Treat Modern Day Stress and Anxiety With These Ancient Remedies

November 2018
Volume 24    |   Issue 11

More and more people are coming into my office complaining of anxiety. There are a number of reasons for this apparent increase in anxiety. Modern life does have a lot of stressors. And we have access to more information about mental health – and its treatment – than ever before. But even with modern life creating the problem, we may want to rely on an ancient treatment to provide the solution.

Anti-anxiety medications can be beneficial. They’ve helped a lot of people. But they can also do harm. So much harm, in fact, that the FDA requires some antidepressants to carry “black box” warnings. This means their side effects can be deadly. This is the highest level of warning for any drug.

While anxiety may seem to be on the rise today, it isn’t a new problem. People have been struggling with – and treating – anxiety for centuries. And many of the solutions they’ve used through the centuries were and are very effective. They typically involve the ingredients people have always had access to: herbs, barks, and other plants.

The downside to plant-based solutions is that drug companies can’t bottle them up and make a huge profit off them. But the downside to the drugs are far greater.

Most people experience anxiety at some point in their life. Many of them don’t think their anxiety is severe enough to warrant drugs – and it usually doesn’t. But the drugs might help calm their racing thoughts or enable them to fall asleep more easily. Others recognize that they need help, but are concerned about side effects. So they’re suffering because they aren’t getting the help they need.

Many people simply aren’t aware that plant-based solutions exist. Those who do seek help often go straight to the drugs. After all, that’s what doctors recommend. It’s too bad plants don’t have reps visiting doctor’s offices to sing their praises the way the drugs do! For example, I bet you’ve never found a pen with a “Honokiol” logo in your desk. That’s because honokiol isn’t a drug. It actually comes from the bark of the magnolia tree. While we often associate magnolia with the American South, it’s actually native to China. And Traditional Chinese Medicine uses magnolia bark and flowers for a variety of health conditions.

Magnolia bark contains many “anti” compounds: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergic, antidepressant, and antioxidant. Honokiol is one of these beneficial compounds. If you’re suffering from persistent anxiety or depression, it can help you.

Even if your anxiety comes and goes or you simply have trouble sleeping or dealing with occasional stress, it can help you too. In fact, studies have found that honokiol can work almost as well as Valium (diazepam) to reduce anxiety.

While we often assume external stressors cause our anxiety, inflammation is actually a significant factor as well. Studies link increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines to mood disorders like major depressive and bipolar disorder. These cytokines affect many structures and pathways in the brain, changing how the brain functions.

Studies have found that anti-inflammatory agents can benefit patients with mood disorders. And these studies have specifically looked at honokiol in relation to stress, anxiety, and sleep. Honokiol can cross the blood-cerebrospinal fluid and blood-brain barriers. So it can have significant effects in all three of these domains. Once it reaches the brain, it’s able to help the nerves function better.

Nerve cells called PC12 cells can die due to oxidative stress. Because of honokiol’s antioxidant properties, it’s able to help protect these nerves. Specifically, it activates a protein pathway called Nrf2. That’s not a very memorable name. So researchers also call this pathway “The Guardian of Human Lifespan.” That’s how powerful this protein is. Once activated, it helps regulate antioxidants and keep genes working properly.

Studies have also found that honokiol can promote a healthier hormone balance. Some have found that it reduces adrenaline, the hormone that can make you feel a rush and increased heartbeat.

Another such study evaluated a combination of magnolia and phellodendron bark (MP) on stress. They enlisted the help of 56 moderately stressed participants. The participants received either the MP combo or a placebo for four weeks.

Over the course of the study, the researchers evaluated cortisol levels in the participants’ saliva. Those who received the MP experienced an 18% drop. They also reported lower overall stress, tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion. And their overall mood and feelings of vigor improved as well.

The researchers believe this combo was particularly helpful because of its effects on sleep. Sleep loss and anxiety can create a vicious cycle. This cycle ultimately harms immune function, energy levels, weight, and overall health. But honokiol can help.

Honokiol addresses both sides of the sleep/stress equation. It does function as an anxiolytic, meaning it reduces anxiety. And by reducing cortisol and adrenaline, it lowers stress levels that can interfere with sleep. But it also acts as a sedative, which promotes sleep. It works with pathways in the brain to encourage rest.

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’re probably familiar with GABA. This neurotransmitter helps calm the brain by soothing excitatory neurons. Think of a small child trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Clearly, excitement can interfere with sleep just as much as anxiety!

