Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New blog address at

Hi folks!
We've moved our blog posts over to and we're trying to figure out how to feed that back over to this blogger blog... in the meantime, please go visit us there! Recent posts include tips for making healthy treats fresh from the garden, holistic nutrition for busy people, common medical terms important for holistic health practitioners to know, and more! 

Best wishes
Erika Yigzaw

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ACHS now offers six graduate certificates for specialized CAM training

July 23, 2009--The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) has launched six new graduate certificate programs in the field of complementary alternative medicine (CAM). These new certificates impart graduate-level specialized training with less time and financial commitment found in the more traditional master’s program. ACHS graduate certificates provide healthcare professionals with more in-depth knowledge of holistic health and wellness protocols and the ability to better serve the health needs of their communities.

ACHS graduate certificates require 12 credits of study, or four 16-week courses for completion, and are available in the fastest growing integrative healthcare modalities. ACHS graduate certificates include: Graduate Certificate in Nutrition, Graduate Certificate in Anatomy and Physiology, Graduate Certificate in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Graduate Certificate in Aromatherapy, Graduate Certificate in Herbal Medicine, and Graduate Certificate in Botanical Safety.

Today, more and more people are turning to preventative care as a solution to rising healthcare costs. The healthcare industry needs professionals trained in holistic health and wellness protocols, as well as botanical safety and drug and supplement interactions. With an ACHS graduate certificate, healthcare professionals can:

• Enhance their employability and job growth with each specialized certificate.
• Train to meet the growing demand for educated and trusted CAM professionals.
• Learn botanical safety.
• Increase ancillary services offered, thereby increasing clients and income.
• Educate others about wellness and complementary alternative medicine.

Students who enroll in a graduate certificate program will benefit from the same amenities as ACHS Masters of Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine students, including access to the extensive Natural Standards and Natural Medicines databases, full text, online journal resources; instructors who are industry experts; highly interactive online classes and instructor-led discussions; and training from the industry-leader in accredited, online holistic health education.

The ACHS graduate certificate programs are open to new students, as well as current ACHS students, and can be completed while pursuing a Masters of Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine. For more information and detailed course descriptions, visit or call ACHS Admissions at (800) 487-8839.

American College of Healthcare Sciences is the only accredited, fully online college offering degrees, diplomas, and career-training certificates in complementary alternative medicine. Founded in 1978, ACHS is committed to exceptional online education and is recognized as an industry leader in holistic health education worldwide. For more information about ACHS programs and community wellness events, visit, call (800) 487-8839, or stop by the College campus located at 5940 SW Hood Ave., Portland OR 97239.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Children and Natural Medicine with Dr. Arianna Staruch, ND

Natural medicine works with the body's ability to heal itself, according to Dr. Arianna Staruch, ND, who spoke about using natural medicine with children at the American College of Healthcare Sciences on June 8. Natural medicine, Dr. Staruch further explained, helps removed obstacles to health, such as an unhealthy diet or stress, and then supports the body's ability to return to balance.

So, why use natural medicine with children? Teaching children to use natural medicine at a young age helps to establish healthy lifestyle choices through adulthood. In addition, natural medicine remedies are safe, natural supports for everyday problems like the common cold, ear infections, and bumps and bruises.

According to Dr. Staruch, a kid's job is to get sick. Infection is how the immune system learns what is good and bad, and how to respond. Natural medicine works with the body's natural processes to help build a strong immune system.

What does natural medicine include? When working with children, some of the primary natural medicine remedies include use of mild herbs, which can be made into teas, and homeopathic remedies.

Homeopathy is based on the principle of "like cures like." A homeopathic remedy is an "extremely dilute form; normally one part of the remedy to around 1,000,000,000,000 parts of water" ( For kids, homeopathics are easy to administer, safe, effective, and non-toxic, Dr. Staruch says. Here are some common homeopathics and their associated uses:

Arnica > for falls, bumps, and bruises
Aconite > First onset of cold
Arsenicum > Digestive upset and diarrhea; chilly; restless
Belladonna > Ear aches and fevers that come on suddenly

Recipe for Calming Tea for Kids
Cat Straw--4 tbs
Chamomile--2 tbs
Peppermint--1 tbs
Catnip--1 tbs

Cover the herbs with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Give one or more tablespoons as needed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grow your own garden herbs in a few easy steps

You don't have to have a big garden to grow your own fresh herbs. For those who live in apartments, don't have a backyard, or only like to garden small-scale, most herbs can be grown in ceramic planters.

If that's good news, you'll like what Master Gardener and ACHS Senior Vice President Erika Yigzaw had to say Saturday, May 9, at the ACHS From Your Garden to Your Kitchen Open House.

Although each herb is different, most are fairly easy to grow and use at home. There are just a few key things to remember. 1. Unless otherwise specified, herbs like full sun. 2. Herbs potted into planters should be watered about once a day. 3. Don't over water. As a general rule, water herbs so that the soil remains moist approx. one inch from the top.

Once your herbs are potted, what can you use them for? Most easily, herbs can be used on a meal-by-meal basis and either cooked into hot foods or eaten raw in salads. You can also use fresh herbs to make your own herbal teas and infused oils for cooking and/or body care, as well as herbal medicine infusions and tinctures.

Click here to download free information about making your own herbal remedies, herbal teas, and organic gardening.

Additional tips for growing your own herbs include:
  • When planting in peet pots, break up the peet and roots before planting.
  • Do not plant above the base of the plant. Adding a top layer of soil can cause fungus.
  • To keep bugs from your plants, include a decoy plant in your garden like artichoke.
  • Before harvesting, find out the best method for that herb (for example, rosemary likes to be plucked, but peppermint can be snipped).
Click here for more information about dried herbs and herbal medicine classes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hydroxycut recall begs stricter controls for dietary supplements?

The voluntary recall of 14 Hydroxycut products by Iovate Sciences has people talking. Should there by stricter controls on dietary supplements?

The Hydroxycut recall was triggered by a consumer warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued May 1. In response, Loren Israelsen, executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance and a member of Nutrition Business Journal’s editorial advisory board said in a Nutrition Business Journal, “This is a big deal for the dietary supplement industry because it will inevitably invite comparison to the ephedra AER [adverse event reporting] episode, and critics of the industry will no doubt call for some review of DSHEA [the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] as a result."

Ongoing problems with Hydroxycut and similar products have people wondering if supplement regulations should be firmer, which does not seem like a priority for Congress right now. And, until it is, how can consumers protect themselves?

According to Nutrition Business Journal, "consumers bought $1.67 billion worth of weight-loss pill-form supplements in 2007, and Hydroxycut was the top-selling weight-loss supplement brand sold at supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart). Weight-loss supplement sales have been hurting since the 2004 ephedra ban, and this event is likely to take a hefty toll on 2009 sales."

