamin B5 is found quite abundantly in broccoli, peanuts, legumes, mushrooms, avocado, sweet potatoes, liver, kidney, yeast, egg yolk, fish, shellfish, chicken, milk, and yogurt.
Vitamin B5 plays an important role in the production of coenzyme A. Coenzyme A is crucial to kick-starting the oxidation process, which leads to the creation of acetyl-coenzyme A; eventually resulting in the synthesis of fatty acids needed to maintain cellular integrity.
After being converted to acetyl-coenzyme A, it aids in maintaining adequate energy levels by starting the “Krebs cycle’, a chemical function that leads to carbon dioxide and adenosine triphosphate synthesis.
Combined with thiamine, riboflavin & niacin, vitamin B5 enables the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate & alpha-ketoglutarate in the Krebs cycle, which is important for both energy storage and release. Liver and the adrenal cortex rely on vitamin B5 for normal function and have the highest concentration of Calcium Pantothenate.
Calcium Pantothenate is an important component of an intracellular process known as cellular respiration. The process facilitates a swift metabolism of glucose resulting in the synthesis of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It also plays a pivotal role in the oxidation of fatty acids and acetylation of other molecules.
Maintains general health and provides antioxidant benefits
Research has also shown that Calcium Pantothenate may also provide indirect antioxidant benefits. The production of ATP results in an uptick in certain antioxidant levels such as free glutathione, which keeps the cells safe from oxidative damage. It is also involved in the synthesis of amino acids, cholesterol, and vitamin D, all of which are crucial to robust health.
The other roles for Calcium Pantothenate include assisting in the production of red blood cells and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It also enables normal adrenal function, which is crucial for metabolism, normal immune system, blood pressure, and stress response.
Enables nutrient metabolism
Jennifer R. Jamison explains in her book, Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management, that Calcium Pantothenate plays an important part in the efficient breakdown of key macronutrients i.e. carbohydrates, proteins & fats. It also helps maintain a strong nervous system and may help in physical fatigue relief as well.
It is important in facilitating the tricarboxylic acid cycle and in the production of fatty acids, including membrane phospholipids. Calcium Pantothenate is important for the synthesis of steroids, amino acids, neurotransmitters, and vitamins A and D.
Calcium Pantothenate plays an important role in the synthesis of leucine, arginine & methionine. It is essential for the formation of hemoglobin and the electron carrying cytochrome proteins of the mitochondrial respiratory chain.
1- Herbs & Natural supplements – An evidence-based guide. L Braun, M Cohen; 2004.
2- Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease. M Zimmermann; 2001.
3- Clinical Guide to Nutrition & Dietary Supplements in Disease Management. Jennifer R. Jamison; 2003.
PYRIDOXINE (Vitamin B6)
Rise + Shine & Sleep Tight
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a crucial water-soluble micronutrient that aids in regulating various key biological functions. It’s important to acknowledge that the human body cannot synthesise adequate levels of vitamin B6 and that B6-rich dietary sources and supplementation is necessary to make up for the shortfall.
The most common food sources of vitamin B6 include: salmon, tuna, chickpeas, potatoes, butternut squash, spinach, green peas, pistachio nuts, bananas, avocados, mangoes, beef liver, chicken and turkey.
Essential for gluconeogenesis
Shils, Shike and Williams (in their book Modern Nutrition in Health & Disease) explain the importance of vitamin B6 for normal health. Vitamin B6 plays a critical role in the process gluconeogenesis. Brain and other key organs run on glucose – gluconeogenesis is process through which the human body is able to synthesize enough glucose in case there is a shortfall of carbohydrates or in event strenuous physical exertion.
Maintains robust health
Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), the active form of vitamin B6 is important to maintain general health and wellbeing. A deficiency may lead to various health issues such as a weakened immune system, skin rashes, lack of energy, mood swings, anxiety and painful hands and feet. Moreover, vitamin B6 works as a coenzyme for approximately 100 enzymes. It enables better amino acid absorption and neurotransmitter biosynthesis.
Vitamin B6 is also essential for the production of lipids that make up the myelin sheath, which protect nerves. It also plays a key role in cell membrane formation by enabling absorption of polysaturated fatty acids. Moreover, it maintains healthy skin by aiding in the production of collagen – the protein responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of skin and connective tissue.
Elson M. Haas also stresses the significance of PLP in his book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Glycogen is the energy form that is stored within the liver and muscle tissue. Not only does vitamin B6 aid in macronutrient metabolism but it also helps maintain optimal energy levels by enabling timely glycogen release when the body is short on glucose.