Honokiol boosts levels of GABA in the brain to promote sleep. You’ll likely fall asleep faster. And it can help you spend more time in REM and NREM sleep. Unlike pharmaceutical sleep aids, it won’t make you dependent on it. Nor will it leave you feeling drowsy the next day.
As I’m sure you know, getting a good night’s sleep and feeling less anxious can certainly boost your mood. But that’s not the only way honokiol can improve your mood. It also activates cannabinoid receptors throughout the body.

The endocannabinoid system is getting a lot of attention these days. The debate over legalizing marijuana is contributing. But marijuana isn’t the only plant that can affect this system. And some of the effects of plant compounds like honokiol can be very positive. They include pain relief, lowering of inflammation, and, yes, improving mood.

Another way honokiol improves mood is by boosting levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. A study in rats even found that combining magnolia bark with ginger could increase serotonin levels enough to have an antidepressant effect. The rats also had better results on a measure of chronic unpredictable mild stress.

All of these benefits mean that honokiol is great for protecting your brain and overall health as you age. I’m sure you know that sleep is vital to brain health, memory, and cognitive functioning. In fact, research in mice indicates that honokiol could even help protect the brain from toxic amyloid beta plaques, reducing Alzheimer’s risk. The study found that honokiol significantly reduced the number of cells that died after amyloid beta exposure. The researchers believe this protection is due in part to honokiol’s antioxidant effects.

Another way honokiol may reduce Alzheimer’s risk is by helping the brain maintain adequate levels of acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter plays an important role in the brain’s memory and learning functions. And people with Alzheimer’s typically have low levels. A mouse study found that a magnolia bark extract helped improve memory. And, once again, it reduced the toxic effects of amyloid beta. The researchers believe honokiol’s ability to promote acetylcholine release could help explain these results.

We’ve been focusing quite a bit on honokiol’s effects on the brain. But the benefits don’t end there. Honokiol can
positively affect the rest of your body too – and not just because being in a better mood makes it easier to maintain healthy habits. Some of the bioactive compounds in magnolia bark are cancer-fighters. They trigger cell death in leukemia, ovarian, and breast cancers.

Honokiol has also been found to interact with leptin. Leptin is a key hormone in not only some forms of breast cancer but also in appetite and weight gain. Honokiol’s positive effects on leptin reduce cancer cell growth and improve weight and metabolic health.

Some of these metabolic benefits include improving insulin resistance and lowering triglycerides and cholesterol. In combination with ginger, it can also ease digestive woes like bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. It can help stabilize your appetite, so you eat better too.

Finally, because honokiol is anti-inflammatory, it can reduce pain throughout the body. It can provide relief to sore joints and muscles, ease headaches, and even soothe menstrual cramps. Inflammation contributes to many chronic pain conditions. So it’s no surprise that magnolia bark has been used for centuries to provide relief to a variety of issues.

If you’d like to try out these benefits for yourself, honokiol and magnolia bark supplements are easy to find online. The proper dose usually ranges from 200 to 400 mg. You can talk to a doctor to determine the best amount for you. I generally recommend that my patients start with a low dose and then work their way up as needed.

Honokiol does have sedative effects. Use caution before combining it with any other sedative medication as well as alcohol or herbs or supplements intended to promote sleep. Talk to your doctor if you’re on blood thinners as well. Honokiol can have an anticoagulant effect.

If your doctor isn’t familiar with honokiol or magnolia bark, offer him/her some of the links below. Your health, both mental and physical, is worth it.

Get the Same Benefits of Coffee Without the Caffeine “Buzz”

In most parts of the world, the most popular beverage is easy to guess. It’s generally either coffee or tea. But not in many South American countries. There, the most popular choice is something you may never have heard of. That’s a shame because this hidden gem has just as many health benefits to offer as coffee and tea. In fact, if you’re seeking mental clarity or a boost to your weight-loss pursuits, this drink may be your best bet.

I should clarify that if you guessed tea, you’re partially right. This beverage is an herbal tea. But unlike the green and black teas popular throughout the world, which come from the tea plant, this herbal tea comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree native to South America. The name of this herbal tea is yerba maté.

Yerba maté is similar to coffee in that it can improve your energy levels. And like green tea, it’s loaded with antioxidants. But here’s why you may like it better than either one of those standbys.

Most people find that coffee increases their energy levels by making them feel a little buzzed. But many people don’t like this buzz. Yerba maté gives a boost of energy but it doesn’t make you feel buzzed. Instead, it sharpens your mental clarity. And although it contains some caffeine, most people find that it doesn’t disrupt their sleep.