In other words, we know there is no "quick fix" or instant solution for health challenges, yet, people continue to buy the products. Perhaps consumers can best protect themselves by asking the question, "Why?" Why, when we know so much about the many successful applications of alternative medicines and holistic health do we buy pills? Why do we continue to support "short-term fixes" instead of long-term health when studies show that these choices may, in fact, be hurting us more?

Will this recall of Hydroxycut products influence consumer purchases? Should there be more supplement regulation to protect the consumer? Tell us what you think....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ABC Executive Director’s Editorial Emphasizes Published Clinical Trials Supporting the Therapeutic Benefits of Leading Herbs

(April 23, 2009) The March/April issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine features a guest editorial by ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, in which Blumenthal addresses one of the primary inaccuracies promoted by some critics of herbal medicine: the myth that clinical trial evidence shows many popular herbal preparations to be ineffective.

In his editorial, titled “Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses Support the Efficacy of Numerous Popular Herbs and Phytomedicines,” Blumenthal discusses how the public perception that certain herbs do not work has been misled by highly publicized randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with negative outcomes. These include RCTs of preparations made from herbs such as St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) to treat symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and echinacea (Echinacea spp.) to deal with upper respiratory tract infections related to colds and the flu.

Blumenthal goes on to cite numerous recently-published systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs in which the above-mentioned herbal preparations were significantly more effective than placebo. In addition, he points out that some trials found herbs to be as effective, and safer, than conventional pharmaceutical medications used for the same purposes. Also included in this discussion are reviews of RCTs of garlic (Allium sativum) for lowering blood pressure, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) for erectile dysfunction, and hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) for aspects of congestive heart failure.

Blumenthal concludes the essay as follows:

All too frequently, however, glaring exposure in the media of one high-profile negative trial becomes “the conversation,” with the larger body of clinical research, as well as highly relevant epidemiological and other non-RCT-based data, being relegated to a cognitive Twilight Zone. Even critics of CAM and herbal medicine in particular, frequently fall into the trap of taking refuge under the high-profile negative trial in attempts to dismiss an entire herbal category and, by extension, all herbal preparations in sweeping generalizations that would never be countenanced in a freshman-level course in logic, much less the “evidence-based” practice of medicine.

Click here to read a PDF of the editorial is available on the Alternative Therapies website

Blumenthal M. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses support the efficacy of numerous popular herbs and phytomedicines. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009;15(2):14-1

Tricks of the trade: finding the motivation to exercise

No matter the reason, sometimes you just aren't in the mood for moving and sweating. Whenever this happens to you, try these strategies for working up to the desire to hit the gym:

Remind Yourself of Your Goals - Start thinking about why you started exercising in the first place and what the end results will be. Do you want to lose a certain amount of weight? Get more toned? Have more energy? A quick reminder of why exercise is important to you can be just the motivation that you need to seek out another set of reps.

Plan on Reducing Your Workout – If you feel that you won’t have the energy to do your complete routine, tell yourself that you will just do half of the work out. If you usually jog four miles, plan on just doing two. If you are weight-training that day, focus on just doing the compound exercises while leaving out the isolation exercises. Once you get going, you might discover that you actually have the energy to do your full workout.

Don’t Go Next Time - Give yourself permission to skip the next work out but not this one. If the next work out rolls around and you still don’t feel like going, you actually might be doing yourself some good by skipping it. Feeling consistently turned off by exercise is usually a sign of overtraining, and giving your body more time to rest can actually help you reach your fitness goals faster.

The trickiest part of any exercise plan is motivation. You can know all of the exercises and the proper techniques, but if you aren't inspired enough to get to the gym, it won’t do you much good. Figure out what motivates you most, and make sure that you use that motivation to hold yourself accountable for regular physical activity. I'm not opposed to an occasional self-bribe either. It goes something like this, "If I workout at least 4 times this week, I'm going to treat myself to a spa pedicure next Friday after work." Just make sure that your rewards are not food-based, and you'll be good to go.

For similar articles about natural health and fitness, click here.

Posted to Ode by Amber O’Neal. Reprinted 4/29/09 from the Sustainlane website:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Make aromatherapy herbal body care and culinary oils

Natural health tips and recipes for making your own aromatherapeutic, healing body care and culinary oils.*

BY: Dorene Petersen, ACHS President

Plants provide us with a rich array of therapeutic ingredients known as active constituents. Many aromatic plants are packed with specialized cells containing essential oils, as well as other constituents that provide healing qualities. Usually these aromatic materials are distilled, which releases the essential oil from the specialized cells.

Distilling essential oils requires specialized equipment. For this reason, most people are not able to distill their own essential oils at home. However, infused oils are a good alternative. Though less concentrated than essential oils, infused oils require much less botanical material than distillation and are well suited for making massage oils, as well as culinary and bath oils.

To make infused oils for personal use at home, you need very little equipment. To prepare an infused oil, you heat a base oil with your botanical material (or herb) over hot water. It is important to pick the best base oil for your infusion, because many base oils have active constituents that can enhance the therapeutic benefits of the infusion you are making.

Base oils, also called fixed oils, are made primarily from the seeds or fruits of plants. Unlike essential oils, however, base oils are non-volatile. (Essential oils are called “volatile” because they readily vaporize when heated at a low temperature; base oils — like almond or avocado oil — do not.)

When making infused oils for personal use, cold-pressed, organic base oils are preferable, because they retain more of their natural elements than heat-extracted oils. Heat destroys antioxidants, which are naturally occurring in oils, and which help prevent the oils from spoiling when they come in contact with air. By contrast, cold-pressed oils already contain vitamin E, a naturally occurring antioxidant that prevents spoiling.

Base oils include:

  • For massage infusions, almond Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis, aloe vera Aloe barbadensis, and camellia Camellia japonica oils work well.
  • For bath infusions, apricot Prunus persica, grapeseed Vitis vinifera, and wheat germ Triticum aestivum oils work well.
  • When making culinary infusions, however, olive Olea europaea, peanut Arachis hypogaea, and sesame Sesamum indicum oils are good base oils. (People with food allergies to nuts should avoid contact with peanut oil.)

* The article below originally appeared on the website

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Health: what we eat and how much matters

"Thanks to a new tool called Life Cycle Analysis, scientists can pinpoint much more precisely what foods produce those climate-warming gases, and what stage in their "life cycle" is most carbon intensive," according to an article by Leslie Cole which in the April 21 Oregonian, "Your climate-friendly kitchen." [...] "The results," the article continues, "show some clear steps all of us can take to a more climate-friendly diet."

