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Schizandra Berries: A Potent Medicinal Berry for Detoxification, Cancer Protection and More

Schizandra berries aren’t like blueberries, blackberries, or superfruits like goji and acai berries. Its name sounds rather exotic, or like something you’d see on a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but it’s actually a sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent berry that isn’t eaten, but rather taken as medicine.

It’s been used for more than 2,000 years in China, where some claim that it helps revive the body from stress and fatigue, but it’s still relatively unknown in the U.S.

Most schizandra berries are dried in the sun and used in various formulae to help improve vitality, while some are deep refrigerated and eventually used to make health juices, mainly in the Korean market.

 

They can be found here in the United States as supplements online and in health food stores. Schizandra berries are considered to be an adaptogenic, which means that they are safe, non-toxic and offer a wide range of health benefits, including mental and physical stress reduction.

 

Preventing mental fatigue and improving focus

The berries are known for helping to prevent mental fatigue while improving the ability to focus and concentrate. They also have a direct positive effect on the central nervous system, acting as a stimulant when you need a lift while serving as a mild sedative when you’re feeling anxious or nervous. Schizandra berries have been shown to raise the body’s amount of enzyme glutathione, which helps to detoxify and improves mental clarity.

A number of human studies have found that schizandra extract can also increase the accuracy and quality of work, demonstrating superior mind-sharpening ability.

Liver support and detoxification

According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, studies on rats have shown that schizandra berries help to protect the liver from toxins by using the fat soluble ingredient found in the seed’s core. Schizandra is also one of the only herbs known to have the ability to clean the liver of toxins as well as to cleanse the blood of waste so that is can be safely transported out of the body.

Cancer protection

2009 study found that the berries may offer anti-cancer properties by inhibiting cancer cell growth in cancers like leukemia.

Improving endurance, enhancing athletic performance and promoting quicker recovery

Schizandra is believed to stimulate the production of the antioxidant glutathione to help prevent damage to cells caused by intense physical activity, making it an excellent supplement for athletes.

schizandrea

The extract of the schizandra has also been shown to improve endurance and overall performance in long distance runners, skiers and gymnasts, making it an important staple for many Chinese athletes. Studies involving long-distance runners found a 25 percent improvement using Schizandra versus a control group that used a banned performance enhancing substance.

-The Alternative Daily

 
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Reduce Pain and Inflammation Naturally with Pineapple

When you think of pineapple, you probably think of its sweet, succulent flavor and its juicy and crisp texture. However, did you know that besides being delicious, this fruit actually contains potent analgesic properties, and may help relieve many types of pain?

This unique quality of pineapple was known to ancient South and Central American people, who traditionally used these fruits not only as a food source, but also to reduce swelling throughout the body, as well as the pain of indigestion. The pain-relieving properties of pineapple are centered around an enzyme called bromelain, which has been found to be a potent anti-inflammatory compound.

In 2004, Sarah Brien of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom led a review of a body of clinical studies regarding the analgesic effects of bromelain, and concluded that this enzyme was in many cases comparable to or sometimes more effective than NSAID painkiller drugs for managing the pain of osteoarthritis, an inflammatory musculoskeletal condition that affects the joints. Other studies have found that bromelain could be even more effective than prescription anti-inflammatory drugs in dealing with various types of pain.

 

Some of this research centers around patients recovering from surgery. Researchers have linked bromelain intake with faster recovery times, and less post-surgical pain. In fact, in Germany, bromelain is an approved post-surgical treatment for the swelling and pain that occurs after ear, nose and throat surgeries.

 

This compound also helps the body to digest proteins, aids in overall digestive function, and may soothe the discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers.

Additionally, bromelain can help to ease joint and muscle soreness after a workout or a long day, and is the ideal fruit to consume if you have a cold or sinus infection. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory qualities, plus pineapple’s high vitamin C content, work together to thin mucus, relieve sinus pain, reduce swelling in the upper respiratory tract and boost the immune system to fight infection.

Because inflammation is at the root of so many chronic illnesses, pineapple may both help to prevent their onset, and ease the symptoms of existing conditions. Some research is even testing the effects of bromelain on cancer cells, with preliminary results showing that it may help to decrease the growth of tumors, inhibit the metastasis of cancer cells, and increase the immune system’s ability to fight the cancer.