Now let’s compare yerba maté to green tea. You know I love the high level of antioxidants green tea supplies. Well, yerba maté supplies just as many. And studies have found that these antioxidants are even more powerful than those found in vitamin C. Plus, it contains anti-cancer antioxidants called polyphenols and saponins, chemicals that strengthen the immune system.

Yerba maté is even good for the heart and lungs. It contains small amounts of theophylline, a chemical that’s used medically for asthma and chronic lung problems. Because theophylline has a slight stimulating effect on the heart, many people consider maté to be a heart tonic.
Yerba maté could also help you lose weight. When researchers compared yerba maté to 12 other plant preparations, it helped burn more fat than any of the other herbs tested. Plus, it helps control appetite. And even better, recent research has found that yerba maté can help you oxidize fat.

Researchers examined fat metabolism in healthy female participants between the ages of 18 and 40. All of the women exercised moderately for at least 150 minutes per week before the study. And they also consumed at least 200 mg per day of caffeine.

The researchers were specifically looking at yerba maté’s effects on fatty acid oxidation (FAO). High FAO translates to maximal fat oxidation. And this leads to improved insulin sensitivity and vascular health. Of course, exercise also provides some of these benefits. So the researchers recruited women who were already exercisers (and used to caffeine’s effects) to see if they could still spot improvements.

This was a double-blinded, repeated-measures, crossover, placebo-controlled trial. That’s about as good as it gets for ensuring there isn’t any bias affecting the outcome of the study. The researchers divided the participants into two groups for the study.

The women took a break from caffeine for seven days before the study began. At the first session, the researchers took their body composition and exercise performance variables. At the next session, one group of women received 2 g of dried, ground yerba maté leaves. The other group received a placebo. At the third session, the two groups swapped.

The participants also kept a food diary before the second session. They referred to this diary so they could eat and drink the same way before the third session.

At each of the sessions, the participants performed several exercises. The researchers measured their body composition as well as heart rate and cardiorespiratory information. They also evaluated their appetite, satiety, and mood.

In every one of the participants, yerba maté caused fatty acid oxidation to increase significantly – by 23%. They reached peak oxidation by about 20 to 25 minutes of exercise. Yerba maté also helped reduce appetite both before and after exercise. Plus, the women reported better focus, energy, concentration, and alertness when they received the yerba maté compared to the placebo.

Many people like to drink a caffeinated beverage before they exercise.Yerba maté is a great choice for this. Unlike
beverages marketed as energy drinks, yerba maté is safe and effective. In fact, it's safe enough for pregnant women to drink. You can't get much safer than this. A study of over 5,000 Brazilian women found no harmful effects on the size or weight of their babies or any other negative side effects.

Yerba maté is a perfect pick-me-up drink, especially when you want to think more clearly. A cup or two a day is safe and beneficial.

Give it a try. You'll find plain yerba maté tea, as well as yerba maté combined with other flavorings from ginger to peppermint and even organic chocolate. You can find it in the tea and bottled drink sections of your natural food stores. It’s not as well-known outside of South America as it deserves to be, but its popularity is on the rise.

Should You Try a Chemical Peel for Stubborn Skin Problems?

Ithile I’m certainly an advocate for a well-thought-out everyday skincare routine, I understand that there are some skin issues that a cleanser and moisturizer can’t tackle as quickly or effectively as more robust options can. I occasionally have patients ask me about these more intense options, such as chemical peels. Here’s what you need to know.

Chemical peels can be very successful, but I do have to warn my patients that there’s a risk of side effects. Fortunately, new research has shown that these risks are often minimal, even for people with darker skin. Some have believed that darker-skinned people are more susceptible to these issues.

A study by researchers at Boston Medical Center and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology examined 132 darker-skinned patients who underwent a total of 473 chemical peels to treat issues such as acne, premature aging, or dark or light spots on the skin. The same dermatologist performed all of the peels.

Only 18 participants experienced side effects, which included crusting, dark spots, and reddening lasting an average of four-and-a-half weeks. The researchers also found that the participants were least likely to experience side effects in the winter, possibly because the already irritated skin wasn’t being exposed to the sun.

Overall, the researchers found that the risk of side effects from chemical peels is minimal, even for people with darker skin. So if you have a skin woe that’s not responding to standard treatments, a chemical peel could be a good option. I do recommend waiting until winter to schedule the procedure (or being very vigilant about protecting your skin from the sun).

You should also be sure to choose a skilled practitioner, as this can make a significant difference in the success of the procedure. Find someone who has done a large number of chemical peels.