To build a "low-carbon diet," Cole suggests:

More green, less moo.
To eat green, vegetables should be the focus of your meal. Meat and dairy products should be kept to a minimum, because "livestock products account for more than half of the food sector's contribution to greenhouse gases."

Kick the can.
Food, when thrown into landfills, releases methane gas. Instead, compost food waste and buy only what you need.

Keep it real.
Real foods--or whole foods--are better than processed foods. Eat an apple instead of apple juice, a potato instead of potato chips, because "new research shows that food production, not transportation, takes the heaviest toll on the environment."

Buy foods in season.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables preserves energy, because "processing requires energy, which uses fossil fuel and creates emissions."

Break your bag habit.
Plastic bags are made from petroleum, so they fill our landfills, landscapes, and waterways without breaking down.

© Cole, Leslie. "Your climate-friendly kitchen," The Oregonian. 21 April 2009.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nutritional and Herbal Tips for Women Experiencing Menopause

Natural health tips and recipes for easing the menopause transition and improving overall health...

The article below originally appeared on the website

BY: Dorene Petersen, ACHS President

Menopause is the natural cessation of menstruation and ovulation, which typically occurs in women ages 40-55. Though menopause is sometimes called the “change of life,” it does not have to change your life in a negative way. Rather, there are many natural strategies you can use to make the transition as smooth and health-promoting as possible.

Nutrition is a big part of everyday life and, for that reason, one of the best tools you can use to control any menopause-related symptoms. Once you know how to select foods that will support your body during menopause, you will feel more in control of what your body is experiencing, but you will also be practicing the best medicine possible — prevention.

Menopause is often associated with stressful symptoms like hot flashes, sweating, irritability, depression, and stomach upset. Why is that? Many naturopathic and allopathic doctors attribute menstruation with the ability to eliminate toxins from the body. Once menstruation ends, toxins have to find new channels and can overload other eliminatory channels. When this occurs, physical symptoms of toxicity appear.

Women cannot stop menopause from happening. But, we can ease the transition with a good nutrition program. There has been a lot of research about the role herbs can play in balancing hormones in the body. Plant saponins, such as the diosgenin found in wild yam, cause a mild balancing response by binding directly to hormone receptors. The following herbs contain beneficial saponins: black cohosh, dong quai, elder, ginseng, licorice, passion flower, and wild yam.

In addition, herbs can supply the extra nutrients needed during menopause. Calcium-rich herbs, for example, support bone health and are easy to incorporate into the daily diet via cooked meals or teas, including: alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, chives, cleavers, dandelion, dill, parsley, plantain, red raspberry, red clover, rosehip, watercress, and yellow dock.

Additional vitamin and nutrient-rich herbs that can ease menopause include:

  • Vitamin C (healthy teeth and gums, heart health, and clears out toxins): alfalfa, catnip, cayenne, dandelion, hawthorn, parsley, red raspberry, and rosehips.
  • Vitamin E (for heart health and arteries): alfalfa, dandelion, kelp, red raspberry, rosehips, and watercress.
  • Iodine (promotes nerve and brain activity and regulates metabolism): garlic, Irish moss, kelp, mustard, nettle, and parsley.
  • Vitamin B1 (nervous and digestive system health): cayenne, dandelion, fathen, fenugreek, kelp, and watercress.
  • Vitamin B2 (eye health): burdock, dandelion, fenugreek, parsley, and watercress.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin supports the adrenal glands; deficiency symptoms include insomnia, depression, and irritability): alfalfa, burdock, fathen, kelp, parsley, and sage.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Prince Charle's New Detox Product Toxic?

According to a press release posted March 23 by the American Botanical Council:

On Friday, March 12,’s Health section published a story on the controversy surrounding detoxification now brewing in the United Kingdom. The American Botanical Council’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal is extensively quoted in the article.

The controversy is related to the launch of a new line of herbal products by Duchy Originals, a company that promotes organic and sustainable food production, founded by the Prince of Wales in 1990.1,2 The new herb line, Duchy Herbals, was launched in January 2009.2 So far Duchy Herbals includes an Echinacea-relief tincture (containing the root of Echinacea purpurea), a Hyperi-lift tincture (containing St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum), and a Detox tincture containing artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaf and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root.

The ABC News article was stimulated by an article in the UK containing criticism by Prof. Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, a widely-cited author of clinical trials and systematic reviews on complementary and alternative medicine modalities, of a detox product.

For the sake of perspective, it is constructive to know that the Echinacea-relief and Hyperi-lift tinctures are the first herbal tinctures produced in the United Kingdom to be registered under the Traditional Herbal Products Directive (THMPD), a recent regulation applying to all European states.2 The THMPD allows herbal products to be registered under medicines law. To earn a license a company must submit a complete file to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) containing extensive evidence of a product’s traditional use, safety, and quality.

However, the detox tincture requires no such licensing from MHRA because it is classified as a food supplement. The “detox” product is intended to aid people in the removal of toxins from their bodies. [...]

The article quotes Blumenthal and Dr. Lee as follows:

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based herbal medicine think-tank American Botanical Council, said that part of the thrust behind the detox movement is the idea that the food supply and environment of today expose people to higher levels of chemicals and pollutants than in the past.

"Many people—rationally or irrationally, correctly or not—believe strongly that they must detoxify their bodies to give themselves that extra edge to get rid of [these chemicals]," he said. "There is probably a healthy and rational basis for some of this, though some people take it a bit too far."

And Dr. Roberta Lee, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said detoxification as a concept may be getting an undeservedly bad rap.

"Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in the body, though it is not labeled as such in the medical profession," she said. "The idea that detox is a silly notion, I think, is a fallacy."

Blumenthal and Lee were further quoted in the article which can be accessed in full here.


1 Childs D. Prince Charles’ herbal products stir controversy. March 13, 2009. Available at Accessed March 16, 2009.
2 Duchy Originals encourages consumers to adopt an integrated approach to healthcare with launch of duchy herbals [press release]. East Twickenham, London, England: Duchy Originals. January 22, 2009.

© 2009 American Botanical Council:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ACHS widgets stream up-to-date holistic health news to your site

Automatically download the latest in holistic health news and events with ACHS widgets--otherwise known as blidgets. We'll take care of the updates. To keep your readers coming back for me, all you have to do is add an ACHS widget to your blog, homepage, Facebook or MySpace page.

For the latest in holistic health news, events, recipes, health tips, articles to watch for, and research developments, download ACHS widgets onto your home page. CLICK HERE to install ACHS widgets:

Aromatherapy Education Blog
Holistic Health Tips
Holistic Health Education
Holistic Health Career News
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Juice therapy: spring cleaning from the inside out

Before you plant a new spring garden, you prepare the soil. You make sure the soil is healthy, full of nutrients, aerated, well hydrated, and so on. Well, just as we prepare our gardens for the optimal harvest, our bodies benefit from a little spring clean up, and clean out too.