While in many studies, potent pain relief effects came from isolated bromelain, rather than intake of fresh pineapple, eating the fresh fruit and drinking fresh pineapple juice worked for the ancients, and may very well have a more powerful effect than you may think.

pain

If you suffer from severe chronic pain and are interested in trying more concentrated bromelain, speak with a natural health professional about where to find the purest extract, and the amount that is right for you.

For many types of aches, pains and swelling, however, simply enjoying some fresh pineapple or fresh-squeezed pineapple juice may just do the trick.

-The Alternative Daily

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Apricots – The Super Sweet Super Fruit

Nothing says summer is just around the corner like a fresh-picked apricot. These small golden fruits are often the first signs of summer, as they come into season in May and can be enjoyed through August.

Though a relative of another summertime staple, the peach, apricots boast a more velvety skin and are notably smaller. Their not-too-sweet, not-too-tart flavor is often utilized in preserves, spreads, muffins and more throughout their growing season. Although small in stature, apricots are loaded with nutrition and are a dieter’s dream, with approximately four fruits weighing in at a mere 79 calories.

One of the apricot’s nutritional hallmarks is its high vitamin A content. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin A is a key nutrient in maintaining eye health as it battles the free-radicals known for damaging the eye’s sensitive lenses.

 

Over time, free radical damage can lead to the development of cataracts or macular degeneration. Vitamin A also promotes proper immune and reproductive system function, along with maintaining healthy skin, teeth and nails.

 

Apricots also boast a high concentration of potassium, a key electrolyte in the human body. Potassium is necessary to regulate fluid balance and maintain proper muscle function, the most important muscle being the heart. Proper potassium levels are necessary to maintain a consistent and regular heartbeat and keep blood pressure levels in check.

These sweet summertime fruits are also a good way to get your daily fiber as they are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

peaches

While plucking a fresh organic apricot straight from the tree is one of the more popular ways to enjoy these fruits over the summer, there are plenty of other ways you can incorporate apricots into your summertime meals, snacks and desserts.

  • Slice apricots and dress with melted butter and a sprinkle of coconut crystals. Place on the grill after the main course for a healthy grilled dessert treat.
  • Make your own apricot popsicles by blending them with your favorite juice and freezing overnight in popsicle trays.
  • Add fresh or dried apricots to summertime salads.
  • Incorporate dried apricots into trail mixes that you can enjoy all year long.
  • Add apricots to glazes, marinades or sauces for a fruity twist to chicken or pork dishes.
  • Dried or fresh fruits will add a subtle sweetness to cold summer rice or quinoa salads.
  • Blend fresh apricots with a hint of milk until smooth and top waffles, French toast, pancakes and ice cream. Note: we always recommend gluten-free waffles, French toast, and pancakes.
  • While apricot season is in full swing, incorporate them into your favorite baked goods for a nutritional boost to your favorite sweet treats.

-The Alternative Daily

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Yes, You Can Fight Fat with Fat: Another Amazing Benefit of Coconut Oil

Fact: Americans have reduced their saturated fat consumption by 10 percent in the last 30 years, and obesity has doubled.

Our nation – even our children – is growing increasingly larger and illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are rampant – something that we can no longer turn our backs on.

However, it may come as a surprise to learn that eating foods high in saturated fat, such as grass-fed meat, milk, free range eggs, butter, avocados, coconut, raw nuts and real cheese are not necessarily the causes of obesity, high cholesterol and heart disease, as was originally thought.

 

Numerous studies have been conducted that have been unable to provide any conclusive evidence that consuming foods high in saturated fat leads to heart disease. One study that spanned the globe studied the diets of the Maasai tribe of Kenya, the Eskimos in the Arctic, and the tribe of the three atoll islands off the coast of New Zealand, and found their diets consisted of more than 66 percent saturated fat. And yet, they have the lowest risk of heart disease.

 

Some cultures that consume mostly saturated fat from natural sources don’t even have a word for heart disease – no need for a word when the problem does not exist, right?
At one time, we adapted to eating a diet high in fat and low in carbs without any increased risk of heart disease. Today, we are told to consume a low fat diet and eat more carbs, yet heart disease is the number one killer in this country despite a lower fat diet.

Something seems inherently wrong with this picture, and researchers, nutritionists and consumers are now becoming aware of just how mixed up the saturated fat myth really is.

Debunking the lipid hypothesis

The theory that took saturated fats down appeared in the 1950s, and has been coined the “lipid hypothesis.” This hypothesis stated that there was an intimate relationship between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease.

This hypothesis was built on questionable evidence at best. Ancel Keys, the founder of the hypothesis, presented his “findings” to the medical community. Despite the lack of evidence and the prevalence of other studies finding different conclusions, the lipid hypothesis took fire.