Nutrition Detective

A Potent One-Two Punch Against Breast Cancer

We know that both fish oil and flaxseed oil can help prevent breast cancer. But is one better than the other? Many women have asked me this question. Fortunately, a researcher at the University of Guelph in Ontario wanted to find out the answer. His results can help guide your dietary choices.

This researcher looked at omega-3 fatty acids from both marine sources and plant sources. Marine sources like fish, algae, and phytoplankton contain the omega-3s you’re probably most familiar with. They’re called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA tend to get the most buzz.

But plants like flaxseed also contain an omega-3 fatty acid. It’s called a-linolenic acid (ALA). And researchers have also linked ALA to cancer-fighting effects.

This researcher decided to pit the oils against each other for treating a form of breast cancer called HER-2. HER-2 is very aggressive. The researcher worked with genetically engineered mice that were particularly susceptible to HER-2. But he also gave them tools to fight it: exposure to either ALA or EPA and DHA in utero. He wanted to see if one group would fare better than the other.

Sure enough, the EPA/DHA group got great results. Their tumors shrunk by 60 to 70%. They also experienced a 30% decrease in the number of tumors.

But the ALA mice got similar results. There was a catch — they needed more ALA for it to be effective. Still, they also experienced improvements in tumor size and frequency.

So, it’s possible to make the claim that DHA and EPA are better than ALA. However, all of these oils support the immune system, affect gene expression, and block tumor growth mechanisms. And ALA can work in different ways than DHA and EPA. Therefore, I think the answer is to include both sources.

If you only want to make one change to your diet, I suppose you should focus on incorporating two to three servings of seafood a week. That’s what the researcher recommends. But there is an even easier solution to this “dilemma”: take Complete Daily Oils (800-791-3395). It contains EPA, DHA, and ALA.

Eating fish two to three times a week is a good idea. So is consuming flax and other plant-based sources of ALA. Both strategies will help prevent breast cancer. And when that happens, everyone wins.

Jiajie Liu, Salma A. Abdelmagid, Christopher J. Pinelli, Jennifer M. Monk, Danyelle M. Liddle, Lyn M. Hillyer, Barbora Hucik, Anjali Silva, Sanjeena Subedi, Geoffrey A. Wood, Lindsay E. Robinson, William J. Muller, David W.L. Ma. Marine fish oil is more potent than plant based n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention of mammary tumours. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.011


Q: I have a bone spur in my right heel. Also due to giving in to the foot it hurts all the time. I think it’s arthritis. What do I take for this, I now take Reduloxin and Advanced Joint Support and neither one is helping. Please advise. – Cozene W., Wellston, OK

Dear Cozene,

Here’s an old naturopathic remedy. It is a bit labor intensive, but it usually gives some good relief. It’s important to apply the castor oil twice daily for three months.

Every night until you see some sign of improvement, soak the affected foot in one quart of warm water mixed with 4 ounces of apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of sea salt for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Dry your foot and then massage it gently with Castor oil and cover the foot with a sock. In the morning it's fine, of course, to remove the sock. If the soaking is too much work, consider just applying the castor oil twice daily. You can put a sock over the nighttime application.
In addition, have you seen a podiatrist?

And lastly, you may need additional doses of Reduloxin and Advanced Joint Support. Some consumers report improved result with a third dose during the day for a couple of months.

Q. I’m 86 and take your Ultimate Bone Support for my osteoporosis. In my mail, I got a brochure for Chelactive, an EDTA derivative, describing how that product detoxifies the body of heavy metals. It specifically claims to remove several, and I think strontium is one of them. Would such a product nullify the effects of your Ultimate Bone Support? I called their order line and they suggest that strontium and other minerals should be taken at times of the day or week separately from times their product is taken. Would such advice be pertinent for a user of PectaSol? One other question: What is the purpose of the Hops extract in my Ultimate Bone Support? – Mason H., Superior, MT

Dear Mason,

Thank you for your inquiry. Yes, I agree with the company's response to you that any chelating agent should be taken four or more hours away from a mineral supplement, this would include the Ultimate Bone Support. The problem with many detox products that remove heavy metals is that they also remove beneficial minerals, such as strontium. They can potentially be harsh on your system, especially given your age. Something simpler and gentler, such as PectaSol, a modified citrus pectin, that slowly and more gradually removes toxic metals from the body may be an easier solution for you.

Hops is naturally high in the trace mineral silicon. Poor bone density happens to be a silent epidemic in the United States. Nutrition is an important determinant of bone health. Cultures that have more of a plant-based diet, China and India for example, are naturally getting considerably more silicon than we get here in the U.S. Hops was chosen for the bone formula to compensate for the lack of naturally occurring silicon in our diet.

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