Juice therapy—or juicing—is an all natural, easy-to-use, and affordable way to flush leftover wastes sitting sedentary in your body, dragging you down. Juice therapy helps to flush these toxins from the body, which improves major body functions, as well as overall vitality, energy, healthy skin, and heart health, to name a few benefits.

Here are some common juicing fruits and vegetables, and their potential functions.

Apple: general cleanser, fights infection, and stimulates digestion
Apricot: blood builder, constipation, and skin problems
Lemon: gout, arthritis, laxative, and sore throats (always dilute)
Cabbage: obesity, antiseptic, duodenal ulcers, and constipation
Celery: all arthritic disorders, builds blood, and diuretic

Juice is a relatively mild cleanse and can be done at home daily. One 8-oz glass would be a healthy addition to the daily diet. Why juice? First—when made into juices, fruits and vegetables have concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Second—juicing increases the bioavailability of these nutrients. (Bioavailability is the rate at which a substance, in this case the health properties of the juiced fruits and vegetables, are absorbed by the body. In general, juiced fruits and veggies are absorbed by the body at a faster rate than when eaten whole or cooked.)

Juice fresh. Don’t juice, then store for later consumption. Doing this can lead to a loss of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes.
You can make juices from fruit combinations or vegetable combinations, but do not mix fruit and vegetables. The combination of fruit and vegetables impairs digestion and limit the assimilation of nutrients.

For more information about a holistic approach to nutrition, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Homeopathy for personal health: World Homeopathy Awareness Week

Spring is here! In some parts of the country, that means plants are starting to bloom and the sun is shinning for the better part of a day. But in other locals, like here, in Portland, Oregon, the ratio of rain to sun still feels about 90-10. It can be difficult to fight that blah! feeling when all you want is a little quality time with vitamin D out of doors.

So, when is feeling blah! something more? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression varies in intensity and duration, and can appear at any stage of life. Symptoms vary, but can include: “changes in mood, with sadness, indifference to things that are usually pleasure, decrease in the usual level of functioning, and often, there are changes in functioning of the function of biological processes like sleep, appetite, energy, and sexual functioning. At times these functions decrease, at other times they will increase. Some people will have increased sleep and/or appetite; others, or at other times, will have decreased sleep and/or appetite (American Institute of Homeopathy).”

There is no single cure or remedy for depression. But—there are homeopathic remedies for people who are suffering with depression and, as fundamental to homeopathy, those particular symptoms of depression are part of the whole picture. In other words, homeopathy is a
powerful holistic health protocol because it address the whole person, not an individual symptom or experience.

April 10-16 is
World Homeopathy Awareness Week. If you want more information about how to integrate holistic and allopathic health care, now is the time. World Homeopathy Awareness Week is about bringing awareness to a 200-year-old natural health practice.

Events for World Homeopathy Awareness Week will take place in more than 45 countries worldwide. The theme for 2009 is homeopathy for allergies. For information about how to use homeopathy for personal health, or if you are interested in career training, CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Trilliums in Tryon Creek State Park: A Sunday Hike In The Rain

This is one of the main trails in Tryon Creek State Park. You can’t tell from the photo, but at the moment it was taken, freezing rain was falling. Moments after setting foot on the trail, I spot the first trillium.

Trillium is an easy plant to identify. It has a single succulent stalk and three leaves. In spring it bears a large white three petaled flower which turns slightly pink as it matures. Finding the flower is not so important to an herbalist, who will appreciate the blooms is spring, but seeks to harvest leaves, stems and roots in the fall. Trillium can be found in moist old-growth of the Pacific Northwest from the Redwoods of California, the coast of B.C., either side of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington, the northern part of Idaho and the mountains of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. According to Michael Moore in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, “Find a creek starting in the forest, follow it down through the trees to where it begins to broaden out, and you will usually find some trillium.

Trillium, often referred to as birth root, is a member of the Liliaceae family. It is a mild remedy with minimal chronic toxicity. It has historically been used to astringe uterine bleeding, and has been used in treating fibroids. It has many uses according to Peter Holmes. It resolves mucus, damp and congestion and stops discharges and bleeding. It can harmonize menstruation and menopause (it increases progesterone), it can stimulate the uterus to promote labor and delivery. As a ‘cough root’ it is used as an expectorant to resolve thick phlegm in a difficult and dry cough. The fresh root (rhizome, actually) is best to use in a decoction or tincture. Washes and compresses can be used for sores and inflammation. Roots well worth learning about if you live in the Northwest.

What else did I see?

In the same area, I also found coltsfoot, cleavers, salal, Oregon grape, and usnea. No doubt there is much more I did not notice. After all, I was only looking for trillium flowers.

About the Author
Scott Stuart, L.A.c., teaches herbal medicine for the Australasian College of Health Sciences, and practices Oriental Medicine at Outside/In, a Portland, Oregon, social service agency.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Poem by ACHS graduate bashka jacobs

yes you are quite right

sometimes it seems as

if the pharmaceutical world

lies beyond a featureless

black glass of impenetrable

voids disconnected from people

and the raw ingredients that

they isolate and refine from

the herbs that they find

all over the world.

the long ago art of using

a pestle and enriching your

understanding from face to

face contact with your client

seems almost gone

but in secret pockets

all around herbalists

who study with other

herbalists pass hand to

hand knowlege of a drop

of this and a pinch of

that to enrich our ability

to help heal with the

fragrences and potions

and teas.

of course i know the miracle

of anti biotics and what

prednisone can do and can

not do. of course i have seen

thier white pills or colorful

gels help people over a

rock within that they could

not have gone around.

but for me the sweet smell

of herbs boiling in a pot

to be inhaled to make

the breath come easier

brings joy

i use flower remedies

they are my medium of

choice but neat dropper

bottles line the shelves

along with books are in

my office sanctuary

far away from new york

where i was born marie

where you reside

yes hope must spring

eternal thats what it

does afterall.

to marie

somewhere on

the east coast

practicing and

learning her craft.

from the crow making

a healing soup

of lemon grass and lime

leaves with ginger

galangal and making

the air redolent



By: crow bashka jacobs, ACHS

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Assessment of Liver Toxicity Cases Associated with Black Cohosh Concludes Lack of Causality

In the past several years, there have been numerous reports of possible liver toxicity associated with the use of various preparations made from black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae, syn. Cimicifuga racemosa), popular for treating symptoms associated with menopause.

Although some regulatory agencies and related bodies have reviewed these cases and have announced some preliminary cautions (for example the European Medicines Agency [EMEA]), critical analyses have questioned the causality of such cases.