Most of the fuel came from the food manufacturers and vegetable oil producers who saw great benefit in riding on this hypothesis. If everyone would stop using saturated fat, they could convince them that refined vegetable oil was healthy.

The truth is, almost 90 percent of all well-researched studies examining this hypothesis do not support the fact that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol cause heart disease. In fact, researchers have found that a clogged artery is about 26 percent saturated fat and more than half polyunsaturated fat.

So, if we are now starting to understand that saturated fat is not to blame for our heart disease epidemic, is it possible to see it in a new light, for what it is really valuable for?

Traditional saturated fats are really good for us

  • Healthy saturated fats, found in traditional – not highly processed – foods, have been found to be of tremendous value to good health, in ways including:
  • Liver support: Saturated fats help liver cells dump fat cells, which allows the organ to work better.
  • Immunity booster: Saturated fatty acids, like those found in coconut and butter, help white blood cells seek and destroy viruses and bacteria.
  • Hormone helper: Eating a consistent amount of healthy saturated fat helps to increase free testosterone levels, which repair tissue, improve sexual performance and preserve muscle.
  • Fats are sources of essential fatty acids that are necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. They also help keep your hair and skin looking great and aid in proper cell function.

The real fat you should be scared of

Not all saturated fat is created equal. Some fats occur in nature, while others are artificially molded into a saturated form through a process known as hydrogenation.

Trans fatty acids, or trans fats as they are more commonly referred to, are “fake” fats that clog arteries, increase the levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and lower high density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood. These deadly fat imposters are formed when vegetable oils harden to create shortening or margarine.

However, trans fats are prevalent in more foods than shortening and margarine, and we often consume them without knowing. Typical french fries, cookies, chips, frozen waffles, and crackers contain from 30 to 50 percent trans fatty acids. Donuts, an American staple, may contain up to 40 percent depending on the brand.

These dangerous fats are added to processed foods to make them more palatable, increase their shelf life and improve their flavor. In fact, 80 percent of trans fats come from processed foods, while the remainder comes from meat and dairy.

Is the donut really worth it? Serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease thrive in the type of environment created by trans fatty acids.

Coconut oil… the world’s friendliest fat-busting, traditional saturated fat

Considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts. It also contains saturated fat – in fact, it is a whopping 90 percent saturated fat. Don’t let that scare you; although you may be convinced that saturated fat should not be touched with a 10-foot pole – coconut oil is healthy.

Although there have been over 60 years of negative public policy around healthy saturated fats like those found in coconut oil, research and review of cultures that have used coconut oil for thousands of years tell a different story – healthy saturated fat can be highly beneficial.

Research demonstrates that the naturally occurring saturated fat found in coconut oil has some amazing therapeutic values, such as:

  • Promoting heart health
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Providing immediate energy
  • Promoting healthy skin
  • Helping to regulate blood sugar
  • Boosting metabolism
  • Promoting weight loss

Coconut oil is vastly different from most other foods; it is comprised mainly of medium chain fatty acids, while most other foods contain long chain fatty acids. Medium chain fatty acids are metabolized much differently than longer chain fats found in modern-day seed/vegetable oils, processed shortenings and almost all highly refined foods.

Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) are very difficult for the body to break down and can put a tremendous strain on the pancreas, liver and digestive system. In addition, LCFAs are stored mainly as fat in the body, and are deposited in arteries as cholesterol. In contrast, medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), like those found in coconut oil, are easy to break down and are sent directly to the liver to be used for energy – they are not stored as fat.

Understanding the thermogenic power of coconut oil

Coconut oil packs tremendous thermogenic power when compared calorie for calorie to long chain fats.

One study demonstrated how just 1 to 2 tablespoons of MCFAs per day can increase energy expenditure by 120 calories per day. Other studies confirm the findings and clearly demonstrate that when we replace the current fats we are eating (including those found in processed foods) with MCFAs, we burn more calories – hands down.

Another added bonus of consuming raw, organic coconut oil is that it tends to make us feel fuller for longer. Studies indicate that MCFAs help increase feelings of fullness and lead to a reduction in calorie intake when compared to the same amount of calories from other fats. When MCFAs are metabolized, ketone bodies are created in the liver – these have been shown to have a strong appetite reducing effect.

fight fat

How to add coconut oil to your diet

Coconut oil can replace all of the other oils in your kitchen. Raw, organic coconut oil remains solid at room temperature and does not break down during cooking. You can fry with it, bake with it, drizzle it on foods, saute with it – and also put it on your skin, hair, nails etc… There is no shortage of ways as to how coconut oil can truly improve your health – you can even add a tablespoon or so to your morning coffee for a great energy boost!