PLP may also indirectly contribute to neural health by facilitating the production of GABA – an important neurotransmitter, which helps regulate human stress response, improves mood and keeps anxiety in check.
A catalyst for important biological processes
Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence Based Guide by Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen explains the role vitamin B6 plays in several physiological functions.
Vitamin B6 facilitates the production of various key neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine and serotonin. It serves as a cofactor for the enzyme 5-hydroxytryptophan decarboxylase, which impacts the process responsible for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
In addition to keeping the immune system healthy, it also aids in the efficient breakdown and optimized absorption of carbohydrates, proteins and fatty acids. Furthermore, hemoglobin synthesis is also reliant on adequate levels of vitamin B6, thus maintaining optimal red blood cell numbers.
Relieve symptoms of premenstrual tension
A randomized double-blind crossover trial was conducted to study the effects of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) at a dose of 50 mg per day on symptoms characteristic of the premenstrual syndrome. Sixty-three women aged 18-49 years, identified by means of a general practice-based survey of menstrual patterns in the community, entered the trial. Of those that completed the full seven months of the study, a significant beneficial effect (P<0.05) of pyridoxine was observed on emotional type symptoms (irritability and tiredness).
Pyridoxine is believed to affect brain monoamine metabolism specifically by an alteration in the metabolism of tryptophan. In this respect, it has been observed that about 80% of women taking oral contraceptives have abnormal tryptophan metabolism.
The study showed particularly encouraging results of the effects of pyridoxine on the emotional components (irritability and tiredness) of premenstrual syndrome.
1- Modern Nutrition in Health & Disease. Maurice Edward Shils, Moshe Shike and Lippincott Williams; 2006.
2- Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence Based Guide by Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen; 2004.
3- Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Elson M. Haas; 1992.
PIPER NIGRUM (Black Pepper)
Black pepper, also known as Piper nigrum, is the ubiquitous spice found on virtually every dinner table around the world. It’s made from the dried peppercorn, which is a tiny fruit of a flowering vine known as piper nigrum. Peppercorns are mainly grown in the Indian subcontinent and other tropical regions. The Indian coastal state of Kerala and Vietnam are two of the world’s largest peppercorn growing regions.
From ensuring a strong digestive system to being a key component of herbal medicine; there’s plenty that black pepper brings to the health and wellness table.
Enhanced nutrient bioavailability
According to a research article by Muhammed Majeed, Ph.D. and Lakshmi Prakash, Ph.D., black pepper improves nutrient bioavailability.
Piperine, also known by its trademarked name BioPerine, is the standardized extract from the fruits of Piper nigrum (black pepper). It is responsible for the unique taste and heat of the black pepper. BioPerine has been known to facilitate enhanced bioavailability of certain nutrients. In other words, the human body is able to extract more benefit out of what it consumes. BioPerine acts by enabling improved thermogenesis – a process of heat production within the human and animal bodies. Thermogenesis is necessary for proper food metabolism and maintaining normal body temperature.
Because of its ability to enable efficient nutrient absorption BioPerine (piperine) has also been called a natural thermonutrient. The idea that certain food sources may lead to improved thermogenesis is mainly based upon the role of the autonomous nervous system – the part of the nervous system that regulates physiological functions not consciously controlled such as breathing, the heartbeat, and the digestive process.
Several independent studies have shown that BioPerine can facilitate the release of catecholamines – a class of hormones, which aid in the process of thermogenesis. However, it should be noted that catecholamines-induced thermogenesis may not last very long.
Healthy digestive system
Black pepper has been used for quite some time within western herbal medicine for the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd, (in their book King’s American Dispensatory) explain the role of black pepper in digestive health
With a sharp kick to it, black pepper will leave a trace of a slight burning sensation and enables a minor bump in blood circulation. Not only is black pepper a key seasoning for savory cuisine but it is also a very effective gastrointestinal stimulant, which helps maintain a robust digestive system.
It is quite effective for conditions such as congestive chill and cholera morbus. Moreover, it is a swift and effective treatment for nausea and also helps keep a handle on abnormal flatulence.
Pepper stimulates gastric secretions and improves bile flow thus facilitating a better fat breakdown process and a healthier digestive function. It may also help lower high body temperature from the common cold. Black pepper may help with constipation relief by stimulating the mucous membrane of the rectum and may also have a positive effect on the health of urinary organs.