Pharmacoepidemiological experts from the Teaching Hospital of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main, Hanau, Germany, analyzed case reports which regulators have previously considered "possible" or "probable" in causality with black cohosh.

After analyzing 4 cases:

The clinical analysis and structured causality assessment reveal that in one patient there was no valid evaluation possible due to lack of basic information and the remaining 3 cases had no convincing evidence that the liver diseases were caused by black cohosh. These 3 patients were all treated with steroids for acute drug-induced hepatocellular jaundice and fulminant liver failure. The authors note that there is no evidence of steroids’ benefiting this condition, and that since early antiviral therapy is necessary for herpetic liver disease, steroid therapy should not be considered unless all viral causes have been safely excluded. It is fascinating that the reanalysis of the data showed that the EMEA drew inaccurate conclusions. Vigorous causality assessments using a diagnostic algorithm are essential to determine causality for any severe adverse event.

Click Here to download the complete article review from HerbClip, the American Botanical Council.

2009 Teschke R, Schwarzenboeck A. Suspected hepatotoxicity by Cimicifugae racemosae Phytomed. rhizome (black cohosh, root): Critical analysis and structured causality assessment. 2009;16: 72-84:

Spring allergy relief with natural remedies

Springtime allergies can put a damper on even the sunniest day. But—they don’t have to. If you’ve relied upon store-bought allergy medications in the past—and have been disappointed—this is the season for a more holistic approach to allergies.

Studies show that allergies are often a reaction to a combination of things. For many, budding spring plant life and pollen are irritants. But other, more hidden irritants include: food allergies, environmental irritants (such as, chemical-based cleaners, room sprays, and dryer sheets), and dust.

The good news: There are several alternative products and strategies you can use to sooth your allergies. The benefits: health tools like supplements, herbs, essential oils, and lifestyle modifications are natural, cost effective, and can work fairly quickly to bring relief.

Here are 8 tips for tackling your allergies naturally:

  1. Incorporate native plants into your diet.
  2. Eat 1-2 tablespoons of local, raw honey every morning.
  3. Diffuse peppermint essential oil throughout your home and, or office.
  4. Add fresh herbs to a hot bath and deeply breathe in the steam.
  5. Take supplements, including: echinacea, goldenseal, and vitamin C.
  6. Clean and dust regularly. You don’t have to use chemicals; a steam mop works great.
  7. Exercise. Physical activity strengths the body and boosts immunity. Try to exercise outside in the early morning, before allergens kick up.
  8. Facial massage is a simple way to relive pressure built-up in the sinus.
For more information about holistic nutrition or soothing allergies with homeopathic remedies, visit the Australasian College

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Growing vegetables relieves stress and financial strain

When tough economic times hit, our collective money belts cinch tighter and tighter. People stop looking for entertainment out of doors and hunker down for the at-home experience, including eating in.

Yet—there is a silver lining. Although the current economy may cause us to make the move from sidewalk café to sideboard jockey (for a while), there is much to gain along the way. Say hello to stress relief. It may sound counterintuitive—“I’m stressed because everyone is stressed, so I should be frugal and grocery shop and stay home and cook my own dinner.”

But, cooking—and by extension, growing your own food—is an age-old holistic health practice, which promotes relaxation by shifting your focus from mental worry to physical exertion. As anxiety chills, your immune system and cardiovascular systems work better (otherwise known as, “I feel good.”)

It’s a win-win. You feel better AND your wallet feels better, because GIY (grow-it-yourself) gardening gives you fresh vegetables at a fraction of the store-bought price.

How do you get started?

Seed starting. True, you can also save money with month-old plants from your local nursery or home-supply store, but why would you? Seeds are a fraction of the price and produce more of what you want—lots’o’veggies.

One of the best ways to seed start, according to Master Gardener and ACHS Senior Vice President Erika Yigzaw, is with a seedling heat mat. These mats are portable and lightweight (which means apartment friendly), and allow you to bottom water, minimize the risk of mold.

Seed starting, Yigzaw shared at the ACHS Organic Gardening workshop March 21, has several personal and health benefits:
  • It’s fun and easy.
  • Fresh, on-hand food.
  • You know where your food comes from (if you spend a little time researching your seeds and seed starting mix, you can be sure your food is organic, free of synthetic pesticide and chemicals).
  • Saves money.
  • Lengthens the growing season.
Start gardening...

  1. Check the Farmer’s Almanac for your region to see when the last frost is scheduled to arrive.
  2. Consult a gardening encyclopedia-type reference to see what veggies will grow best in your area. (In Oregon, the Oregon State University Master Gardener program is a good resource.)
  3. Find your local, organic gardening store, where you can purchase your seeds, seedling starting mix, and seedling heat mat.
  4. Read any and all instructions that come with your products.
  5. When it is time to replant your seedlings into larger containers, re-use household materials like old plastic and/or ceramic planters, bowls, glasses, or tubs.
  6. If you plan to transplant your veggies into larger plots, consult a local expert in advance. If you plan to build a container garden, the Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is a very user-friendly resource.

Tip: Make sure the container is large enough to avoid root-bound plants. And, you will want to sterilize your containers in a 10% solution of bleach.

For questions about organic, at-home gardening, contact the OSU Master Gardeners or your local organization.

For information about personal nutrition, or holistic nutrition career training, contact the Australasian College of Health Sciences.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Debate over the future of NCAAM takes to the blogs

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NCCAM), which was established about 17 years ago and provides some of the best studies about homeopathy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch, and herbal medicine, is under fire from the scientific community.

Why now? Economics. Scientists are using the nation's economic hardships as a ballast for a negative campaign against alternative and complementary medicine modalities. Their argument: With funding scare, why should the National Institutes of Health fund a "pseud0-science."

We'd love to hear your thoughts about the article below. "Pseudo-science" or viable alternative to rising health care costs and effective, educative tool about prevention?? Hmmmm.......... we wonder.

According to "Critics Object to 'Pseudoscience' Center," a March 17 article in the Washington Post:

The impending national discussion about broadening access to health care, improving medical practice and saving money is giving a group of scientists an opening to make a once-unthinkable proposal: Shut down the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

The notion that the world's best-known medical research agency sponsors studies of homeopathy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch and herbal medicine has always rankled many scientists. That the idea for its creation 17 years ago came from a U.S. senator newly converted to alternative medicine's promise didn't help.

Although NCCAM has a comparatively minuscule budget and although it is a "center" rather than an "institute," making it officially second-class in the NIH pantheon, the principle is what mattered. But as NIH's budget has flattened in recent years, better use for NCCAM's money has also become an issue.

"With a new administration and President Obama's stated goal of moving science to the forefront, now is the time for scientists to start speaking up about issues that concern us," Steven Salzberg, a genome researcher and computational biologist at the University of Maryland, said last week. "One of our concerns is that NIH is funding pseudoscience."