The days of badmouthing natural saturated fats are quickly coming to an end. We hope that this change of thought will prompt a change of behavior that will escort in better health for all who choose to believe!

Click here to learn more about the amazing benefits of raw, organic coconut oil. You will be awestruck by all of the ways this traditional saturated fat can benefit your health.

-The Alternative Daily

 
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Versatile hemp

 

Versatile hemp

 

Imagine the perfect food crop: strong, fast growing, easily adaptable to soil and climatic conditions and extremely undemanding, it grows well without the use of pesticides and fertilizers, has a high nutritional value and provides a rich source of high-quality protein and essential omega fatty acids in optimal ratio. Besides being an extremely healthy superfood, it can also be used as a building material, in paper production, to make plastic and composite materials, clothing, ropes, fuel and even jewelry, as well as offering infinite ways of use in medicine.

It is not a product of our imagination, it is a real story of a real plant – and a sad one indeed. Hemp(Cannabis sativa), a versatile herb that has been used for all the above mentioned purposes for millenia, has been a controversial crop since the end of Second World War, due to the presence of cannabinoids (especially the controversial THC). Fortunately, hemp’s bad reputation is gradually diminishing nowadays. A total of 46 varieties of industrial hemp, which contains extremely low levels of THC, are certified by the European Union. In contrast to cannabis grown for recreational use, varieties grown for fiber and seed have less than 0.3% THC and they are unsuitable for producing hashish and marijuana.

hemp sowing

 

Hemp has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12.000 years, making it one of the earliest domesticated plants known. Archaeological records for cultivation and use of hemp come from Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, central and east Europe, China, Taiwan and Japan. Until 1883, as much as 90 % of all paper is estimated to have been made from hemp and the same goes for ropes, threads and ship sails. Hemp oil, produced from hemp seeds, was used as an ingredient of oil paints, varnishes and even fuel. Numerous farms cultivated hemp and use its fiber, while it also provided protection from erosion on steep slopes.

After Second World War, cultivation and use of hemp suddenly became prohibited. Even industrial varieties were now illegal, completely ignoring the fact that they provided more than 25.000 nature-friendly products, all free of the controversial substances.

Today, hemp is regaining its well deserved reputation as an ideal crop. Not only is it prised in textile, paper and construction industry again, it is also gaining its place in the field of nutrition. No wonder, as hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Proteins represent 33 % of their total mass and contain all of the 20 amino acids, including 9 essential ones, which our body can not synthesize itself. 44 % of hemp seeds is represented by healthy fats, primarily unsaturated fatty acids in optimal ratios. A ratio between omega-3 in omega-6 fatty acids is especially important, as Western diets are often deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and contain excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids, mostly consumed in the form of processed foods. Most studies suggest the optimal ratio 3:1 (while the estimated actual ratio is 50:1!), which is identical to the omega-6:omega-3 ratio found in hemp seeds and hemp oil.

Besides protein and fat, hemp seeds also contain a fine amount of fiber and nutrients that act as antioxidants.

hemp oil, hemp seeds and hemp powder

 

Hemp can be easily introduced into our diets in one of the following forms: hemp seeds, hemp oil or hemp protein powder. Shelled seeds can be sprinkled on fruit or veggie salads, added to soups, baked goods and smoothies or used to make spreads, raw desserts, hemp milk, yoghurt or ice cream.

Hemp oil, which is cold pressed from shelled hemp seeds, can be used in various dishes, preferably at the end of cooking as it is temperature sensitive (as all of the unsaturated fats) and therefore unsuitable for cooking and baking. Use hemp oil in salads, soups, vegetable dishes or consume a teaspoon on an empty stomach in the morning. Hemp oil is also appropriate for external use as it can help with skin issues, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and dry or sensitive skin.

Hemp protein powder is a popular addition to the diet of athletes, be it recreational or professional ones. Due to intensive training, protein needs of athletes are increased and hemp is a rich source of high-quality protein. With elimination of fats and fiber, percentage of protein in hemp powder is greatly increased, reaching 50 %. Hemp protein contains all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts, making it a so called »complete protein«. Hemp protein powder can be mixed into juices, smoothies, raw or baked desserts.

 

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