1- Targeting Optimal Nutrient Absorption With Phytonu Tr Ients. Muhammed Majeed, Ph.D. & Lakshmi Prakash, Ph.D.
2- King’s American Dispensatory. Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D; 1898
MELISSA OFFICINALIS (Lemon Balm)
Lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb from the Lamiaceae family that is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Lemon balm as a long history of use dating back to over 2000 years and apart from being used as a flavoring agent for tea, its leaves are also used for various medicinal and health purposes.
Insomnia is a condition characterized by an inability to sleep. Lemon Balm is often prescribed within western clinical practice to treat insomnia. Lemon balm treatment is usually prescribed in addition to Valerian; a herb also commonly used for insomnia treatment.
In their book, Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence-Based Guide, Lesley Braun, and Marc Cohen cite successful research trials that evaluate the role of lemon balm for insomnia treatment.
A randomized, double-blind multicenter study was conducted to assess the efficacy of a commonly available valerian and lemon balm herbal mixture. Ninty-eight healthy subjects were recruited for the trial. The treatment was continued for a month and the subjects were required to take three tablets before going to bed. The total dose amounted to 1-6g valerian & 1-2g lemon balm. The subjects reported a significant improvement in sleep quality and no apparent side effects were experienced.
According to another randomized double-blind crossover study, similar results were reported after treatment with the same combination of valerian & lemon balm. The combination delivered a daily dosage of 1.4g dried valerian & 0.9g dried lemon balm. Although the treatment lasted for only 9 nights, the subjects, however, reported an improvement in insomnia symptoms and the lemon balm combination was found to be as effective as triazolam – a drug prescribed for insomnia treatment.
Kerry Bone, (in his book, A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs) refers to a study conducted in Germany to evaluate the efficacy of the combination of valerian, hops and lemon balm for the treatment of nervous insomnia and restlessness. 518 insomnia patients were recruited for the study and were given varying doses ranging between 1-9 tablets. Each tablet delivered a dose of 450mg of valerian root, 126.5mg of dried hops & 225mg of lemon balm dried leaf.
Commission E in Germany also endorses the use of lemon balm for the treatment of nervous sleeping disorders.
Effective for numerous therapeutic purposes
Lemon balm has been known to be an effective carminative helping to keep flatulence in check. It has been used to relieve muscle spasms and as a mild sedative.
When used in combination with herbs such as hops and valerian, lemon balm can be an effective treatment for various conditions such as tenseness, irritability, depression, nervous breakdown and nervous insomnia – a condition in which anxiety symptoms lead to restlessness and lack of sleep.
According to the European Medicines Agency, a 2-4ml liquid extract of lemon balm taken 1-3 times a day may provide relief from mild symptoms of mental stress and improve sleep quality. Furthermore, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) also recommends using lemon balm for the treatment of the above-mentioned conditions.
1- Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence-Based Guide. Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen; 1996.
2- A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs. Kerry Bone; 2003.
3- Evidence-based review. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, European Medicines Agency; 2013.
Zinc is categorized as a “essential trace element” – a mineral that the human body requires in very small amounts. Since the human body does not store excess zinc, it must be consumed regularly as part of the diet – either from food or supplementation. Common dietary sources of zinc include; pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, dark chocolate, red meat, poultry, and fish.
One of zinc’s most important roles is to help the immune system do its job. A deficiency in this vital mineral can leave you at a high risk of disease and injury. Zinc also plays a key role at the cellular level; it is important for cell division and cell growth.
Leslie Braun and Marc Cohen in their book Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence-Based Guide, explain why zinc is a vital cog in the human immune system.
It enables a quicker, more robust wound healing process and recovery. Since the body does not maintain adequate zinc stores, it is important to make up for the deficit through supplementation. Otherwise, the process of tissue formation is compromised, severely hampering the healing process.
Zinc is essential for the normal development and function of cells, mediating non-specific immunity such as neutrophils and natural killer cells and affecting the development of acquired immunity and T-lymphocyte function.
Zinc helps to maintain and support healthy immune system function with therapeutic doses used to treat colds & flu, depressed immunity and viral infections.
Leslie and Marc further point to zinc’s antioxidant benefits. Zinc protects the human body from free radical activity in several ways. It does so by marinating adequate vitamin E levels and regulating vitamin A release. It also enables the structural synthesis of superoxide dismutase – an important antioxidant enzyme. Zinc keeps in check free radical proliferation by maintaining adequate levels of metallothionein – a type of protein that aids in limiting free radicals.