Salzberg suggested that NCCAM be defunded on an electronic bulletin board that the Obama transition team set up to solicit ideas after November's election. The proposal generated 218 comments, most of them in favor, before the bulletin board closed on Jan. 19.

NCCAM has grown steadily since its founding in 1992, largely at the insistence of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) with a budget of $2 million. In 1998, NIH director and Nobel laureate Harold Varmus pushed to have all alternative medicine research done through NIH's roughly two dozen institutes, with OAM coordinating, and in some cases paying for, the studies. Harkin parried with legislation that turned OAM into a higher-status "center" (although not a full-fledged "institute"), and boosted its budget from $20 million to $50 million. NCCAM's budget this year is about $122 million.

Research in alternative medicine is done elsewhere at NIH, notably in the National Cancer Institute, whose Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine also has a budget of $122 million.

The entire NIH alternative medicine portfolio is about $300 million a year, out of a total budget of about $29 billion. (NIH will get an additional $10.4 billion in economic stimulus money over the next two years, of which $31 million is expected to go to NCCAM.)

Critics of alternative medicine say the vast majority of studies of homeopathy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch and other treatments based on unconventional understandings of physiology and disease have shown little or no effect. Further, they argue that the field's more-plausible interventions -- such as diet, relaxation, yoga and botanical remedies -- can be studied just as well in other parts of NIH, where they would need to compete head-to-head with conventional research projects.

The critics say that alternative medicine (also known as "complementary" and "integrative" medicine, and disparagingly labeled "woo" by opponents) doesn't need or deserve its own home at NIH.

"What has happened is that the very fact NIH is supporting a study is used to market alternative medicine," said Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale School of Medicine and editor of the Web site Science-Based Medicine (, where much of the anti-NCCAM discussion is taking place. "It is used to lend an appearance of legitimacy to treatments that are not legitimate."
Beyond the Blogosphere

So far, most of the debate has occurred in the blogosphere. But as health-care reform moves toward center stage, so may this fight.

At a Senate committee hearing on integrative medicine held Feb. 26, Harkin said: "I want to lay down a . . . marker: If we fail to seize this unique opportunity to adopt a pragmatic, integrative approach to health care, then that, too, would constitute a serious failure."

At the hearing, Harkin introduced Berkley W. Bedell, a six-term Democratic congressman from Iowa who retired in 1987 after contracting Lyme disease. Bedell credits alternative therapies for his recovery from that infection and later from prostate cancer. He helped convince the Iowa senator of alternative medicine's promise.

Nevertheless, Harkin said he was somewhat disappointed in NCCAM's work.

"One of the purposes when we drafted that legislation in 1992 . . . was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say it's fallen short," he told the committee.

"I think quite frankly that in this center, and previously in the office before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things, rather than seeking out and proving things."

Critics say this shows Harkin's lack of understanding of scientific inquiry, which tests hypotheses (with negative results as informative as positive ones) but doesn't intentionally attempt to "validate approaches." NCCAM's current director, Josephine P. Briggs, agrees that hypothesis-testing is the proper function of the center.

"We are not advocates for these modalities," she said last week. "We are trying to bring rigor to their study and make sure the science is objective."

Even so, Harkin was on to something: Most of NCCAM's results have been negative or inconclusive, not positive and encouraging.

For example, a randomized controlled trial of the botanical echinacea published in 2003 found it was ineffective in treating upper respiratory infections (although it did cause more rashes). In a study from last year, neither the Japanese "palm healing" therapy known as reiki, nor sham reiki, reduced the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome. A study in December comparing real and sham acupuncture in 162 cancer patients who'd undergone surgery found no difference in their levels of pain.

At the same time, it's difficult to determine the clinical implications of some of the positive studies.

For example, reiki -- but not sham treatment -- blunted the rise in heart rate, but not the rise in blood pressure, in rats put under stress by loud noise. Therapeutic touch, a different modality, increased the growth of normal bone cells in culture dishes, but decreased the growth of bone cancer cells.

Many NCCAM-funded studies examine not the effectiveness of alternative medicine but its use, and how it affects the interaction of practitioners and patients. The idea that the center is spending lots of money running large clinical trials of such practices as homeopathy and ayurvedic medicine "is a misperception," the director said. She noted that most such proposals lack methodological rigor and aren't approved.

A physician and kidney specialist who never used alternative medicine in her practice, Briggs said "mind-body management for pain control and stress reduction" is a large topic of the research at the moment, with mindfulness, meditation, yoga and tai chi all under study.

"Some of the way these approaches work is through 'positive expectancy,' which is part of a placebo effect," she said.

Indeed, many of NCCAM's critics view complementary medicine as nothing more than the placebo effect dressed up in a dozen different costumes.

Carlo Calabrese, a researcher at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore., one of the country's five naturopathic medical schools, isn't one of them. But even if one were to concede that view, he thinks the field is still worth studying.

Although the overall effect of therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture may be small, individual response can be large. The route to the placebo effect -- if that's what it mostly is -- also varies in method and efficiency.

"What can be done to generate a better placebo? Why isn't that an interesting and valid area of investigation?" said Calabrese, who was on NCCAM's advisory council from 2004 to 2007. "Here we have a totally harmless intervention that seems to get a better result in some people than others. Why wouldn't you want to study that?

© The Washington Post March 17, 2009:

Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House

WASHINGTON—Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets— the president does not like them—but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

The first lady, who said that she had never had a vegetable garden, recalled that the idea for this one came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner all took their toll in added weight on the girls, whose pediatrician told Mrs. Obama that she needed to be thinking about nutrition.

“He raised a flag for us,” she said, and within months the girls had lost weight.

Dan Barber, an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an organic restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that grows many of its own ingredients, said: “The power of Michelle Obama and the garden can create a very powerful message about eating healthy and more delicious food. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could translate into real change.”

While the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof, the Obamas’ garden will far transcend that, with 55 varieties of vegetables—from a wish list of the kitchen staff— grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

The total cost of seeds, mulch and so forth is $200, said Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, who prepared healthful meals for the Obama family in Chicago and is an advocate of local food. Mr. Kass will oversee the garden.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

Cristeta Comerford, the White House’s executive chef, said she was eager to plan menus around the garden, and Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, said he was looking forward to berry season.

The White House grounds crew and the kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered.

So have the fifth graders from Bancroft. “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.”

For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local food tastes better.

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

For urban dwellers who have no backyards, the country’s one million community gardens can also play an important role, Mrs. Obama said.

But the first lady emphasized that she did not want people to feel guilty if they did not have the time for a garden: there are still many changes they can make.

“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”

Click here to read the original article.

