Fight Joint Inflammation with Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the golden-orange spice that gives curried foods pizzazz. In Traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine, turmeric is used to treat allergies, digestive ailments, and pain. The active chemical component of turmeric is curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Today, research is focused on the role curcumin plays in diseases where the underlying factor is inflammation, such as in heart disease and arthritis.

Studies show that curcumin blocks inflammation at the cellular level. Some studies indicate that curcumin’s role in preventing joint inflammation surpasses its ability to reduce active joint inflammation. In clinical trials, standardized curcumin supplements helped improve pain and swelling in patients with RA. These promising results are being further investigated in long-term studies.

Including turmeric in your diet is easy to do and, oh, so flavorful. Add turmeric to soups and dressings; sprinkle over meats, veggies, and scrambled eggs; add it to plain yogurt or a smoothie.

While adding turmeric spice to your meals is a great first step, the amounts used in cooking do not provide the therapeutic levels needed to achieve its robust health effects. When considering the addition of turmeric to your health plan, work with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor to determine if this is a good choice and which curcumin supplement is best for you. He or she can recommend the right form (capsule or powder) that will have the best bioavailability – meaning it’s easy for your body to process through the digestive tract – for your specific health needs. It is very important to use a high quality tumeric supplement to ensure its effectiveness.

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A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

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Healing The Gut with Marshmallow Root

There’s much more to that sweet, fluffy treat we enjoy melted in a s’more or sprinkled atop hot cocoa. Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is an ancient herb whose Greek name, Althainean, means “to heal.” Ancient Greek and Egyptian healers used Marshmallow flowers and leaves in salads to support healthy digestion. A secretion, known as mucilage, from its roots and stems, was used to soften the skin, treat sore throats, and ease congestion. Naturopathic doctors use Marshmallow Root (aka “mallow”) for these purposes and in treatment preparations for:

  • inflammation of the lining of the stomach
  • digestive issues including diarrhea stomach ulcers, constipation
  • inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disorders
  • skin conditions such as eczema
  • bloating and water retention
  • dry coughs and colds
  • bacterial infections and respiratory infections

A key healing property of Marshmallow Root is the ability to soothe inflammation of the mucous membranes throughout the body. When food sensitivity/allergies, illness, or other factors interfere with healthy digestion, a person can experience upset stomach, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Mallow forms a thick protective coating in the digestive tract, which helps reduce the burning and tame other symptoms of digestive distress.

With tall stalks topped by a lovely five-petal white blossom with purple center, Marshmallow Root makes a striking addition to a garden – especially if you enjoy harvesting for herbal tea. Supplements come in different forms including powder, tea, extract, ointments, and capsule. While considered safe for most adults and children, do ask your La Mesa naturopathic doctor which preparations of are best for you.

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Elderberry: Medicinal Elixir for the Whole Family

For millennia, physicians, and herbalists have found medicinal uses for all parts of the elder tree, including its wood, leaves, flowers and berries. Leaves were used in ointments to heal skin. The flowers and berries were made into infusions as a common treatment for colds and rheumatic conditions. Today, herbalists and holistic physicians commonly recommend elderberry for the wide variety of properties that can support the health of the young and old alike.

European (Black) Elder (Sambucus nigra) is the species safely and most commonly used for botanical medicines. Note that the berries should not be eaten (or used) raw. They must be dried first or properly cooked at the peak of ripeness.

Elderberries are rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids that act as antioxidants that protect cells in the body from damage and can help reduce inflammation. They have been used in preparations to treat colds, flu, and bacterial sinus infection. In studies, syrup prepared from the juice of elderberry has been shown to help decrease the duration of flu symptoms, including swelling in mucous membranes and congestion. Other studies have shown that elderberry extracts have antiviral properties and appear to have a role in inhibiting the replication of viruses.

Elderberry can interact with other medications including those used to treat diabetes, asthma, and drugs that suppress the immune system. Before using an elderberry product for an adult or a child, check with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor to verify the integrity of the product and appropriate use.

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