Elson M Haas sheds light on zinc’s role in maintaining healthy skin in his book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Zinc helps to regulate and metabolize vitamin A. This helps in two ways – It keeps skin healthy at the cellular level and aids in regenerating burnt or broken skin. Zinc plays a key role in the synthesis of collagen, which is the main protein responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of skin and connective tissue.
Zinc may also help keep acne under control by opening up the skin’s oil glands. Moreover, zinc can also be useful for addressing various other skin conditions such as boils, bedsores and general dermatitis.
Robust physical growth
Zinc deficiency can be particularly detrimental during pregnancy as it may lead to compromised growth and development of the fetus. Additionally, zinc is important for physical growth during childhood and adolescence.
Efficient enzyme function
Zinc is the fuel that allows over 100 enzymes to do their job as catalysts for various physiological functions. Furthermore, zinc facilitates cellular anabolism and catabolism. It is also needed for the creation of human DNA, macronutrient breakdown and cell division.
1- Herbs & Natural Supplements – An Evidence-Based Guide. Leslie Braun, Marc Cohen; 2007.
2- Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Elson M Haas; 1992.
3- Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements – USA; 2005.
4- The Nutrient Bible (Evidence-based textbook). H Osiecki; 1998.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and plays a pivotal role in regulating various physiological functions. From facilitating hundreds of enzyme reactions to improving bone strength and keeping the nervous system healthy; there are several core physiological processes that are impacted by magnesium.
Magnesium can be obtained from diet; however, supplementation may be required if magnesium levels are too low (which can be quite common among women). Common food sources of magnesium are; green leafy vegetables, figs, avocado, banana, and raspberries, nuts and seeds, legumes, raw cacao, brown rice and oats.
Energy production and nervous system support
There is plenty of empirical data, which points to magnesium’s critical role in energy production at the cellular level. Prof. Michael Zimmermann, in his book, Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease, explains magnesium’s importance for health aspects.
Magnesium enables efficient macronutrient metabolism. The enzymes that facilitate the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are chiefly reliant on magnesium to do their job. Moreover, magnesium improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure by dilating the coronary and peripheral arteries
Cell depolarization and nerve membrane ion transmission are also highly dependent on magnesium since these two processes are essential to robust cellular function and communication.
Relief from muscular cramps and spasms
Nocturnal leg cramps is the muscular discomfort that is felt in the legs during the night. The entire leg is susceptible; however, calves are usually the focal point of this condition. The painful cramps are also commonly observed during pregnancy and the duration may range from a few seconds to several painful minutes
Magnesium salts have been studied for their positive impact on nocturnal leg cramps during pregnancy. Medical Science Monitor published a study, which evaluated the efficacy of magnesium citrate treatment for the cramps.
Pregnant women suffering from leg cramps were on-boarded for the trial, which lasted for 6 weeks. The subjects were either given 300mg magnesium or placebo. Parameters such as the number of cramps, intensity, and duration of cramps were evaluated.
A significantly lower number of cramps was recorded among the subjects that were given magnesium and a greater number of subjects reported feeling an improvement in cramp symptoms after the magnesium treatment.
Important for general health and wellbeing
A research article published by Nutrition.org sheds light on how magnesium impacts human health and to the consequences of magnesium deficiency. Over 300 enzymes are dependent on this key nutrient to perform their function. Moreover, magnesium deficiency may lead to several health complications ranging from neural disorders to muscle cramps and weaker bones.
Supports muscle relaxation
Magnesium plays a key role in triggering amino acids, which are vital for efficient protein synthesis. This, in turn, helps in reducing muscle fatigue from physical exertion, reduces muscle soreness, facilitates growth in lean muscle mass and also prevents muscle atrophy. Magnesium also assists in maintaining optimum calcium levels within the bloodstream; it does so by regulating parathyroid hormone secretion.
1- Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition – Micronutrients in the Prevention & Therapy of Disease. Michael Zimmermann; 2001
2- Randomized, cross-over, placebo-controlled trial of magnesium citrate in the treatment of chronic persistent leg cramps. Medical Science Monitor, 8(5):CR326-330. Roffe C, Sills S, Crome P, Jones P. 2002
3- Nutrition.org (The on-line database for the Journal of Nutrition from the American Society of Nutritional Sciences). P Fischer Ph.D., K Kubena Ph.D.
4- Integrative Medicine Gateway. The Consulting Committee for Unity Health is comprised of experts in the field of complementary medicine