© New York Times March 18, 2009 By: Marian Burros

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homeopathy for food allergies: Treatment for Peanut Allergies Shows Promise

A March 15 article in the New York Times, " Treatment for Peanut Allergies Shows Promise," talks about the practical applications of homeopathy. Although the article does not use the term homeopathy specifically, it does describe a study in which the treatment for a peanut allergy "uses doses of peanuts that start as small as one-thousandth of a peanut and eventually increase to about 15 peanuts a day."

The article then goes on to describe how in a pilot study at Duke University and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, "33 children with documented peanut allergy have received the daily therapy, which is given as a powder sprinkled on food. Most of the children are tolerating the therapy without developing allergic reactions, and five stopped the treatment after two and a half years because they could now tolerate peanuts in their regular diet. But four children dropped out because they could not tolerate the treatment."

The article cautions that this specific treatment for peanut (and other food-related allergies) is not ready for home use, yet homeopathics have been in the U.S. since the 19th century, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Homeopathy is based on the principle of "like cures like," and involves, "giving extremely small doses of substances that produce characteristic symptoms of illness in healthy people when given in larger doses," (NCCAM).

Three main concepts of homeopathy include:

1. Homeopathy stimulates the body's defense mechanisms and processes to prevent/treat illness.

2. Treatment involves giving very small doses of substances called remedies that, according to homeopathy, would produce the same or similar symptoms of illness in healthy people if they were given in larger doses.

3. Treatment in homeopathy is individualized (tailored to each person). Homeopathic practitioners select remedies according to a total picture of the patient, including not only symptoms but lifestyle, emotional and mental states, and other factors.

Homeopathy training is often completed as part of a naturopathic training, and individual courses can be taken to adjunct to another holistic health practice, such as holistic health practitioner or nutritionist. In addition, with accredited holistic health training, there is growing opportunity to work in the complementary alternative medicine field, to provide whole person care.

For more information about homeopathy training, go to:

For more information about studies involving peanut treatments for peanut food allergies, go to:

To read more about homeopathy, visit the NCCAM website at:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Protect CAM and Health Freedom:

Health freedom is one of the primary challenges faced by the U.S. today. Though we aren't all suited for frontline politics, the health freedom fight does not have to be all or nothing. There are many ways we can influence, and accomplish, change from our homes and from within our communities. Such as:

1. Ask your employer about natural medicine insurance alternatives.

2. Honor and protect your personal health first.

3. Be a grassroots promoter: Scour your community for the services you want. If they don't exist, ask for them. If they do exist, help to promote natural medicine and CAM services, and the longevity of the businesses that provide them.

4. Support community wellness education.

5. Familiarize yourself with health freedom laws in your state.

6. Help to reach their goal of 100,000 signatures. is a new, grassroots petition that demands revolutionary changes to the health care system in America. It includes reforms of the FDA, drug company advertising, school lunch programs, coverage of natural therapies, and much more. See it and sign it online at

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Maca: new insights on an ancient plant

The author [of the article "Maca: new insights on an ancient plant," T. Hudson], a naturopathic physician and professor at the Natural College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, reviews the Peruvian herb maca (Lepidium peruvianum), which she has been prescribing for more than 15 years for common perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. She examines the different types of maca, history of maca research, the health benefits of maca, and clinical evidence of its efficacy.

The maca species L. meyenii grows all over several South American countries, but the recently differentiated Peruvian maca species L. peruvianum grows only in Peru. In the early 1960s, Peruvian scientist, Gloria Chacón, PhD, presented a dissertation on maca root, which led to the eventual identification of over a dozen different Peruvian maca phenotypes as well as identification of the regions in Peru where these phenotypes grow. L. peruvianum has 13 different phenotypes corresponding to different colors, some of them containing unique DNA profiles and distribution patterns of active constituents, says the author.

Earlier, in 1843, the species L. meyenii had been described by botanist Gerhard Walpers. However, Dr. Chacón suggested, and herbalists around the world have agreed, that the cultivated maca of Peru (L. peruvianum) is a unique species. L. peruvianum is now accepted by many as the species name for medicinal maca from Peru. Though it may be confusing, says the author, "it is critical for a practitioner to investigate the source of the maca used as from Peru and/or ensure it is identified and labeled as L. peruvianum."

Maca has been found to be rich in minerals (with high concentrations of calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium, silica, manganese, copper, zinc, vanadium, and others) and also contains thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, proteins, carbohydrates, lignans, glucosinolates, phytosterols, and alkaloids.1 The alkaloids in its root are believed largely responsible for its traditional healing use, possibly benefiting the endocrine and reproductive systems by influencing such disorders as chronic fatigue, anemia, and infertility, and aiding in enhanced stamina and "female hormone balance."1

Traditionally used as an adaptogenic plant, maca aids the body in dealing with physiological, biochemical, and psychological stressors. Its adaptogenic properties represent an alternative approach to managing symptoms of menopause, says the author. Researchers theorize that maca stimulates hormonal reserves by strengthening the body's ability to regain and maintain hormonal homeostasis in the face of stressors.2 Other adaptogens have been used by herbal and alternative practitioners for years, but the extent of maca's effects on the range of menopausal symptoms has not been documented in studies of these other adaptogenic herbs. According to the author, this suggests that maca may be unique in its adaptogenic menopausal effects.

The author cites research on perimenopausal and menopausal women using two grams daily of a proprietary maca product (Maca-GO™; Natural Health International; San Francisco, CA), which found that maca can increase the body's production of estrogen and lower its levels of cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. It also helped alleviate numerous menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, depression, and nervousness.2 Other research cited, which was conducted on the composition of various powdered preparations of maca root, reported that the herb does not contain plant estrogen or hormones. Some researchers suggest that maca's therapeutic actions rely on plant sterols stimulating the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal, and ovarian glands, and therefore also affecting the thyroid and pineal glands.3 As such, says the author, maca tends to treat menopausal symptoms as a whole and not any one specific menopausal symptom.

The author reports that the most common symptoms of menopause she sees in her patients are hot flashes, mood swings, and low energy. She prescribes Maca-GO, one gram twice a day, for perimenopausal and postmenopausal patients, and reports an onset of benefits within two to three weeks, although some patients require treatment for two to three months (depending on the patient's overall health and prior prescription history). Benefits include a remarkable reduction in the number of hot flashes, an overall improvement in mood (less depression and irritability), and increased energy levels.

Much research is still needed, says the author, to clarify the role of exogenous estradiol (via prescription) versus endogenous estradiol (produced by the body) in general, and, specifically, for patients in whom exogenous estrogen is questionable or even contraindicated. With confusion and inconsistency looming over the benefits and risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, "it behooves us to seek the lowest dose and the most gentle, least invasive approach to achieve the identified goals—whether these be relief of symptoms, prevention of bone loss, or protection of cardiovascular health," writes the author. Maca research should influence the optimal strategy for treating the symptoms of menopause, especially when trying to minimize unnecessary long-term exposure to exogenous estrogens.

The author also includes a sidebar on current supply issues relating to the commercial use of maca. "Some of the product previously and currently available in the United States may contain less than a therapeutically useful dose" and "may not contain the appropriate combination of phenotypes to elicit the desired gender-, age-, and symptom-related physiological responses, or the product may simply contain the wrong plant." She recommends that practitioners check into the ethics of the companies selling and manufacturing maca products.


1Chacon G. Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon). 1st ed. Lima, Peru: Grafica Mundo; 2001.

2Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska R, et al. Hormone-balancing effect of pre-gelatinized organic maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical response of early-postmenopausal women to maca in a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomedical Sci. 2006;2(4):375-394.

3Walker M. Effect of Peruvian maca on hormonal functions. Townsend Lett. Nov 1998:18-22.

Review by Shari Henson. © HerbClip 2009:

RE : Hudson T. Maca: new insights on an ancient plant. Integrative Med. Dec 2008/Jan 2009;7(6): 54-57.

Should the FDA have more regulation over dietary supplements?

Following the release March 2, 2009, by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) of a report on the oversight and regulation of dietary supplements (FDA Should Take Further Actions to Improve Oversight and Consumer Understanding), the Natural Products Association (NPA) released the following statement from Executive Director and CEO David Seckman.

"The Natural Products Association appreciates having the opportunity to be included in the GAO's review of dietary supplement regulation, particularly regarding the recent implementation of adverse event reporting and good manufacturing practices. Our initial impressions regarding the four key recommendations of the report are as follows.

"Contrary to opinions stated in the report, the FDA already has a great deal of information about individual dietary supplement products and their manufacturers. The dietary supplement industry has cooperated by registering all manufacturing facilities under bioterrorism regulations that went into effect more than five years ago. Additionally, the NPA is currently working with the government to create a database of all dietary supplement labels to augment this information.

"We also take issue with the implication that the FDA has limited power to remove products from the marketplace. In fact, although the agency has had scant reason to do so, it has exercised its ability to take products off the shelves it deemed a health risk.

"While we supported legislation to establish mandatory adverse event reporting for dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs, we still believe that reporting should be limited to incidents that are serious. If the FDA's resources are already stretched, as the report indicates, then adding to this burden by mandating that any complaint be dealt with by the agency does not make sense.

"We support further guidance clarifying how the FDA determines when an ingredient is considered 'new' to the marketplace and what evidence is needed to document safety. Likewise, we are in favor of the agency clarifying when it believes products should be marketed as conventional foods versus dietary supplements.

"One of the fundamental principles of DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994] is providing consumers with more information so that they can make informed decisions to maintain and improve their health. So we are in agreement that the FDA should work with stakeholder groups to educate consumers about the safety, efficacy and labeling of dietary supplements.

"There is little scientific data regarding underreporting of adverse events and the data that are cited are not specific to dietary supplements, but represent all FDA-regulated products, including pharmaceuticals, a category that accounts for more than 460,000 reports annually.

"As we told the GAO, we believe regulations governing the manufacturing of dietary supplements enhance the FDA's ability to ensure the safety and purity of these products. These long-awaited regulations, more than 12 years in the making, were greeted with enthusiasm from industry. Likewise, the industry supported the law establishing mandatory adverse event reporting for dietary supplements. However, we disagree with some aspects of how the FDA has implemented this law. Specifically, we told the GAO the following:

1. The changes to dietary supplement regulation exceed the mandate of the law, especially in regarding to prefatory warning language on product labels.

2. The substantial added expenses to dietary supplement manufacturers to redesign and replace their product labels due to the AER law, upwards of $200 million according to the FDA's own estimates, should have been proposed through a formal rulemaking process, not a guidance. Additionally, the FDA is not allowing adequate time for manufacturers to re-label their products in this case, only one year. Previous regulations of this magnitude have allowed manufacturers a reasonable three years to implement label changes.

We are also concerned about the availability of adverse event reports submitted to the agency and how they will be reported to the public . This has yet to be adequately addressed by the FDA.

"As we have in the past, the association supports adequate funding for the FDA to do its job in regulating dietary supplements. This includes fully implementing the law, DSHEA, and taking appropriate enforcement action against those who break it."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama Calls for Health Care Reform in 2009

WASHINGTON (CNN)--President Obama pledged Tuesday night to cure Americans from what he called "the crushing cost of health care," saying the country could not afford to put health-care reform on hold.

President Obama tells Congress Tuesday night: "I have no illusions this will be an easy process."

"This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes," Obama said in his speech to a joint session of Congress.

Obama pointed to the increasing number of uninsured and rapidly rising health-care premiums, which he said was one reason small business closed their doors and corporations moved overseas.

Obama's prescription for health-care reform included making "the largest investment ever" in preventive care, rooting out Medicare fraud and investing in electronic health records and new technology in an effort to reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy and save lives.

"I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process," the president said, adding that he was scheduling a gathering next week of "businesses and workers, doctors and health-care providers, Democrats and Republicans."

"The cost of health care has weighed down our economy and our conscience long enough. So let there be no doubt, health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait and it will not wait another year," Obama said to a standing ovation.

The president also said Americans would see a cure for cancer "in our time." Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, died of ovarian and uterine cancer at 52.

Obama made health-care reform a central theme of his presidential campaign and promised not only to achieve universal health care in his first term, but also to cut the average family's health care health-care costs by $2,500.

In his speech Tuesday, he placed health-care reform alongside education and energy reforms as central pillars of his recovery plan.

An estimated 45.7 million Americans are uninsured, and for those with coverage, and health-care costs have been rising four times faster than wages, Obama said.

The average cost of family health-care coverage more than doubled from 1999 to 2008, from $1,543 to $3,354, according to a report by the Institute on Medicine released Tuesday.

During his speech, Obama touted changes in the health-care system already passed in his month-old administration as part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health-care reform in the last 30 days than we have in the last decade," he said. "When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full-time."

Signed into law on February 17, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also includes $87 billion to bolster state Medicaid programs and offers a 65 percent subsidy for nine months to help the unemployed pay for their COBRA coverage.

COBRA allows the unemployed to pick up the payments and continue the health insurance coverage they had with their former employer. The subsidy would help an estimated seven million Americans, according to a congressional estimate.

The president's health-care message was applauded by Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a national organization for health care consumers.

"President Obama is absolutely correct that the nation's economy and the federal budget deficit cannot be fixed without meaningful health-care reform," Pollack said in a statement.

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